Monday, August 25, 2008

Grainger County Goodness

So one of the first things that I've grown to love about Knoxville in the summer is the Grainger County tomatoes. Grainger is the next county to the north, and they know how to grow 'em. So we decided to go to the source last Friday and head up to Ritter Farms about 45 minute drive north of Knoxville. They grow and sell wonderfully fresh produce, and cook up delicious meat and three lunches on weekdays.

The lunch we had there was the best. I had been craving some serious southern style meat and three since we got here, and this place serves the best for 5 bucks a plate (plus a dollar extra for the sweet tea). And on the way out we picked up a bunch of those tomatoes, some pickling cucumbers, half a dozen ears of corn, and some homemade apple butter. With a giant lunch for two and three grocery bags full of produce and preserves, it only set us back $27.

So what to do with this beautiful, perfect produce? Well, I'm in research and training for doing some real canning and preserving this fall, so with the cucs I decided to make some refrigerator pickles. I had done this before, but with a recipe from Roy Finamore's book that turned out too sweet for my taste. So this time, I had to turn to homemaker extraordinaire, Martha Stewart for a recipe. This one didn't have any sugar at all, so we'll see how they turn out. Only 5 more days to wait. I did half of them as spears and half as slices to see which work better.

As for the tomatoes, I've never made a real sauce before from real live fresh tomatoes. But I figured it couldn't be all that different from using canned whole tomatoes, especially if you simmer the hell out of it for a few hours. So I winged it and made a marinara sauce from the best fresh tomatoes I've ever had. It was absolutely delicious; I've never had a red sauce that actually tastes like all the vegetables that are in it. And I've got a freezer full of it.

Before the ol' blender stick went in:

And after:

Let this be the official beginning of my list- "Why living in Knoxville, Tennessee is the best" 1.) Grainger County Produce

Monday, August 18, 2008

First Weekend out in the Smokies

So here we are in Tennessee, and the Camry's official!

We got the first chance this weekend to head out into the hills and do some camping in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Our first choice was Big Creek Campground, a quaint little 15 site walk-in joint. Alas, it was already filled by Friday afternoon. So it goes, and so we headed the 12 miles over the mountain to Cosby campground. Of the big national park campgrounds, Cosby is supposed to be one of the best. And it was nice, they were right. The trees were tall and it really was situated down in the holler between huge peaks. And plenty of room for pancake cookin' on the new stove.

The sites were a little packed-in and close together. But it turned out to be a pretty friendly tent campground with nice flat tent pads. If they had filled up every site, it would have been uncomfortably cramped, but as it were there were a lot of open sites. Some Texans moved in across the road from us, and aside from their pickup truck-mounted shower, they weren't too bad for neighbors.

On Saturday we took a nice hike from the campground to Hen Wallow Falls, about 5 miles round trip, 3 leisurely hours. The trails in the national park so far are really heavily used, but thus really well maintained.

Tree roots paved the trail.

Danny and the falls.

Catchin' crawdads.

Don't have to get your feet wet.

And the best part of the whole weekend? Not having to drive through Staten Island traffic to get back on Sunday night. Here's to many more!