ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

Back to Wisconsin, my cheesehead friends


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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. 

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Blueberry Picking

I traveled to Super Acres Blueberry Farm in Lyme, NH with my colleagues from work to pick blueberries. This was my first you-pick blueberry experience. Blueberries are easy to pick because they grow on 5 to 8 foot tall bushes, meaning you get to spend a lot of time in the shade and pick berries standing up. No bending and straining your back for blueberries.

With our berries, I made blueberry jam (3 lbs, 10 half-pints), blueberry buckle (1.5 lbs) and ate the rest with breakfast. I think we may go back again and pick more for the freezer.

Super Acres farm is also dog-friendly, so I can take the pooch with too!


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I said 9 dozen, not 9 ears…

The guy at the farmer’s market did a double-take when I asked him for 9 dozen ears of corn. He though I had asked for 9 ears of corn. And at $6-9 PER DOZEN I was rethinking my decision and checking the amount of cash I had in my wallet for this venture. The prices were the same inflated, yuppie-priced, markup flimflam that I’ve come to expect at our farmer’s market. I’m used to paying Wisconsin Fertile Farmland prices of $1-2 per dozen ears – and typically getting a baker’s dozen (13) for that price. No wonder some people believe that eating locally is financially unachievable for everybody. He was the lowest price at the market at $6/doz, but I talked the guy down to $5/doz… Still too pricy…

I’m not much of a fan of canned corn – I’d much rather have it frozen. I tried canned corn a few years back and the end product turned starchy and mushy. It was more like creamed corn than canned. Plus, frozen corn turns into 6″ x 6″ x 1″ building blocks that we use to make dividers in our chest freezer. We can keep the layers more distinct and keep the fruits and vegetables separate.

I follow the process that my mom taught me a few years back:

Husk the corn.

1.

Husk the corn. Tip: Husk the corn outside. Neither mops nor vacuum cleaners are good at picking up corn silks.

 Wash the corn and cut off any bad spots.

2.

Wash the corn and cut off any bad spots.

Cut the kernels from the cob.

3.

I prefer to cut the kernels from the cob rather than using any of those special corn cutters. I find a sharp knife makes the least amount of mess and splatter. Corn cutters aren’t usually as sharp and spray kernels everywhere. Plus, if you have a cob that is curved, corn cutters won’t work at all. Cut the kernels from the cob. Tip: Find a bowl with a footed base – a deep lip on the bottom of the bowl used to keep the bowl upright. Turn the footed bowl upside down in your Big Damn Bowl and use the foot to hold onto the ear of corn while you cut. It stablilzes the bottom of the ear of corn allowing you to cut all the way down to the bottom of the ear of corn without hitting the bottom of the bowl.

Saute the kernels with butter.

4.

In a nonstick skillet, saute 1 tbsp of butter with 2 cups of kernels on medium-high heat for about 3 minutes or until the kernels turn darker yellow and smell really good. Add a big pinch of salt if you’d like. Vegans: use vegetable oil instead of vegan butter spread. I tried it one year with the vegan butter spread and it left a harsh chemical taste in the corn.

5.

After sauteeing the corn, let it cool for a few minutes, so you don’t melt the plastic zipper bags. While you’re waiting for the batch to cool, sautee the next batch and label your plastic zipper bag.

Load into labeled zipper bags.

6.

Load 2 cups of cooked kernels into a plastic zipper bag. Use your bag filler. Spread the kernels evenly through the bag and press out the air.

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7.

Stack the bags into a box or cake pan so they will freeze flat. Freeze.


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Necessary Equipment: A Bag Filler

I have always hesitated to reveal my dark secrets to home preserving. I closely guard the tips and tricks that I use in my kitchen to help me can and preserve food quickly and efficiently. Mostly, I want you all to come to me after the Zombie Apocalypse to preserve the food necessary for the continuation of the human race. If I tell you my tips and tricks, then you may be able to save yourself… But… Give a man a fish, teach a man to fish…

One of the problems with freezing in plastic zipper bags, is that you always fight to keep the bag open while you’re filling it with food. Also, once the bag is full, you have to seal it right away because it has a tendency to tip over and spill. To solve this problem, I use a bag filler –  a rigid plastic tube that holds the bag open while I fill it.

I make my bag fillers from Gatorade bottles. Unlike other plastic bottles, they have ridges so they’re strong around the middle and won’t collapse.

Cut off the top and the bottom, and make sure not to leave sharp edges that could puncture the bag.

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The bag filler can go inside the bag or the bag can go inside the bag filler… Either way, the bag stays open and is kept upright and free-standing.

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