Monday, December 31, 2007

Searching for Food

We live in interesting times. Neither hunter nor gatherer in the traditional sense, yet both in a contemporary sense. Armed with Google, a GPS device, or both, we can track and find much of what is locally available.

Here is my current list of places to find out where to find local food:
- Eat Well Guide. Search for local foods by entering a zip code and mileage.
- Connecticut Farm Map. Intended to be the online companion to the paper map.
- BuyCTGrown. Search by item, zip code, and mileage.
- Eat Wild. Find grass-fed food.
- CT Northeast Organic Farming Association Farms. Includes Farmer's Market information.
- DOAG Diversified Dairy Farms in Connecticut.
- Local Harvest.
- Pick Your Own.
- CT Farm Fresh. Farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area. Includes a catalog for items you cannot find locally.
- Connecticut Wine Trail.
- Edible Nutmeg. A quarterly newsletter that celebrates the harvest of the Nutmeg state. Publication includes directories.
- City Seed Farmer's Markets.
- Farm & Food. A New York Resource. (A significant portion of my foodshed lies in NY.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Saturday's Forage

I have to say, being a grasshopper locavore--one who did not spend the summer storing up for the winter--causes one to take some pretty desperate measures, like going to an outdoor Farmer's Market in the middle of the winter in search of sustenance. (Okay, it's technically not winter yet, but it's cold and white out there!)

This Saturday (12/15), we followed up on a lead to City Seed's Holiday Market at Wooster Square in New Haven (map). City Seed's criteria for vendors are:
1. All farm products sold at the market must be grown in Connecticut.
2. City Farmers' Markets are "Producer Only" markets at which farmers sell what they grow and other vendors sell what they themselves have produced.
Works for me!

I regret to say that I did not take notes about which vendors came out on Saturday. In my defense, it was pretty darn cold and I wasn't interested in taking off my gloves, except to pay or sample cheeses! City Seed has a Web page listing of their usual Wooster Square vendors. Most of them were there on Saturday, which was rather impressive because, like I said, it was pretty darn cold. For this grasshopper locavore, it was well worth the 32-mile trip. City Seed maintains a Web page with the schedule for their Year-Round markets. The next market dates are: Jan 19, Feb 16, Mar 15, Apr 19 -- 10AM - 1PM.

I came home with:
- Artisinal cheeses from Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm in Lyme, CT.
- Chevre from Belthane Farm in Lebanon, CT.
- Fresh yogurt from Trinity Dairy Farm in Ensfield, CT
- Organic kale, butternut squash, brussels sprouts, carrots, and potatoes from Waldingfield Farm in Washington, CT.
- Salad greens. (Deep apologies, but I can't recall the farm name.)

I am delighted that I can continue eating local, sustainable food throughout the winter. I cannot express enough gratitude to these farmers who left the warm comfort of their homes to feed me (and others like me) good and healthy food.

And as an added bonus, Wooster Street is the Little Italy of New Haven, CT! It is home to the original Pepe's Pizzeria, the legendary Sally's Apizza, and a host of other restaurants.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Omnivore's Dilemma

I finally ordered and read the other locavore book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. Like Kingsolver, Pollan is an exceptional writer and his story is well-told. While he provides a plethora of research details, it is never boring; in fact, it's fascinating. If you really want to know where your food comes from (mostly corn) and why it comes that way, read this book.

One of the things I took away from the book is that farming doesn't really scale well past a certain point. Factory farms and feedlots are not in the best interests of the country, the environment, the economy, and the health and well-being of the eaters (us).

One of the book's segments discusses Polyface Farm in Swoope, VA, a model of sustainability. The farm belongs to Joel Salatin, who is one guy I'd love to meet. I wish there were more farms adopting Salatin's model.

Among many other things, Salatin said, "We don't need a law against McDonald's or a law against slaughterhouse abuse--we ask for too much salvation by legislation. All we need to do is empower individuals with the right philosophy and the right information to opt out en masse."

Working the Land

I came across the Working the Land Web site which is a site devoted to Connecticut farm land and a documentary about the same.

The site describes it as: "Working the Land, a new documentary from SimonPure Productions, tells the compelling story of state agriculture – from its earliest history to its present-day diversity. The program also explores trends affecting farming in the state and the public policy that shapes its future. Along the way, we visit many picturesque state farms and meet the farmers who work the land and waters of Connecticut."

I ordered the Working the Land video on DVD and watched it. It's an interesting and well-made documentary, narrated by Sam Waterston. I learned quite a few things and I'd recommend this video to anyone with even a remote interest in Connecticut farming.

Since becoming a local foodie, I've been researching farms in my spare time, trying to replace my old, worldly pantry with a new, sustainable pantry. I have lists: lists of farms I've visited, lists of farms I intend to visit, and lists of farms that feed me that I've never visited (Farmer's Market and Natural food stores vendors). Much of the video featured farmers talking about their farms. I had to laugh at myself--whenever there was a farmer from one of my lists, I was cheering at the screen: that's one of my farms!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberries are one of three fruits indigenous to North America. In case you were wondering, the other two are blueberries and concord grapes.

One of my "rules" for defining local is 100 miles. These cranberries come from just under 200 miles away so I'm calling them mezza-local.

This year, something bothered me about the typical fresh whole-berry cranberry sauce recipe: one cup of water, one cup of sugar, a bag of cranberries. Maybe because it was boring, or maybe it was the blatant and singular use of refined white sugar. (Not that I am swearing off refined white sugar--it just doesn't grow near here...other sweetners do.)

So, I thought I'd try a local sweetner: maple syrup. Here's the recipe and I thought it was pretty darn good.

1 - 12 oz bag of cranberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup apple cider
1 cinnamon stick

Bring the syrup and cider to a boil. Add the cranberries and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil again until the cranberries stop popping. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick. Serve warm or chill.

Some variations could include dried whole hot pepper along with the cinnamon, more syrup and less cider, maybe nuts...whatever strikes your fancy.

The cider and syrup are local. The cranberries are mezza-local. The cinnamon stick is the Marco Polo exception.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Saturday's Forage

Today (12/8) took us to Rich Farm in Oxford, CT for raw milk, New Morning Natural Foods for various sundries, including Murray's Chicken, and Waldingfield Farm in Washington, CT.

Murray's chickens are local to Pennsylvania. They are humanely raised by a number of family farms in PA. They are not given growth hormones or antibiotics. They guarantee that all of their retailers are within 300 miles of their farms. Okay, so not 100 miles for me, more like 200, but given the issues with getting chickens in CT (regulations), this is as good as it is for now. I'm not giving up, but Murray's is not Perdue either.

The drive to Waldingfield Farm was lovely...from Oxford, through Southbury and Woodbury...looked like a postcard from Connecticut. I met Patrick Horan (one of three brothers running the farm) last week at the Sandy Hook Holiday Farmer's Market. He had lots of jars of his pasta sauce. The organic tomatoes are from his farm, the basil, onions, and garlic are from friends (in CT), and the olive oil is of course, from the world.

I am Italian (4th generation American, but still full-blooded Italian) and I generally do not eat pasta sauces that are not made by blood relatives. It's not snobbery per se; let's just say that my expectations have been well managed over the years. But seeings how I am in the dark days of winter and did not spend many of the light days of summer "putting by" the local bounty, Patrick's sauce, if it worked out, could be a life saver.

Well, it worked out. It is a delightfully delicious marinara. I'm jealous because it takes me longer to make one pot of marinara than it took him to make 5000 jars. The recipe is Waldingfield's and is produced at Palmieri's in New Haven, CT. According to Patrick, it's "one of the last old school Italian tomato processing facilities around."

This pasta sauce is good, real good. It has a good flavor. So I went to his farm in search of more.

I met his parents and his brother Quincy, the full time farmer. It turns out that the farm first belonged to their mother's grandfather and has been in the family ever since. I met the dogs too, although I forget their names (because I'm a cat person). But they were good dogs.

Anyway, I left with a case of pasta sauce and very happy.

By the way, those who know me are probably flipping out that I'm calling this "pasta sauce." Well, that's what the Waldingfield folks are calling it. And it is a marinara (meatless), so the name "sauce" applies. The meat-based, red tomato, divine-simmered-all-day-Sunday stuff is still gravy in my vocabulary. No meat = sauce. Meat (pork & beef) = gravy.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Raw Milk Experiment

As I mentioned in a previous post, I found a new raw milk supplier, Rich Farm in Oxford, CT. My usual supplier won't be supplying over the winter, and having had raw milk for all of these months, I am not willing to go back to cooked milk.

Rich Farm is a locally famous Ice Cream venue run by David Rich. The raw milk side of the business is run by his brother Don Rich. The ice cream stand is closed for the season, but the raw milk is available throughout the winter. The milk bears the Ajello label, named for their grandfather, Thomas Ajello, who began the dairy farm.

To get raw milk, put your order in a day in advance (203-888-3171) and pick up your milk at the farm.

Since I'm purchasing a small quantity (I only go through about a half a gallon a week), I looked into freezing raw milk. I read in an online forum that the only negative side effect is that the fat does not defrost well, so you could end up with globules of fat on top of your cereal, which would not be visually appealing. Someone on the forum suggested using a stick blender (aka a boat motor) to recombine the milk and said it would be fine.

I told Don of my plan and he gave me a quart to test. I did two experiments. I put the quart directly in the freezer and I poured about a pint from the half gallon into a mason freezer jar and put that in the freezer as well.

A few days later, I defrosted the pint in the mason jar and blended it with the boat motor. Due to the blending, it was rather foamy, like latte. The foam went down in about an hour. The milk tasted and behaved the same as never-been-frozen milk.

A few more days later, I defrosted the quart. I did not blend it; I merely shook the bottle (because it's creamline milk), and poured it right on top of my cereal. It too looked, behaved, and tasted like never-been-frozen milk.

So, the experiements were a success and I can keep a backup in my freezer in case weather prevents me from getting out.

Much thanks to Don for participating in this great experiment!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

December Forage

This week's foraging adventures were on the light side.

On Saturday (12/1), I went to Holbrook Farm. Although they're winding down for the season, I did get some broccoli and beets. They're going to be doing something different for the winter. The Newtown Chocolatier will be minding the store, offering baked goods, coffee, and of course, chocolate. There will be little if any eggs (the chickens have slowed down tremendously). There will be no raw milk and no veggies.

My next stop was Rich Farm in Oxford, a new raw milk source. The link is to their ice cream stand Web site, run by David Rich, which is closed for the season. The raw milk side of the business is run by his brother Don, and is available through the winter. Put your order in a day in advance (203-888-3171) and pick up your milk at the farm.

On the way home, I saw a small "Fresh Eggs" sign and instantly pulled over. Talk about fortuitous!

On Sunday (12/1), we went looking for a Christmas tree. Their are numerous places in Connecticut to get a local tree, but the weather (snow) put a damper on my willingness to drive around much. I went to Masons Farm Market (map only) on Route 25 in Monroe. They have a wonderful selection, reasonable prices, and Connecticut trees.

On this particular day, there was also a special Farmer's Market and Crafts Day going on at St. John's Episcopal Church (Google map) in Sandy Hook. I got some home made jams from Stoneledge Hollow and some pasta sauce from Patrick of Waldingfield Farms in Washington, CT.