Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Local eating goes super-mainstream

Here's the proof:

Yup, that's the cover story on an airline in-flight magazine (Midwest Airlines, to be specific). It's an interesting article centered mostly around a cool restaurant called Local Burger. Next time we go to visit family in Kansas, we'll be sure to stop in.

Also check out the article.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Preserving the Bounty

We had a wonderful time talking with people at the Westside Community Farmers' Market on Saturday, thank you to all of you who stopped by to chat! For those of you who couldn't make it, following is some info on the gadgets and gizmos we use and what we preserve.

First is the best book I know of for info on home preservation, Putting Food By. This book can tell you how to freeze cherries, dry apples and can shrimp--not that I would ever, ever do the latter!


We freeze tomato sauce, berries (pureed into sauce), corn, chicken stock (not exactly a produce crop but made throughout the year), bread and pesto. We have a small chest freezer that we fill to capacity and we have a friend who generously lets us use the empty half of her GIANT chest freezer. The freezers run more efficiently when full so that is a win-win situation for us both. When shopping for a freezer check the Energy Star rating and think about how full you can keep it. Freezers start around $300.


We use an old American Harvest / Nesco food dehydrator, I am not sure if they make the model we have anymore but if you follow the link you will see the current offerings. I have seen them for as little at $15 on eBay. Ours has a thermostat, fan and 5 stacking, dishwasher safe trays as well as a fruit leather insert. We dry mostly berries, tomatoes and peppers. You haven't lived until you have crunched a styrofoam feeling raspberry in your teeth in February and then jumped for joy at the explosion of taste on your tongue! When looking for a dehydrator a thermostat is not essential, a fan is. Drying times vary enormously and it is hard to mess up food drying so stick some food in, check it occasionally and take it out when you think it looks and tastes right! We store our dried food in ziploc bags in the freezer. We don't want any residual moisture causing mold over the next six months. Our peppers we store on the shelf, they never seem to go moldy.


We can tomatoes and tomato products (ketchup, chutney etc.) during a tomato-heavy year, but usually we just can applesauce. We use regular old mason jars, most purchased at thrift stores. A brand-new dozen of jars and lids is around $15 depending on where you get them. Woodmans, your local hardware store, Willy St. Co-op and Farm and Fleet are all good locations to find canning supplies. We recommend a canning funnel and a jar lifter to make life easier. You can use a standard water bath canner with rack or you can use any big ol' pot that can fit you jars plus 1 inch of water. You will need to keep your jars off the bottom of the pot, we have used triangles of aluminum flashing under each jar with good success.

The "canning" part of canning is easy, whether you do water or pressure, the previously mentioned "Putting Food By" will walk you through every step. For us, it is preparing the food to be canned where we have made the most use of gadgets! After years of using a hand-cranked food mill (with good success but tired muscles) we bought the KitchenAid Food Strainer and Grinder. It has revolutionized applesauce making in this family. It attaches to the PTO on our KitchenAid stand mixer and we can pour in cooked apples (or tomatoes) and the skins and seeds come out one side and smooth, beautiful sauce comes out the other--brilliant!

Preserving food is about thinking ahead and being the ant instead of the grasshopper. Some years we are better about it than others. Preserving the bounty is part of the work of eating locally, it is also part of the fun! Let us know what you are preserving this year!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Food preservation workshop

We'll be at the Westside Community Market on Saturday (Oct 13) to talk about food preservation and show some of the equipment and techniques we use. If you are curious about any of the processes (canning, freezing, and drying, mostly) or need some encouragement to get started, swing by and we will pump your self-confidence to previously unknown heights.

On the road again

We're in Boston visiting Scott's mother this week. Last night we went to Oleana, which is a fabulous restaurant specializing in Eastern Mediterranean food (think Greece and Turkey). No photos: taking pictures of food in a fine dining restaurant just feels tacky.

They have an awesome farm-to-table connection: the wife is the chef and the husband is the farmer, so they grow the majority of the produce themselves and source meats locally. The press clippings we saw (posted in the bathroom!) tell the tale of having to adapt the cuisine a bit to account for the differences in growing conditions between the Mediterranean and New England. Some people might be dismayed by this kind of compromise of "authentic" cuisine, but I think it is really the very best of what eating has to offer: the flavors from all over the world are the paint and the local ingredients are the canvas. The result, in the case of Oleana, is a masterpiece. If you ever find yourself hungry and in Cambridge, give the place a try.


Friday, October 5, 2007

This is a very cool idea. . .

My mother sent me this from Massachusetts.

Wouldn't it be great if we all had the option? We can get University of Wisconsin Alumni and the Green Bay Packers. Why can't we get a license plate that supports family farms in some way?

Had a great dinner tonight (conhinita pibil, or yucatan-style pit barbeque) with yummy Willow Creek pork. Pictures are in the camera that is packed away for a trip starting tomorrow. We'll update it in a day or so.