Butcher Shop Meat Photography

I was recently asked to do some butcher shop meat photography. The Applestone Meat Company wanted pretty much all of their cuts of meat documented. The challenge was to come up with an attractive way to photograph this glorious meat in its raw form. We wanted appetite appeal, and that can be a tough ask from a raw piece of meat. We brainstormed. They suggested white. I suggested marble. We decided to show the raw meat in the very early stages of cooking. The higher end cuts were dressed up in only salt and pepper. Some of the other cuts were given marinades and dry spice rubs.

This butcher shop also produces a lot of sausages – andouille, bratwurst, hot Italian, chorizo, Parmesan and broccoli rabe and many more… well over a dozen different blends. We wanted to show these, but we didn’t want to show them raw with raw ingredients around them. So, we cooked the sausages in a way that reflected their particular characters. One of the butchers at the shop happens to be a trained chef. He and the Applestone team came up with recipes, and he cooked them for the camera.

Look for these images rolling out on the Applestone Meat Company’s website and social media channels in the near future.

Butcher Shop Meat Photography NYC

Butcher Shop Meat Photography NYC

Butcher Shop Meat Photography sausage

Butcher Shop Meat Photography Jennifer May

Black Raspberries & Fruit Shrubs

This July 4th we were invited to spend the weekend in a pre-Revolutionary house on the other side of the Hudson River. We picked snap peas and flowers at Hearty Roots Farm, blueberries at Grieg’s Farm, and we stumbled upon an undisturbed thicket of black raspberries.

We admired the historic details in the old mansion, known as the 1773 Calendar House. One night, our host filled two enormous brass candelabras with white tapers, poured wine, and told us tales of the Livingston family who used to own the home. We ate in the once-grand dining room, and imagined the time when the house served as a meeting place for Generals of the American Revolution.

black raspberries Jennifer May

picking wild black raspberries

As for the picking, I have heard about black raspberries (aka blackcaps) for years but, until now, I have never found or tried them. Not 10 minutes after seeing a beautiful image of them on the Instagram account of the Catskill Native Nursery, we stumbled upon a huge patch. The entire edge of the long and winding driveway at the Calendar House was bordered by bushes loaded with fruit. My friend and I picked the ripest ones, and we transformed them into fruit shrub, aka drinking vinegar.

Blackcap Raspberries by Jennifer May

black raspberry syrup shrub

black raspberry shrub

A shrub is an acidified fruit syrup. Invented before refrigeration, shrubs were originally intended as a way to preserve fruit past the growing season. I have spent most of June making them… strawberry shrub from the ripest strawberries, blackberry-raspberry shrub, and black currant shrub using berries from my garden. The ingredients are berries, sugar, and vinegar. The ratio is approximately 1:1:1. A heated shrub takes about 15 minutes to make. A raw shrub takes about two days, but you don’t have to do anything to it but wait. Here is a page with great information and recipes for shrub making, Here is another one on Food52.

For a refreshing summer drink, I like to splash about a tablespoon into a glass of sparkling water and ice. Shrubs also blend deliciously with spirits for a stronger cocktail.

blueberries at Greig's Farms
Picking blueberries at Grieg’s Farm
blueberries at Greig's Farms
Looking across the Hudson River Valley to the Catskill Mountains, from the blueberry fields at Greig’s Farm

As for the rest of the weekend, there are so many other little stories to tell. Little stories of life, mirth, and silliness. The morning of July 4th we crossed the river again, and prepared a pizza party for family and friends. But that is another story. Brick pizza oven reveal to come in a following post.

Jerusalem Artichokes

I visited a friend‘s garden this week, and as we walked, he dug root vegetables. I left with a bag full of produce, including a whole bunch of Jerusalem artichokes. I transplanted a bunch of the tubers into my garden. They will grow into 10’ plants next year, topped with yellow flowers.

For the rest, I found this recipe for Palestine soup, which inspired me. It is so simple: Sweat an onion in olive oil, add peeled & chopped Jerusalem artichokes and salt, cook until soft, blend, stir in cream, garnish with chopped hazelnuts.

Jerusalem artichokesJerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes soup

Jerusalem artichoke soup

West Coast of Canada: Cortes & Hornby Islands

We just returned from an extended visit to my homeland on the west coast of Canada. A few years ago, when our daughter was born, my husband & I started an annual tradition of renting a big house on the ocean and inviting friends and family to stay with us. It is the most beautiful place I could ever imagine, and we love to share it. It is a place where food literally falls from the trees – apples, walnuts, hickory nuts, grapes, and any number of berries. We cook, eat, and drink. We walk and swim. I photograph everything. It’s refreshing to be in a new place, with different light, and surrounded in ocean-weathered textures.

From where I live in the Hudson Valley, NY, it takes two travel days to reach these Northern Gulf Islands that I love. But it is worth it. Miles and miles of shoreline are uninhabited. And the people who live there are island-folk. They make pottery, they paint, they farm. I will follow up in coming posts with some of the fun cooking projects we did. But for now, a glimpse to the remote islands of Cortes and Hornby.

Hornby Island BC
A beach on Hornby Island, BC. I will be seeing a lot more of this spot over the coming years
ocean view
My dad, daughter, and husband on Cortes Island, BC
BC Ferry boat
The ferry boats get smaller as you move toward the smaller islands.
apples on tree
I have never seen so many apples as I did this year. One house we rented was surrounded by different varieties.
raspberry picking
My daughter picking raspberries in her grandfather’s garden on Vancouver Island
grapes on the vine
A bunch of grapes hang on a vine in my dad’s garden
walnut tree
Walnuts on a family tree ripen and fall to the ground
table outside
An outdoor table at my mom’s became the ultimate picnic spot
West coast of Canada barn window
An old barn window on a farm, Hornby Island, BC
ferry view West Coast of Canada
Leaving is bittersweet. I love the west coast and I love NYC and the Hudson Valley.

Dainty Yellow Plums & a Toddler’s First Ice Cream

We signed up for a fruit share grown by Hanna Bail of Threshold Farm and had yellow plums in our first delivery. I have been buying Hanna’s delicious apples for years, but the plums, peaches, and pears are only available to their CSA members. This year we decided to go all the way.

yellow plums

Chris picked up the first share last week, while I was away shooting food for a client in New York. On the shoot, we had the most extraordinary and unusual vegetables to work with. The chef had gone to the Union Square Greenmarket and bought dozens of different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, tiny Mexican cucumbers, red currants still on their stems, Alpine strawberries, and multi-toned carrots with dirt still clinging to their delicate root hairs.

Spending two days with this beautiful produce put me in the mood for more. Happily, when I returned home, there on the counter was a bowl full of the daintiest, jewel-like yellow plums, grown not too many miles away, on Hanna Bail’s biodynamic farm.

For this first pickup, I adapted a recipe for plum crumble from Nigel Slater’s Ripe. I didn’t have ground almonds, so I used shredded coconut, and the texture was a lovely compliment. An even better compliment was a scoop of vanilla ice cream – especially notable because it was my toddler’s first. We don’t eat a lot of processed sweets, and I think we are better off for it. But something about those juicy golden orbs made me feel like last night was the night for the introduction.

plum crumble
yellow plums crumble
As toddlers do, she loved it, and then forgot it. After four thrilling bites, she set the nearly full bowl down and declared, “It’s too sweet for me,” and ran off to her sandbox.

To me, the juicy flesh of the plum, and its semi-tart skin, paired with sweet vanilla ice cream is a visceral childhood memory. In the Hudson Valley, local organic plums are a rare treat. In British Columbia, the single yellow plum tree that grew in our front yard produced more plums than we could eat, and more than we could reasonably give to all of our neighbors. My dad had the entire block making jam for weeks, and still the ground beneath the tree was a soggy mess of over-ripe, fallen fruit.

I thought of that tree and those plums last night, as we ate with friends in the backyard. The night had become dark, my daughter had gone to bed, and a candle flickered on the table. This morning, my girl requested ice cream for breakfast. Denied, she gathered up a bowl full of plums and brought them over to her Nana’s house. Plums – even a single bowl – are meant to be shared.

toddler eats yellow plum crumble
toddler eats plum crumble

 

Cassis

I am making creme de cassis from black currants we grew in our garden! The recipe for the sweet, dark elixir is hands down the simplest recipe I have ever attempted. It is: fresh black currants + vodka + time. Soak together for a few months, strain, heat, add more vodka, water and some sugar.  The exact proportions I used can be found in Amy Thielen’s New Midwestern Table cookbook, although I added a step and smashed the fresh berries.

And now I wait, and try to forget about the berries steeping in the cupboard. It should be ready by the holidays.

black currant cassis
A bowl of black currants picked from my garden
black currants
Smashing black currants for homemade cassis
homemade cassis
Fresh black currants steeping in vodka, cassis day one

Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads appeared in the market, and I cooked them for a mid-afternoon snack. This is a play on a Martha Stewart recipe. The fiddleheads are cleaned, steamed, and sautéed in butter. They are served with a squeeze of lemon and salt. I ate them all before I even sat down.

Fiddleheads

Ramp Butter & Quail Eggs on Toast

Ramp season means spring is on; and they are a rare treat. I did an online search for the most enticing ramp recipe and found one by April Bloomfield from her new book, A Girl and Her Greens. Sauteed & raw ramps, butter, anchovies, lemon juice & zest, salt, hot pepper, mixed and spread on toast, topped with a fried quail egg: I had to try it!

Luckily, my friends at the Tivoli General have a farm where they raise quail, and they bake bread daily for sandwiches in their cafe. A quick trip across the river and I had all my ingredients. This recipe is truly delicious as is, and the ramp butter recipe leaves enough extra for other uses…I imagine melting it over boiled new potatoes, and it would be luscious served hot on pasta.

And then, since I love vegetable recipes that are not strictly vegetarian, I popped over to the Golden Notebook and ordered Chef Bloomfield’s cookbook. I can’t wait to see the rest of this book.

ramps, quail eggs, bread
The ingredients for ramp butter, toast & quail eggs – a recipe inspired by April Bloomfield

ramps and quail eggsquail eggschopped rampschopped rampsramp butter

ramp butter toast with quail egg
Plated ramp butter toast with fried quail egg

Brisket Take 2

A family member ran the Boston Marathon, and we prepared a feast for him the next day. We had smoked brisket, potatoes au gratin, kale salad, and pickled beets. We encourage our toddler to help in the kitchen as often as possible, and here she is patting down the spice rub.

brisket rub
Toddler uses hands to pat down a dry rub of paprika, granulated onion & garlic, brown sugar onto a brisket

Dandelion Greens Salad

This is a riff on a dandelion greens salad by David Tanis from Heart of the Artichoke. I didn’t measure my ingredients, and I used white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, shallots, mustard, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme leaves. Chop, whisk, toss. It’s hearty and spring-inspired at the same time.

dandelion greens saladdandelion greens salad


 

Hawthorne Valley Farm

For the fall issue of Edible Hudson Valley, I visited the Hawthorne Valley Farm. This is one of the good places in the world. Here, bread is baked from grain grown on the surrounding fields. Sauerkraut ferments naturally in a cellar. Cheese is made by hand using milk from cows that live on the farm. To spend an afternoon speaking with Martin Ping is to feel inspired for a great future.

photos at Hawthorne Valley Farmindustrious workers at Hawthorne Valley Farmphotos of flour at Hawthorne Valley Farmcheese making photo at Hawthorne Valley Farm photo by Jennifer May

Grass-fed Road Food

On assignment last month, I visited a diner in Hudson, NY that is worth a stop on any road trip through the area. Grazin’ is Animal Welfare Approved and sources all of its meat, dairy, and as much fruit and veg as possible, from local & AWA-certified farms – usually no more than 12 miles away. The hamburgers are juicy and fresh, and the milkshakes are out of this world. See Peter Barrett’s story in the December Chronogram for more.

Grazin Diner Hudson NY photographed by Jennifer May

More Adventures in the Midwest

I spent part of last week with Amy Thielen, back in Two Inlets, Minnesota. We got up at dawn every day and drove around the northern part of the state, taking photographs for her upcoming cookbook. We visited a 100-year-old fish-smoking house, fishermen on Lake Superior, farmers, and more of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. Such beautiful country.

Driving through fields, chasing the dawn light.
A farm in Minnesota with chickens, horses, ducks, turkeys, kittens, and a toddler running around in a kind of harmony.
Flying out of Fargo, North Dakota

Respect to Farmers

After I woke to discover the deer had crashed through my vegetable garden fence and eaten everything – I mean everything…. every green tomato, tomato leaf, potato leaves & stems, whole calendula plants, the flowering anenome, my rose bush, entire bean bushes, the tomatillo plant, basil, parsley, and things I can’t even remember I had planted anymore… I decided to harvest the purple potatoes.

Months of tending & watering the 12 or so plants resulted in the bounty below. Next year I may just plant flowers and leave the vegetable growing to my CSA.

Mark Ruffalo & No-Fracking

This spring, I photographed actor Mark Ruffalo for the Arts & Leisure section of The New York Times. The story profiled both Ruffalo’s directorial debut and his mission to stop gas fracking in New York state. Ruffalo is a passionate opponent of fracking and speaks out often about the dangers to farms, waterways, and quality of life – in the newspaper, on television, and on his twitter account. Ruffalo requested we do his portrait on the Delaware River, where he goes fishing with his son. Read the story here.

Mark Ruffalo, no fracking, photo by Jennifer May

Restorative Agroforestry in Honduras

A shout-out to my brother, Ryan May, who is living in Honduras and planting a 3-acre garden for a community of people living in desperate poverty. In four months Ryan – and the small team of eager children and inexperienced adults he has patched together – have planted 3000 pineapple plants, 1.5KM of sugarcane, 700 bananas and plantain, 500 papayas, 100 passion fruit, cacao, tamarind, and more. To see Ryan’s photos of the project visit his blog. (Mind the nude under-the-waterfall shot.)

Ryan May, agroforester. Photographed on Salt Spring Island, B.C.
The train Ryan rides to access the community & garden. After the train was robbed and people’s shoes were stolen, he bought a motorbike.
Ryan bought watering cans for the residents and is teaching them how to care for their new plants. Here are Edwin and Carlito.
Food stories in New York's Hudson Valley and beyond from photographer Jennifer May