Thompson woman’s Molasses Zucchini Bread has back-to-land flavor
BY JOSH McAULIFFE
Times Shamrock Writer
Sharon Milewski possesses a back-to-the-land ethos that would make her ancestors proud.
How appropriate, then, that when time came for Milewski to submit a recipe to the Times-Tribune’s “Local Flavor: Recipes We Love” contest, it would be for her grandmother’s Zucchini Bread recipe.
And how doubly appropriate that she modified the recipe to reflect her life on her farm in Susquehanna County.
The recipe, which she now calls Molasses Zucchini Bread, is this week’s Local Flavor winner, earning Milewski a $100 gift certificate from Ray’s ShurSave Supermarkets, which has locations in Old Forge, Waymart, Factoryville and Montrose.
Teaching to farming
A native of Dupont, Milewski spent years teaching anatomy, physiology and other sciences at University of Tennessee in Knoxville before returning to the area in 2004.
She ended up buying seven acres of land in Thompson, which she then converted into a working sustainable agriculture farm with a vast selection of crops, fruit trees and a menagerie of chicken, sheep and goats.
She named the place Rascal Fair Farm, and spends 14 hours a day tending to it, with assistance from family and friends.
“It’s an honest, hard day’s work, but you feel good at the end of the day,” said Milewski, who teaches chemistry at Luzerne County Community College’s Susquehanna branch. “It feels good to see people go back to the land. I want good, quality food that has taste and some sort of organic element, to the extent that that’s possible.”
She found the Zucchini Bread recipe in her mother’s recipe book years ago. It came from her Polish grandmother, or Babka, Rose Chmielewski, who died when Milewski was 4.
The original recipe called for brown sugar, but Milewski changed it to molasses, which is a more natural sugar source for people with
hypoglycemia, like herself. She buys her molasses in 5-gallon buckets from a local co-op that imports it from the Caribbean.
Another of her unique alterations to the recipe – using the milk and cheese, or chèvre, produced by her dozen goats, all of which have names.
“I knew my grandparents had goats. So she probably used goat milk,” Milewski said. “It’s not a hard jump to think that these were among the original ingredients.”
Moist and balanced
The cheese probably sounds a bit unusual, but Milewski said it helps give the bread a nice, moist texture, and just the right amount of sour to balance the sweetness. “It pulls the flavors together,” she said.
Other ingredients include whole wheat flour and wheat germ, and, of course, zucchini, which Milewski gets directly from her garden.
She spent a recent morning baking 24 loaves of Molasses Zucchini Bread, which she distributes to family and friends and sells at craft shows.
No doubt, they’ll enjoy the results. It’s super moist, has great spice – cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice – and just the right amount of sweetness.
The bread also translates perfectly to muffins. “And it does freeze well. It holds its texture and flavor,” said Milewski, noting that the mixing of the bread’s batter should be done entirely by hand. And, if your zucchini has a lot of moisture in it, cut back the milk a bit.
Milewski makes several types of cheese with her goat milk – romano, Parmesan, mozzarella, ricotta and feta – that she ages in a wine refrigerator. She also produces goat milk soaps.
Her male goats are eventually slaughtered for their meat, which goes into one of her favorite recipes, the Greek dish moussaka.
Milewski is an avid canner, producing all sorts of jellies – peach, raspberry, even crab apple – and salsas. And, in addition to Molasses Zucchini Bread, she bakes braided challah bread and butternut squash and ginger muffins.
All of these goodies have, as she put it, “high trade value.”
“My dentist bill, I pay in food,” she said. “I horse-trade with lots of people. That’s the way it should be, the old-fashioned barter.”
1/2 cup goat milk
1 teaspoon chèvre goat cheese
2 cups grated zucchini
1-1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon wheat germ
2 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum free)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons melted butter
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup molasses
Combine milk, cheese and zucchini. In another bowl, combine dry ingredients. Melt butter, then add molasses while butter is warm. Add the eggs and sugar to butter mixture.
Combine zucchini mixture and butter mixture. Add dry ingredients to the zucchini-butter mixture, stirring by hand only to combine ingredients – do not over stir.
Pour batter into a loaf pan and bake at 375 degrees F for 18 to 20 minutes.