ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

A locavore moves from Wisconsin to New Hampshire and rediscovers what "local" means.


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This Week in Veg: Our Fall CSA

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Sam and I had our summer CSA with Cedar Circle Farm – one of the big two CSAs in the Upper Valley. However, we changed over to Your Farm, another large CSA for the Fall and Winter Storage Share.

We’ve been only partially happy with Cedar Circle this season. We’re used to coming from a 100% CSA farm where we were treated like investors, and we felt entitled to our “share” of the harvest at the farm. Cedar Circle, on the other hand, is part CSA, part wholesale, part farmer’s market vendor and part farm stand. They have more sources of revenue, and the CSA members are not the main supporters of their farm. What this meant in practice was we were “prepaid” customers instead of investors. I saw multiple times where the farm diverted high-profit crops (e.g. garlic scapes) to the farm stand, and the CSA members got these crops only when there was a surplus. The first harvest also went to the farm stand and farmer’s markets. There were many weeks that there were crops available for high prices at the farmer’s market that weren’t also available in the CSA boxes. We waited 3 weeks after tomatoes showed up at the farmer’s market booth before we got a tomato in our box. Additionally, we were not happy with the diversity in our box. The spring was overwhelmed with lettuce and radishes, at the expense of other spring crops like asian greens. I didn’t get a single salad turnip all year.

That being said, we were also not happy with the plan for the fall CSA from Cedar Circle. They have every week boxes through mid-December and we would have to travel to their farm – a 40 minute drive round-trip- to pickup the box on Saturday or Sunday. We started looking for a new farm, and I hope we’ve found a better place.

We’re getting our fall/winter box from Your Farm. They will delivery every other week to my health club through mid-January. The cost per box is about $5 less than Cedar Circle. I’ve also appreciated the diversity of crops they have available – more asian greens and fewer rutabagas. I hate rutabagas. I’m also excited for some of their prepared foods they offer with the fall CSA – sauerkraut, home canned tomatoes, pesto, dilly beans. They also freeze farm surplus and include it in the CSA delivery – corn, beans, asparagus, pesto… As always, I’ll try to post pictures of our boxes to give everybody a sense of what we’re munching on all winter.


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Roasted Garlic Jelly

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I’m hoping to make something tasty this weekend with a 5-bone rib-in pork roast that has been sleeping in my chest freezer. Somehow the idea of pork and garlic really appealed to me, but so did the idea of honey glazed ham. Bringing these two concepts together, I made roast garlic jelly which I will use to baste the pork roast.

Unfortunately, what I wanted to make was roasted garlic JAM – with lots of chunks of roasted garlic and a little sweetness. Best-laid plans of mice. I ended up with Jelly instead – wine, vinegar, sugar infused with roast garlic. To make it a bit more interesting, I added the garlic cloves back into the jars, but they floated up to the top and separated from the jelly. I guess I’ll just roast more garlic to use with the pork roast.

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I got caught stealing apples

The Implement

The Implement

My neighbor Cindy and I walk our dogs past this Orthodontist office that has an tree just hanging full of wonderful, ripe, flawless apples. Tasty apples, too – I’ve eaten a few that I could reach from the ground – Juicy and not too tart, with firm flesh. Just wonderful apples going to waste on the tree.

I vowed to steal them.

I figured there’s no orthodontist that sees patients on Saturdays – so I drove over in my car, parked under the tree and climbed onto the roof. Wouldn’t you know it, I could only reach a handful of apples. The fruit hung from the branch, just out of my reach. Many people would give up in defeat, but something about these apples lit a fire under my butt. I needed help and a way to reach the apples.

Pidi and I went to West Lebanon Feed and Supply to buy an Apple Picker. It’s a wire basket on the end of a pole with some rake-like fingers to pluck fruits from high up in the tree. I splurged the extra dollars to get the full 15′ model. I was going to get those damn apples come hell or high water. I called up Cindy and recruited her to my cause. Petty Crime and Free Apples. I mean, who doesn’t want that?

Evidence of the crime.

Evidence of the crime.

Now armed with implements and a co-conspirator, I load up the car and drive back to the Orthodontists office. I’m standing on the roof of my car and Cindy’s down on the ground unloading the apples from my picking basket into a bushel box. We have about half a bushel when up drives a guy in a black Porsche 911 from the 1970s. Instead of dropping the pole and running, I hopped off the roof of my car, walked up with a big smile and an armload of apples. I asked if he wants an apple. I ask if these are his apples. My heart is pounding in my chest.

The Porsche 911. The Orthodontist. Yes, I'm still standing on the roof of my car.

The Porsche 911. The Orthodontist. Yes, I’m still standing on the roof of my car. Aren’t those great boots?

Turns out, this is the orthodontist who owns the apples we’re stealing. He also happens to be a very nice guy and willing to trade pie for calling the police. He needs to wash his Porsche, so decided to come over to his office where, I guess, all orthodontists keep power washers. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I suspect somebody tipped him off that there were hooligans stealing his apples. He seemed surprised to find reasonably nice people willing to pick his apples for him for free. What’s an orthodontist going to do with a bushel of apples? Kids in braces aren’t supposed to eat them…

Free apples. I mean, who wouldn't want that?

Petty crime and free apples. I mean, who doesn’t want that?

We picked a bushel of apples off his tree over the course of an hour. The orthodontist power-washed his Porsche and we all went home happy.

The apples were beautiful. I had to throw out 3 of the whole bushel. I made applesauce and got about 12 pints. I felt guilty keeping all of these free apples for myself, so I left a pile on the stoop of the orthodontist’s office, gave a bunch to my neighbors, and sent Cindy home with a weeks’ worth of fruit. She was my co-conspirator…

I think I may recruit Sam to go with me to steal a few more… I’m craving an apple pie.


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No Cursing at the Caselot Sale

This year’s Caselot controversy was over Barilla pasta.  The company has been in hot water after their Chairman made some blowhard comments about “family values” and using homosexuals in their advertisements.  This led to a boycott and lots of Liberal rage (and NPR coverage). Nothing wrong with Liberal rage, mind you… But, when I dug into the order form for the Caselot sale, there was organic pasta at $1.83 per pound and Barilla pasta at $0.98 per pound. I can’t stomach the thought of buying organic pasta.* BUT, I also was conflicted about supporting a company making pretty terrible comments. More than that, I was really surprised that the COOP would purchase that much pasta from a rather controversial company-must have been a timing issue.

If you remember, last year I had quite a time at the COOP Caselot Sale. Thankfully, as you’ve been reading, I was able to put food by this season, so I didn’t have to buy tomatoes, green beans and the like at the Caselot sale. Instead, we took advantage of the Caselot sale to stock up on canned black, pinto and garbanzo beans, frozen peas and cleaning products. Plus, Clif Bars at $0.90/ea and olive oil for $30/gallon. In fact, we went Thursday morning at 9am before Sam went to work, and were in and out in under 30 minutes. Success!

*As a sidenote, in the organic v local debate, I’m firmly on the Local side. I often don’t spend extra on organic foods when conventional foods are available. Local+Organic > Local+Conventional > Remote+Conventional > Remote+Organic

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The guys that fulfilled my caselot order. (Note the thick fog at 9:25am…)


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My chest freezer is a 15-cubic-foot frozen sedimentary rock

ChestFreezerFairy

The Chest Freezer Fairy. If you set out a dish of homemade jam, she’ll leave presents in your chill chest. Mostly frozen food, but the occasional frozen human finger has shown up.

Thinking back to your Elementary School Geology class, rocks come in three forms, igneous, sedimentary and some other type that I certainly can’t spell. Metamorphic? Point is, sedimentary rocks are made from silt and sand and other types of stuff that piles up in layers and gets packed down by the weight of the stuff on top of it.

My chest freezer is a 15-cubic-foot frozen sedimentary rock.

As we put food by, I freeze bags of stuff, and pile it into the chest freezer. Down at the bottom are the frostbit remnants of previous years’ preserving. Above that goes the strawberries and blueberries in the spring, through other fruits, herbs, corn all the way to the broccoli that sits at the top.

Once the fall comes, a massive geologic event hits the chest freezer.

We don’t eat our food in the order it went into the chest freezer, so each Fall I have to stir up the layers, bringing the spring fruits to the top and moving some of the fall vegetables to the bottom. To do this, I don thick gloves to protect my hands from frostbite (learned that lesson real quick) and I have to unload the whole chest freezer, spread out piles of corn, strawberries, etc, across the floor, then reload the whole thing in a mixed-up order.

I often find presents in the bottom of the chest freezer left by the Chest Freezer Fairy. This year I found some chicken stock frozen into 1-cup cubes, ham hocks, and Japanese fried tofu pockets to make Inarizushi. We’ve got a 4-rib bone-in pork roast that I should defrost and cook into something yummy. I moved the strawberries from the bottom to the top, and made room for the broccoli that should be arriving next week sometime.

We’re getting close to the end of the season of putting food by, and into the season of eating it all up.


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Canning Pears

We had a SNAFU last week with the fruit box. We signed up for summer fruit (think peaches) and fall fruit (apples). Through some strange administrative glitch, we had an overlap between our summer and winter CSAs, and we ended up with two boxes of fruit. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, we put up a bunch of the unexpected fruit.

The boxes had 16 ripe pears-Bartlett and Bosc. There is no way that Sam and I could eat 16 ripe pears before they went south. Out came  the water bath canner and most of those pears ended up in jars.  We were able to fit 6 pear halves into each quart without squashing them too much-these were big pears. I made 6 cups of super-light syrup to fill the jar space. We ended up with 5 quarts and one pear left over for breakfast.

Typically, I would can my pears with ginger. The combination is really special. But, doing this at 9pm on Friday with the stuff I have in the house, I wasn’t able to make the best. Farnum hill will have some pears ripe in a few weeks, and I’ll can a load of them with ginger.


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Pickled Red Bell Peppers

Two weeks ago it was really really hot. 90+ degrees hot. In that heat, i was supposed to pickle a peck of peppers. But… The first step in pickling a peck of pickled peppers is roasting them over an open flame. I really didn’t want to heat up the house with the broiler. Instead, I sat out in the back yard with the camp stove and roasted peppers.

Roasting Chiles over the camp stove. Underneath the stove is the slab of marble that Sam uses in the oven when he bakes bread. It was a great work surface, but it's NEVER coming camping with us...

Roasting Chiles over the camp stove. Underneath the stove is the slab of marble that Sam uses in the oven when he bakes bread. It was a great work surface, but it’s NEVER coming camping with us…

The peppers had been marinading in the fridge for two weeks, so I got to crack the jar and have a taste. Just as you’d expect, the peppers are slightly sweet and slightly tangy, with great flavors of oregano. We will definitely be enjoying them on crispy pizza.

Pickled  Sweet Bell Peppers

  • 1/2 Cups White Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cups Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cups Dry White Wine
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 4 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 6 sweet red bell peppers

(Prepare canning jars, lids and rings. This recipe made 1 pint of peppers.)

  1.  Roast the red bell pepers until the skins are blackened and blistery. Either use the flame of a gas burner, or an oven broiler on highest heat. Once roasted, put the peppers in a plastic container or paper bag, to allow the residual heat to steam the peppers. Let the peppers sit for 15-30 minutes to cool.
  2. Using a paper towel, rub the blackened skin off the bell pepper. Slice the pepper in half and remove the gills and seeds. Slice the peppers into large 2″ squares.
  3. Peel the garlic cloves and thinly slice.
  4. Mix the vinegars, wine and water in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the sugar, salt, and oregano. Bring just to the boil then turn down the heat to low. Don’t let it simmer because it will reduce the amount of water and concentrate the acid. Just keep it hot.
  5. Pack layers of pepper and garlic slices into clean, sterile widemouth pint jars. Once full, pour over the hot brine.
  6. Knock the air bubbles out of the jar by either tapping on the counter or using a chopstick. Clean the rim of the jar with a clean paper towel. Fit the lid and screw on the ring.

At this point, if you are just making one or two jars, put them in the fridge to marinade and eat them within two months. Let the peppers marinade at least 48 hours before tasting. Otherwise, if you want to preserve the peppers, proess in a water bath canner for 15 minutes.