The Milkweed Diaries

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How to Eat Local in the Wintertime

Eating local food is easy in August...but how about in the middle of winter?  

For the seed swap and dinner party that we hosted here last weekend, I challenged myself to cook a meal with as many local ingredients as possible to serve to our dozen or so guests.  Coming up with this much local food in January with nary a farmers market in sight and the garden long-since frozen initially seemed a difficult task.  

It turned out to be easier than I thought, thanks to drying, canning, freezing, fermentation, and some long-storing root vegetables.  

We had a delicious, spicy-sweet wintery feast.  Here's the menu for the almost-100%-local meal that we shared:

  • Crostini with dueling pestos
  • Black bean mole topped with spicy salsa and sweet pepper hash
  • Creamy mashed sweet potatoes and potatoes with roasted garlic, fresh raw buttermilk, and homemade butter
  • Slow-cooked collards
  • Brine-pickled okra
  • Warm apple & pear compote served over homemade raw milk ice cream
  • Blackberry and quince meads & crabapple scrumpy

I served two pestos, both made from greens from our garden back in the summer, frozen, and thawed for this meal. One batch included magenta spreen lambsquarters, sorrel, and beet greens; the other was a classic basil pesto with sundried tomatoes from our garden. The bread was from Farm and Sparrow, a local off-grid wood-fired brick oven bakery.

The black bean mole was made with dried shell beans from our summer garden, slow-cooked with mole paste made in the fall from our Pasilla Bajio peppers.  I froze most of the mole paste and now I can unfreeze a few tablespoons of this potent blend and, viola! Spicy summer peppers on the wintertime table!  Along with the beans and mole paste, the other ingredients in this dish were all local: onions from the last farmers market of the year, garlic from our Summer 2008 harvest, and dried oregano from our garden.  

The salsa was made and frozen in the summer with our own tomatoes, onions, garlic and sweet and hot peppers.  I canned the sweet pepper hash with the last of the peppers from our garden back in October (see "Fall Kitchen and Garden Projects" for the recipe), and we cracked open the first jar for this occassion.

The collards were fresh from our garden, where a few intrepid greens are still growing under season-extending floating row cover.

The okra was also from our garden, preserved in the summer using the ancient process of brining.

The sweet potatoes came from Flying Cloud Farm, just over the ridge in Fairview, and the potatoes were a mix of varieties from various local farmers.  I bought the potatoes and sweet potatoes at the last farmers market of the year, and they are still holding up in storage.  These were mashed and creamed with raw buttermilk from Katy, the cow next door, and my first-ever homemade butter, also thanks to Katy.

I made the fruit compote from dried local pears and apples that we dried in the fall.  The fruit was slow-cooked with local honey and spices.  A little (very non-local) Nicaraguan rum that Melissa brought back from her travels made this steamy dessert concoction even more warming on a winter night. The hot compote was perfect on homemade ice cream (from still MORE of Katy the cow's milk), churned on site by Dana-Dee.

To drink, we had home-fermented Quince Mead, Blackberry Mead, and Crabapple Scrumpy.

Hurrah for local food!

Local food cheerleaders in Australia (more info on the radical cheerleaders of Adelaide, Australia here) ... note the fabulous artichoke, fork, and knife team logo on their team t-shirts...ah, thanks be to google image...


My-DC said...

Is that your hubby in the yellow skirt?

Milkweed said...

I am happy to report that I have no such thing as a husband, but that does look a lot like my sweet partner/loverman/co-conspiritor Christopher in the yellow skirt! He tends to prefer longer skirts generally though.