Monday, March 31, 2008

Dark Days Local Challenge

Saturday's dinner consisted of pork chops from Ox Hollow Farm covered with sauteed onion and mango chutney (not local, but homemade by a friend). The sauteed spinach is from Starlight Farm, Durham, CT. The red wine, of course, is from McLaughlin.

Check out the challenge recaps at:

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Raw Milk Yogurt

My biggest barrier to making my own raw milk yogurt was in finding a reliable low-heat source. My electric oven does not have a pilot and the light bulb lights intermittently. With the arrival of my Excalibur Dehydrator, I am ready to go!

I do like the organic local Hawthorne Valley yogurt as well as the organic regional brands from Seven Stars Farm (Phoenixville, PA) and Stonyfield Farm (Londonderry, NH). The problem for me is that these are all made from pasteurized milk because that is the law. Apparently, the few states that allow raw milk sales do not allow for the production and sale of raw milk yogurt. It seems to me that the food laws that are designed to protect us are the strangest of all.

So, I researched several recipes and it comes down to
- how much to heat the milk
- how much starter yogurt to add (for the live cultures)
- the incubation temperature
- the incubation time

The most popular milk-heating temperature is 110°. I did see one recipe that called for heating the milk to 180° and then letting it cool to 110°, but it seems it would defeat the purpose of using raw milk. I thought that the enzymes and beneficial bacteria are killed at 130°.

The recommended amount of starter yogurt to add varies from 1/8 of a cup to 1/4 (if you're using commercial, which by default means pasteurized, yogurt). Most say to use about twice as much if you're using your own previous batch of raw milk yogurt.

The suggested incubation temperature ranges from 90° to 110° and an often-suggested period is eight hours.

I got another recipe that called for heating the milk to 90°, adding 1/2 of a cup of (commercial) starter and incubating it at 90° to 100° for 18-36 hours. I have had this yogurt and it is exceptional, but this being my first time, I wanted something that would be ready sooner!

I went for heating the milk to 110°, and incubating it in the dehydrator at 105° for 8 hours. I did make two jars using 1/2 cup each of starter and two other jars using 1/4 cup each of starter.

My yogurt came out similar in consistency to the Hawthorne Valley, perhaps slightly "looser." There was no noticeable difference between the ones with 1/4 cup of starter vs. those with 1/2. It tastes amazingly like yogurt!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday's Forage (3/29/08)

We headed out bright and early today to the Fairfield Winter Market. Lots of folks were there--vendors and customers. I did bring my camera but got so caught up in being a participant that I forgot to be an observer. My apologies to those who like pictures. Our catch of the day:
- Ricotta cheese from Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm.
- Chevre from Beltane Farm.
- Frissee and lettuce from one of the Two Guys from Woodbridge, Hamden, CT.
- Lavendar Oat soap from Goat Boy Soaps. (They were out of patchouli, but assure me that the next batch is on the roster.)
- Bee Pollen from Andrew's Local Honey.
- French Country Bread from Wave Hill Bread, Wilton, CT.
- Potatoes and parsnips from Riverbank Farm, Roxbury, CT.
- Spinach and salad dressing from Starlight Farm, Durham, CT.
- Pork chops from Ox Hollow Farm.

We are happy campers with stuff in the fridge!

After that, it was off to Snow's Farm in Easton, CT where we got some Humus Loam (super duper soil) because, yes, we are having a victory garden this year. Not only am I behind in blogging about it, I am behind in creating it. The raised beds are built, I have soil, and as you will soon see if you keep reading, seeds.

And then, to New Morning in Woodbury to get:
- some organic fruits and veggies to round out our meals.
- seeds (they carry Johnny Seeds and some Seeds of Change seeds).
- two gallons of raw milk and a container of yogurt. Why? Because my Excalibur Dehydrator arrived today and I'm going to make raw milk yogurt. The store-bought yogurt is organic and regional and has the much-needed starter effect for making yogurt on your own.

That's it!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dark Days Challenge

Another couple of accidental local meals...

Last night, we had burgers (ready made ground beef patties) from Stuarts. I made mine a cheeseburger, courtesy of Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm, with lettuce from Two Guys from Woodbridge, on French country bread slices from Wave Hill Bakery. And of course, red wine from McLaughlin.

Tonight was leftover ribeyes from Stuarts, sauteed sliced potatoes from Riverbank, and not local baby bok choy (and of course, red wine from McLaughlin).

I find that as time goes by, I'm not doing as many deliberate 90% local meals, but have local food integrated in just about each meal or snack.

For example, almost every morning I have yogurt from Hawthorne Valley Farms with a dollop of jam from Stoneledge Farm.

I drink several cups of coffee throughout the day--all of them with local raw milk, lately from Foxfire Farm. I also drink one cup of tea a day with local honey.

I usually have cheese and crackers, the cheese being local and the crackers being worldly. Lately, I'm into those pretzel slices. Excellent with Sankow's soft white cheese (the herbless version of the herbed cheese).

While it lasts, I have my Macoun applesauce (from the freezer, sauced by me, apples by Apple Ridge Farm in Brookfield).

My dinners generally include at least one local item, sometimes two, sometimes more.

I'm liking this!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Finding Farms

CT NOFA has a Google Map featuring the farms, farmers markets and businesses listed in the 2008 CT NOFA Farm & Food Guide. Very cool.

NOFA = Northeast Organic Farming Association.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Farm Watch

I've been getting excited with the bulb shoots starting to peek up out of the ground. I'm looking forward to the upcoming growing season in a way that I never have before. I guess I should order some seeds already.

I miss "my" farms. I miss the variety of fresh vegetables at the farmers markets. I miss the super-extendo foraging runs that the nice weather encourages. (I don't like driving in snow or ice.)

So, with that, I offer you my first announcements of Season 2008 openings:
- April - Ferris Acres Creamery, Newtown, CT
- April 1 - Holbrook Farm, Bethel, CT

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dark Days Local Challenge

On Sunday, we had a respectable Palm Sunday Dinner featuring a smoked ham from Ox Hollow Farm in Roxbury (obtained at the Fairfield Winter Market).

The ham was absolutely delicious. I'd intended to use some apple cider as the liquid in the roasting pan, but none of my cider was defrosted. Time to improvise. I did have some pineapple juice in the pantry, but it turned out that it had expired long ago so it was going down the drain and not on my prize ham. Keep looking. Believe it or not, we had a mason jar of maple tree sap in the fridge, a gift from the Sisters (they know I love sweet tea--a hot beverage, ready around the midpoint between sap and syrup), so I used that. It was perfect-o-mundo!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I knew it!

Over the course of the past year, I've been replacing white sugar with honey or maple syrup whenever possible, partly because sugar's not local and partly because of that diet I've been on.

When my partner invited me to try some Stevia, I protested saying I don't want food to taste sweet, I want it to be sweet. It turns out that my body and subconscious might have known something that my conscious mind did not. According to a study at Purdue University, when the tongues tastes sweet, the body is looking for the caloric reward and may compensate by eating even more to make up for the input mismatch.

Wooo hooo! One for food. Zero for edible food-like substances.

Makes you wonder about the other deconstructed/reformulated ingredients on any given label.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Today's forage and challenge meal

What a luxurious life I lead; today I had to chose between two farmer's markets. The CitySeed Year-Round Market in New Haven is on once a month and today was it's day. And of course, the Westport Indoor Market (in Fairfield) is still going strong.

With lots more to choose from, I took home:
- herbed soft cheese and a quart of lamb Bolognese from Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm, Lyme CT
- spuds and parsnips from Riverbank Farm, Roxbury, CT
- littleneck clams from Westport Aquaculture, Westport, CT

I went a few doors down to The Pantry for my loaf of Wave Hill French Country Bread. The Wave Hill folks missed this week, but are expected to be back next week.

We went on to New Morning in Woodbury and rounded out our shopping there:
- lettuce from Two Guys From Woodbridge
- eggs from Stoneridge Farm, Bethlehem, CT
and some other items of organic but unknown origins

And the Winter Dark Days challenge meal was, of course, spaghetti and white clam sauce. The Westport Aquaculture clams were outstanding!

- The next and final CitySeed Year-Round Market date is Saturday, April 19, 2008. In May, they begin their regular weekly season.
- The Westport Indoor Market (in Fairfield) continues every Saturday through April.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Wheat Futures

I'm still trying to decide if this means it will get harder or easier for me to find local wheat.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Meatrix

There's a well done parody animation about factory farming called The Meatrix. I thought I was the last to see this, but apparently, there are lots of folks who still haven't.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cultivating An Organic Connecticut Conference

This Saturday (March 8) is the CT NOFA Cultivating An Organic Connecticut Conference. It's from 8:30 AM - 4:45 PM at Windsor High School, Windsor, CT.

They called and invited me to be on a panel, but alas, I have other plans this weekend. Nonetheless, it looks like it should be a very interesting event.

Non Local Clean Up Progress

Yikes! Where does the time go?!

My plan to finish up all the freezer and pantry non-local fare turned out to be a non-event. The only thing in the freezer that isn't local is one Big Y whole chicken. The pantry is filled with predominantly carbohydrates and I am still keeping to a moderate food plan, so I'm certainly not going to finish up these things before the season. Most will probably run out of shelf before they see the light of day.