A Farewell to Summer and A Recipe for Homemade Ketchup

“You in?” he yelled while already launching me forward.

“And this is how it ends,” I thought. “Death by homemade zip line!”

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

As the very questionable swing rocketed forward, I gripped fiercely and managed to scooch my bum into the very key area- the seat! The smile on my face shifted abruptly to an expression of pure panic as I beelined for the very solid tree directly in front of me. “Does this thing stoppppp?!?” I wanted to yell, but before I could form words, the swing yanked me backward in one jarring, whiplash-inducing motion.

Wooohoo! One more time!

Welcome to the Kunkle Family Reunion, Quelcy!

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Kunkles, the Urban Farmer’s family through his mother’s side, are titans of tradition! The family reunion I attended could have been any of the family reunions from the last 50 years. The faces may have aged, and new little Kunkle offshoots may have arrived, but the campsite was the same. The games and challenges were the same, and the spirit of good ol’ family fun was the same.

Knox at Kunkle Reunion

That family fun didn’t include technology either. I didn’t see kids scrolling on phones. I didn’t see iPads or movies. I saw rackets, gloves, tree swings, dogs and kids splashing in the creek, and middle-aged men competing against children with the seriousness of Olympic athletes. In a word, it was comforting.

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

The reunion was especially comforting because beyond the Kunkle family compound, “progress” threatens the beautiful hills, meadows, mountains and streams. Where families once hiked and swam freely, toxins and carcinogens now bar them from their own land. The promises of natural gas proved too good to be true, and the landscape of Western Pennsylvania is changing rapidly. In the name of “progress” so much has already been lost in our region (see these firsthand accounts if you don’t believe me).

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

But these external threats and unraveling traditions made the Kunkle Family Reunion all the more special. Real people. Real connections. Real traditions preserved and passed to the next generation of Reunion Presidents, Vice Presidents and Treasurers. Like a grandmother’s beloved recipe baked by her granddaughter, these ritual handoffs deserve to be celebrated. So, without further ado, I bring you this glimpse into the past, and why it stuck with me.

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

The legendary Kunkle Reunion Base Race kicked off the events of the day. The competitive nature of this event quickly became apparent when the historical scoreboards came into sight. The discolored boards of the 80s marked the key year when the bases were moved, lest any performance be judged unfairly by the distance differential. It was also worth noting that Mike Shoop’s slowest time was the result of a knee injury, not a lack of athletic ability.

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

Julep and I watched with pride, awe and maybe even a heart flutter or two as the Urban Farmer dug deep and delivered the overall winning base race score of 9.3 seconds, a far cry from his score of 39.1 seconds in 1986!

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

“Quelcy Kogel to the plate,” the man in suspenders announced. “Oh no…no, no…no,” I objected, but all eyes were on me. I had come merely to watch, but the Urban Farmer had thrown my hat in the ring. He had entered my name without my knowing!

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

My palms were sweaty, my heart was racing, and off I went! Every competitive nerve in my body was tingling.

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

I fell short of my main squeeze, so don’t be surprised if you sporadically find me running bases in the off season. Next year, I’ll be prepared, but I sincerely hope the official time-keeping uniform never changes!

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

Young and old kept the tradition alive, and after such exerting work, it was time for swimming in the creek, which first requires jumping from a rope swing (and requires leaving cameras safely on dry land).

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

As happily overwhelmed as I was, my Julep was overwhelmed in a way that gave us all quite a scare. Between the other dogs, the commotion, the anxiety of watching her papa tethered to another human and teetering in a three-legged race, the poor little one overdid it. As the Urban Farmer and I held her close and tried to decipher what exactly was causing her to drool, pant and tremble excessively, so many family members came to our side.

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

Family members who I barely knew rallied to offer any help they could. Closer family members overlooked dog drool and wet fur to help us ice down and comfort our poor dehydrated fur baby. They showed such sincere concern for our Julep, and I’ll never forget it.

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

I had come simply to observe and relish the Kunkles’ traditions, but in the end, I felt so connected to the Urban Farmer’s family. As our Julep rehydrated, refueled and showed signs of her normal self, the rest of the reunion adjourned to the campfire for silly songs,  s’mores and the rest of the evening’s time-tested agenda. Though we left early, the day left me with a lasting impression.

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer, like his family’s reunion, borrows from the past in an effort to preserve tradition. He worked tirelessly this year, through rainy spells, dry spells and rampant groundhog spells to stay true to his farming convictions. He believes in tighter ties to our food, and more connections with the makers and growers. He believes in a self-sustaining local system, and he won’t stop until he achieves it.

Homemade Ketchup Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

As the autumn settles upon his farm, the tomato vines have given one last burst of bright red fruits. Like base races, old truck rides and creek swims, summer tomatoes are worth preserving.

Homemade Ketchup Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

In an effort to truly preserve the flavors and the spirit of summer, I returned to America’s classic condiment- ketchup!

Homemade Ketchup Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

As a Pittsburgh resident, it may be blasphemy to offer an alternative to the beloved Heinz 57, but I find it blasphemous to masquerade high fructose corn syrup as an American tradition (though sadly, it is becoming an American tradition).

Homemade Ketchup Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

This homemade ketchup won’t boast the exact ruby redness or perfectly smooth texture of store-bought counterparts, but each dollop of this condiment will impress. Make your own ketchup, and every winter burger or oven roasted french fry will become more satisfying and take you back to summer grilling and tomato harvesting in the heat. There’s something to be said for preservation!

Single-Grain

Here’s to traditions, memories and delicious condiments!
-Quelcy

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Sprouted Spelt Zucchini Beet Cake with Vodka Mint Glaze

A cake can be a meditation, each slice a chance to savor the here-and-now. If made with care, each bite passes without judgment, eyes close, stresses escape, and gravity feels lifted for but a moment. Just as you acknowledge the light in others through meditation, a cake is a testament to many hands and contributors. After all, as Carl Sagan said, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

Sprouted Spelt Zucchini Beet Cake with Vodka Mint Glaze // www.WithTheGrains.com

This cake was a man who spoke very little English, his reserve offset by his immense talent. He peeled limes into fire-breathing dragons, twisted fish into floral arrangements and carved beets into beautiful roses. He obsessed over granules of rice and valued the spacing between sushi. I watched his mastery in awe. In urban terms, game recognize game, but in the world of creatives, my neuroses is humbled by your neuroses, and I applaud your details! Less catchy, but it’s equally an ovation!

Sprouted Spelt Zucchini Beet Cake with Vodka Mint Glaze // www.WithTheGrains.com

This cake was the Urban Farmer, his mother and his grandfather before him. They taught the him to gently respect nature, believe in nature, fight for nature, and in the end, reap her rewards. Her zucchinis continued to appear under his tutelage, as if by magic, under broad leaves that could transport the imaginative mind to island vacations. Her beets merited gallery time, with mesmerizing patterns of burgundies and whites circling like aging trees. And her mint…! Her mint runneth over!

Sprouted Spelt Zucchini Beet Cake with Vodka Mint Glaze // www.WithTheGrains.com

This cake was a gathering. It was a celebration of the new guard of hands that work the land and restore value to the foods we eat. It was a celebration of edible weeds and fresh pickings. This cake was a campfire, warming the prematurely cool evening. It was laughter. It was sparks in the night sky. It was time savored.

Sprouted Spelt Zucchini Beet Cake with Vodka Mint Glaze // www.WithTheGrains.com

These are the benefits of the “slow foods” as they are called – the foods with integrity and time amongst the ingredient lists. These foods are not “cheat foods” or “guilty pleasures.” This cake is a testament to the season and the many hands contributing along the way. Perhaps you will become part of this cake’s story too?

Single-Grain

Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

Sprouted Spelt Zucchini Beet Cake with Vodka Mint Glaze

About This Recipe: This bundt cake begins with my new favorite flour- One Degree Organic Foods’ Sprouted Spelt Flour. Through their website, you can read about the farmer who grows it. This combination of local zucchini and beets adds moisture and subtle sweetness. The glaze uses a Mint Vodka Simple Syrup instead of water or milk. I used Boyd & Blair Vodka instead of water when making the simple syrup to take advantage of the vodka’s rich, vanilla notes.

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Sprouted Spelt Peanut Butter Cookies for Ice Cream Sandwiches

“If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

“Sandwiches” he said with gumption, as if he had played the what-if game correctly.

Sprouted Spelt Peanut Butter Cookies for Ice Cream Sandwiches // www.WithTheGrains.com

My hand snapped to my hip bone, my head tilted, my eyes rolled, I leaned in, and each syllable I spoke dripped with sarcasm. “Oh, so you would choose to eat food for the rest of your life? Is that what you are telling me?”

I’m a stickler for rules when it comes to games, a weird fluke of my perfectionism that somehow doesn’t always manifest in real-life rule situations. No turning from 3pm-6pm, even if no other car is in sight? …optional…. “Narrow” down your one and only food source to “SANDWICHES?”

ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Sprouted Spelt Peanut Butter Cookies for Ice Cream Sandwiches // www.WithTheGrains.com

In this hypothetical game of sacrifices, my roommate Dan had not sacrificed a thing. While the rest of us would be chomping on french fries or cheese until the grease or lactose did us in, he’d be converting his every inkling of a craving into sandwich form- pizza sandwiches, egg roll sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches, taco sandwiches, smoked salmon sandwiches… ice cream sandwiches.

Foul, I cried, FOUL!

Sprouted Spelt Peanut Butter Cookies for Ice Cream Sandwiches // www.WithTheGrains.com

Though Dan was a complete and utter cheater, he was onto something- sandwiches are awesome (I didn’t say he was onto anything profound, just something). Whoever decided to stack ingredients between layers of bread- so smart! Whoever decided to swap that bread for cookies, and fill the space with ice cream? Genius! In the spirit of my college roommate not sacrificing a damn thing in a game of sacrifice, I bring you a recipe for wholesome peanut butter cookies. They make delicious bookends for ice cream, so you can eat sandwiches for every meal!

Single-Grain

Here’s to you Dan Cohen!
-Quelcy

p.s: If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Sprouted Spelt Peanut Butter Cookies for Ice Cream Sandwiches

About This Recipe: These cookies are soft and chewy- perfect for pairing with ice cream and withstanding a bit of freeze if you prepare the sammie ahead of time. However, the truly exciting element in this recipe is the flour. I just discovered One Degree Organic Foods’ Sprouted Spelt Flour, and so far I’m hooked! I couldn’t agree more with the company’s tagline “Every ingredient has a story.” It’s more than a tagline though. Each package includes a picture of the farmer responsible for that grain. Meet my farmer, (well, not my farmer, but my flour farmerand maybe he’ll become your farmer too!

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Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

An alarming crunching sound interrupted our late-night dinner preparations. We ran to the window, half expecting to see ruby red slippers pinned under a house. Instead, we discovered a battered and bruised car thrown into reverse. It began to zig and zag away from the parked car it had just launched a good six feet through impact. As if performing the role of a movie extra, the Urban Farmer exclaimed “He’s trying to get away!” and pointed to the ensuing action. The dog barked and jumped in a confused mix of excitement and alarm.

Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

The neighbors flocked to the street immediately, like ripples in a puddle pierced by a droplet of rain. One brave soul waved his arms at the drunk driver, beseeching him to stop. Whether it was the presence of witnesses or the absence of all motor skills, the man swerved onto the sidewalk, hit a planter and a tree, and the getaway was over. Amidst a sea of obscenities and cigarette smoke, the neighbors managed to sequester the vapid and staggering man until the police arrived. Like the nosy neighbor I am, I watched the event unfurl from my third-floor window, my BLT growing colder as I pieced together the incoming evidence.

Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

These neighbors of mine are far from perfect. A lot of them are loud. One is far too nosy and negative for her own good. They yell. They fight. They publicly air more grievances and dysfunction than I would ever care to display. However, I have neighbors who save treats for my dog, look out for our cat, wave to me from their cars, greet me at the local coffee spot and fill me with an unexpected sense of home and comfort. When it comes down to being neighbors, to defending another member of the block and looking out for the safety of the street, I prefer these folks to the quiet types who remain hidden behind closed doors.

Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

This sentiment had been there, had been growing in me for quite some time, but it wasn’t until the accident that I began to appreciate what had been under my nose. Much like my neighbors, this chocolate bread is more than meets the eye. The lurking zucchini is easy to miss until someone or something points out the wholesome goodness waiting to surprise you.

‘Tis the time of year when zucchinis bombard us, so make this loaf and maybe make some to share with your neighbors too.

Single-Grain

Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

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