ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

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


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Blueberry haul 2016

I headed to Noda Farm to pick blueberries. The bushes were laden with fruit and picking was easy. Noda Farm is a lovely place to pick berries because their bushes are large and well kept. Picking is easy because you don’t have to crouch down and the large bushes provide shade.  I was able to pick 8.5 lbs of berries in about 45 minutes. I would love to share pictures with you, but my phone was dead. 

Back home, the blueberries went into some blueberry jam (9 half-pints), and into a recipe for Blueberry Boy Bait from Cooks Illustrated. I also froze a bunch for pancakes and smoothies this winter. 

Blueberries and maple syrup are two New England food trends that I can really get behind. 


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35 Pints of Jam on the wall…

Sam and I took the day Thursday to go to Edgewater Farms and pick strawberries to make jam and other good things. We ended up picking 48 pounds at $2.50 per pound. The strawberries this year are the most flavorful, plump, beautifully ripe berries that I have ever picked. With berries this beautiful, it is easy to make fantastic jam.

However, that was not in the works. (/foreshadowing) I had to go to an important meeting and left Sam with a boiling pot of jam and 36 empty jars. Unfortunately, I think the berries were so sweet and wonderful, there wasn’t enough acid to setup the pectin. The jam didn’t set.

Rather than eat strawberry syrup on our toast, I opted to take the 4th holiday to reset the jam. Gigantic PITA. One unintended consequence – resetting the jam requires additional sugar, lemon juice and pectin. I had to add so much that I ended up with an extra jar of jam after resetting. So 35 pints of jam.

2016-06-30 10.03.27-1


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The price of my homemade strawberry jam=$0.22/ounce

2015-06-22 08.38.34Here’s the sick thing… I did the math and my homemade jam costs about as much per ounce as Bonne Maman’s high-end grocery store jam: $0.22 per ounce.

I made 30.5 pints of jam, using 34 jars (some were half-pint jars for gifts), inputting 28 lbs of strawberries, 7 packets of Certo pectin and 21.462 pounds of sugar.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Jar and ring – reusable and depreciating resource.
  • Canning equipment – depreciating resource.
  • Canning jar lid. $1.99 for 12 = $0.17 per lid, or $5.78 for lids.
  • Sugar. $2.59 at the COOP for a 4 pound bag = $0.65 per pound or $14.07 for sugar.
  • Strawberries at $2.50 per pound and 28 lbs of berries into the recipe = $70 for strawberries.
  • Certo is $4.59 for 2 pouches = $2.30/pouch so $16.10 on pectin.

Grand total = $105.95 for 30.5 pints of jam. That’s $0.22 per ounce. 

Bonne Mamans jam was on sale at the COOP for $2.99 for a 13 ounce jar or $0.23 per ounce.

I hope some of you are jumping up and down right now and pointing out the serious flaws in my calculation… I don’t take into Labor costs, which was about 13.5 woman-hours. I don’t take into account the cost of my “facility” to produce jam. I don’t take into account transportation, and I’ve discounted my equipment. But hey! My jam is a heck of a lot tastier than anything you’d ever buy in a store. Plus I have a great memory of spending a hot, muggy day in the kitchen with my sister. That’s worth a lot more than $0.23 per ounce.


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Fruit, sugar, pectin needed to make strawberry jam in quantity

I got sick of doing the math every year, so I made a table for large batches of strawberry jam. The recipe is based on using Certo liquid pectin.

Certo Pectin Pouches Strawberries
Pounds
Strawberries
Hulled and crushed
cups
Sugar
cups
Sugar
Ounces
Sugar
Pounds
Yield
Pints
1 4 4 7 49 3.066 4
2 8 8 14 98 6.132 8
3 12 12 21 147 9.198 12
4 16 16 28 196 12.264 16
5 20 20 35 245 15.33 20
6 24 24 42 294 18.396 24
7 28 28 49 343 21.462 28
8 32 32 56 392 24.528 32


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Gross Corn, or 12 x 12 = 144

The going price at the market for corn in Vermont and New Hampshire is anywhere from 6 ears for $4 up to $1 per year – or $8-12 per dozen. As a kid, the teenagers in pickup trucks along the side of the road charged, at most, $2/dozen, and we could often talk them down to $1.50. In Madison, I could buy a bakers dozen ears (13×13) from a local sweet corn farm, and they’d even haul the bags to my car for $3.50/dozen, and often not charge me for the full Baker’s gross. The most offensive price in the Midwest for an ear of sweet corn is at the Sun Prairie Corn Festival where FIBs* and Cheeseheads get overcharged for sweet corn- $2/ear including salt and butter. Last year, I got lucky and coaxed a kid to $5/dozen and complained to everybody around about the price of sweet corn.  So, paying $8 for a dozen ears of corn offends my Midwestern sensibilities. I was not going to pay $8 per dozen to freeze corn this year. 

We headed to upstate New York over Labor Day, where fertile soil and normal market pricing mechanisms conspire to produce cheap, high-quality sweet corn. I was determined to buy as much corn as I could haul back and put it into the freezer for the year. I accomplished my goal. $4 per dozen. A gross of corn (a dozen dozen), and we produced 43 zipper bags holding about 2 cups of corn each. Mission accomplished. 

Click on an image to read a full description. 


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Anybody else sick of zucchini yet?

Late August is the only time that New Englanders lock their car doors. If you leave your car unlocked, somebody will leave you a box of orphan zucchini on your front seat. (Photo from greenstag.net)

We have the first week of our CSA where we don’t have lettuce and do have more zucchini (and other summer squash) than we expect to eat in a week. This marks a big move in our Summer eating. Up until this point, we have new vegetables trickling in for the first time – the first cucumber, the first tomato, the first zucchini. We’ve now reached the peak of novelty and descended into bounty. We must smash tomatoes into jars because there are just too many to eat. The cucumbers get huge, bitter, and neglected on the vine. The lettuce, spinach and other greens have gone to seed and are bitter and inedible. We now have to hide zucchini in other foods. We now move into crisis mode. There are vegetables coming out our ears.

I have a lot of strategies for handling the bounty. Of course, you’ve read about my adventures with canning, drying, and other odd types of preserving. I also have strategic approaches for cooking that use up lots of vegetables. I went through some of  my recipes for using lots and lots of greens, and now over the next few days, I will let you in on my secrets on how to cook a lot of zucchini. 

Yes, I will share my recipe for chocolate zucchini cake. 

Until then!