10/29/10

POM Harvest: the world of POM Wonderful

Remember I wrote about visiting POM orchards in Fresno, CA? This is part 2 of the trip.

On the first day of my weekend in Fresno, we got to visit the bottling plant. Due to some clothing issues (turns out you can't wear high heels and shorts to a bottling plant, who knew!? (sarcasm!)), some of the food bloggers had to head back to the hotel and change. The rest of us sat around the table and enjoyed POM products: pistachios, juices and teas. This was also the first time I learned that the pretty gems inside of a pomegranate are called arils and are sold in little containers: my god! You no longer even need to buy an entire pomegranate and clean it yourself. I was impressed.


Once everyone was properly clothed, we set out on the tour. Since only the best pomegranates are sold as fruit in stores, the rest of the pomegranates are cleaned and used for juices and teas. The bottling plant smelled divine with the fragrance of sweet pomegranates.



Here you see the damaged pomegranates heading to the bottling plant for processing.


We got a chance to see how POM bottles are made. I found the process fascinating. The bottles start up with a simple cylindrical shape, then get heated in a special machine as the air blows inside and they are shaped into the POM famous "bubble" bottle.




Check out the different shapes and sizes!


I really liked the process by which POM bottles get labeled: they go through several machines and get stamped with different stamps and colors:

 

We also got to see bottles of tea being filled and packed.


I was just happy snapping photos, while Rachael was being very studious and taking notes.



After the tour we got another lesson in how to cut a pomegranate and that the fruit's appearance on the outside doesnt' necessarily reflect the quality of the fruit on the inside...sounds vaguely familiar in regard to people!




I just ♥ this photograph!


On the way back to the hotel, we saw a vineyard and decided to stop by and snap some photos: that's what we food bloggers do! I also stole a taste of one grape: it was so sweet and juicy and seedless, to my surprise.


On the right are Paula and Rachael. I'm crossing my fingers I can join them and become a food ninja. Want to help me? Then please vote for me in the first category: I'm #15.

10/27/10

Where to go apple picking in VA

This post can be titled "Another reason why I'm so glad I joined twitter." Last month, Mary of Arugula Files tweeted about her favorite place to pick apples in VA. I retweeted the link indicating how fun the idea of apple picking sounded and was very happy when Julia tweeted back telling me she has a car and is willing to go apple picking with me. Score!

Julia and I picked the time and the date and headed out to Stribling Orchards last Saturday. I haven't gone apple picking since I was six years old, and this was Julia's first time!

The day could not have been more perfect: blue sky, sunny, and just cool enough for a light jacket.


Since the season for apple picking is coming to an end, most of the apples were already picked. We had to use special baskets attached to poles to get the apples from the upper tree branches. This was quite an exercise...did I really sign up for this? Julia is on the left, I'm on the right.



I'm pretty happy with my apple picking abilities :)


Most of the people apple picking brought plastic bags or buckets. I, however, knowing that I would be writing a post about this, brought my own basket: it makes for such better photos!

As far as I know, the apples we picked were Rome, York and Stayman. The trees weren't labeled, and I wasn't about to use a map indicating which tree varieties occupied which space in the orchard.


It was rather sad to see many fallen apples. I doubt anyone does anything with them: the smell of apples starting to rot was definitely in the air.

The photo on the left is of the Golden Delicious apples. I know there is a word "delicious" in the name of those apples, but I want to disagree: I find these apples too sweet and soft. But then I'm also not a fan of Red Delicious. I do, however, like how the yellow apples look against the cloudless blue sky.


And since I took a photo of Nicole holding a pomegranate in the pomegranate orchards, I had to take a photo of Julia holding an apple in the apple orchards: aren't the leaves just beautiful?


Love this photo Julia took of me!


Julia did really well for her first time apple picking!




We stood in line to pay for our apples and tried to avoid the bees that seemed to absolutely love us. We also noticed a shack selling burgers and hot dogs: who can say no to that? Ok, maybe vegetarians. After paying for our apples and dropping them at Julia's car, we ate hot dogs, chips and I had my second soda of the day.



But wait, the fun wasn't over yet! We noticed a few signs for wineries on our way out of the orchard and decided to check them out. After some back and forth driving, we finally arrived at Philip Carter winery.


We both decided to do a wine tasting. I was surprised that I liked the Chardonnay, but I definitely wasn't a fan of either the Rose or any of the red wines. The Late Harvest, however, made up for my disappointment.


While Julia sipped her glass of Chardonnay outside, I decided to walk through the rows of vines and snap some photos.


For some reason I really like how the photo of the wire came out: there is something graphic and linear and simple in it.

 


This was a great way to spend a Saturday. Thanks to Julia for the great company and driving. If you are looking to do some apple picking, make sure to check out the orchard's website to see what is still available.

PS Before you ask, I decided to just eat the apples I picked instead of baking with them.

10/25/10

What to do with a pepper jelly

One of my most favorite people who I met through blogging is Mary who writes Arugula Files. Last week Mary and I went to dinner and she brought me a glass jar of habanero gold jelly (aka pepper jelly) that she canned herself! I was so excited. I've never done any canning, but my mom used to can fruits and vegetables when we lived in Russia. I know how much work goes into the canning process, and was looking forward to trying the fruits of Mary's labor.


It might be hard to believe, but I've never actually tried pepper jelly. What on Earth would I do with it? Mary said it goes well with cheese, but then what doesn't? The jelly is a great combination of sweet and spicy flavors. I was in for a treat.


Here are two "recipes" I made with Mary's pepper jelly. One is a cold open sandwich, another a hot sandwich.

Wasa cracker with brie, arugula and pepper jelly. This really doesn't need any explanation or directions. I loved the crunchiness of the Wasa cracker, the creaminess of the brie cheese and the freshness of the arugula. The slightly bitter arugula flavors were subdued by the sweetness of the pepper jelly. This was a great quick breakfast on Saturday morning before I got together with Julia for apple picking. More on that later...


The second sandwich takes a little bit more time. But like anything else I blog about, it's definitely not going to take you hours.

Ingredients
2 slices of wheat bread
pepper jelly
rotisserie chicken
2 slices of cheese (initially I was going to use only one slice, but who am I kidding?)
arugula
red onion, thinly sliced


Directions
1. Preheat your George Foreman grill (or use a skillet, or an actual grill, or an oven).
2. Put together your sandwich: bread, cheese, chicken, arugula, onions, cheese, pepper jelly, bread.
3. Grill your sandwich.


This was so simple to make and yet packed so much flavor. It's all really about the ingredients.


I still have half a jar of pepper jelly leftover. What should I make with it?