Monday, September 3, 2007

September challenge progress report

The September Eat Local Challenge is off to a good start. There was a brief moment of weakness involving a pizza (from a local pizza place at least!) as I learned to not let my blood sugar crash, no matter how many tomatoes need blanching.

The challenge this year has an emphasis on preserving the bounty of September, and I have been working on this for the last month or so. The purchase of a chest freezer (manual defrost and energy star) and a Foodsaver vacuum sealer have been a big help. So far I have frozen a good 5 dozen ears of corn (cut off the cob, which is easier than it sounds), 5 or 6 pounds of green beans, 6 quarts of strawberries, 3 quarts of peaches, 1 quart of raspberries, 1.5 quarts of vegetable stock, 2 pints of sweet corn stock, and 5 pints of pasta sauce. Also freezer jam: peach, mixed berry, and strawberry. The most onerous task was the blanching, peeling, chopping and seeding of the 15 pounds of tomatoes. I love the resulting sauce, but the labor is extreme. It would be a great (read:easier) two-person job though.

You can easily freeze vegetables without a vacuum sealer - just use ziplock baggies, and smoosh as much of the air out as you can. There are really great directions for freezing, canning, and otherwise using fresh vegetables and fruits at The site has been a great help!

There are some good books out there for preserving food (by freezing, canning, and other methods.) These are a few I have picked up:

Preserving Summer's Bounty: A Quick and Easy Guide to Freezing, Canning, and Preserving, and Drying What You Grow (by Rodale Food Center)

Putting Food By (by Janet Greene)

Stocking Up (by Carol Hupping)

Meals have been good, and I am learning new things. I have learned what not to do when making yogurt: over-incubating makes it separate, and not mixing it well enough makes it grainy (at least, according to some on-line troubleshooting guides.) My milk is non-homogenized from Hartzler Family Dairy. They don't make cream, which has foiled a number of meal plans. I may try skimming the milk to get the milk fat (being non-homogenized, the fat floats to the top.) It might work, and whole milk tastes like cream to me anyway (I have acclimated to skim.)

My kitchen currently sports the following, all local:

dairy/eggs: milk (skim and 2%), butter, gouda, eggs
fruits: plums, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, nectarines, muskmelon, casaba, honeycrisp apples, grapes
vegetables: zucchini, pole beans, swiss chard, celery, carrots (from the farmer's market, but of possible dubious local origin), Italian eggplant, heirloom tomatoes
legumes: edamame, pinto beans
root vegetables: blue, red, and new potatoes, sweet potatoes
other: garlic, white onions, sweet onions
meat: Italian sausage, grass-fed beef, chicken scraps
herbs: my garden is sporting thyme, oregano, flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, basil, chives
other: maple syrup, honey, soft wheat flour, cornmeal

I also have some local bread (imported wheat - hard wheat doesn't grow well around here) and pasta; locally-made ice cream, and locally grown red popcorn. I also have locally made maple granola (all ingredients are not local, but I can't face life without oatmeal.)

My biggest non-local ingredients have been: tea, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. I have a jar of jam from that I will continue to eat; it cost a lot, might spoil, and falls into the "terroir" category as defined by the Locavores. (Terroir was originally a wine/coffee term, referring to the special properties that the earth in a certain place bestowed on the items grown there.)

So that's my latest. I'll update more about what we are actually eating; below I will list a few of our recent meals:

Brunch: pancakes (locally grown and milled flour and produced mix) with peaches, raspberries, and maple syrup. Plus bacon. All local, though some of the pancake mix ingredients are probably not local.)

Brunch: bacon, eggs, home fries. 100% local (except for salt and pepper)

Dinner: chicken breast with herbs, heirloom potatoes with garlic and chives, brussel sprouts. Non-local ingredients were olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Breakfast: homemade yogurt (local milk, non-local starter), locally-made granola (see above), local honey, local berries

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