Local Eating Becomes the Center…..Again.

We are embarking once more on focusing on eating local, by which I mean anything from the state of Georgia, but the closer to Covington, the better.  We have lots of farmers in our area who grow some amazing organic and Certified Naturally Grown produce.  There are many foods to choose from, dairy, meat, vegetables and fruit that are sustainably and humanely grown.  I’ll add to and update my resources and post recipes and tell you about our progress in this adventure from which I had taken a leave of absence.  I’m ready to be there again.

 

The first Sungold tomato from our garden.  It was delicious.

The first Sungold tomato from our garden. It was delicious.

My husband brought my garden back to life about 2 1/2 years ago.  We working on making it a source of a large percentage of what we eat.  I don’t think we will ever be able to survive on it for more than a few weeks at a time, but we have farmer friends from whom we can get plenty to supplement what we grow.  I’m excited about embarking on this adventure, once more.  I think our health and our self-sufficiency will be much improved.

The first digging of the potatoes. These are from the first digging of the potatoes.  We are letting most of it go a little longer to get bigger potatoes.  We have roasted them and cooked them with the green beans and made one of my mama’s favorite dishes, parsleyed new potatoes.  All good.  The plan for this week gets finalized this evening.  I’ll be reporting how it goes.

 

Chicks in the Coop

Tag-team hens and their chicks.

Tag-team hens and their chicks.

It’s spring again and we have baby chicks.  One of the young hens from last summer started setting back in March when it was really cold.  The other hens kept laying in the same nestbox, so there soon got to be too many for one little hen to keep covered.  I didn’t think it would work but then one of the older hens started setting with her to help keep them warm; then another young one joined them.  It was very crowded in there but warm.  We have 4 babies and they have a few more eggs that have not hatched.  I don’t know if anything will come of that, but they have made a valiant effort.  Hope they all turn out to be hens.

Glad to be back.  I have more to share.  So check in with me often.

 

Dark Days Challenge

I’m doing it again.  The Dark Days Challenge.  It is a blog challenge in which bloggers prepare and eat at least one meal a week that is composed of locally grown or raised food.  Then you must do a blog post about your meal.  Check out the link above if you want to get in on this.  You have until tomorrow to officially sign up, but if you don’t want the responsibility of doing that you can still follow the recaps each week of everyones’ meals and get some great ideas and recipes for veggies and such.  I’ll be posting each week about my local meal.  Last year I tried but did not get very far.  This year I am determined to do better.  My first meal post will be tomorrow.  Wish us luck as we head into the dark days where local eating becomes just a little more challenging.

New Look

Yes, things do look different here.  For some reason, which in my technically challenged state, I do not understand, my old theme got all messed up yesterday.  It may have already been messed up, but I just discovered it yesterday.  So I found a new one which I am getting accustomed to.  I hope you like it also.

We have new chickens in our coop.  The old set had gotten to where they had really cut back on laying and Pat was having problems getting out to take care of them, especially in last winter’s cold.  The rooster hated me, so I was not much help.  We gave them away to a younger couple with more stamina and more chickens right before Christmas.  We got 8 half grown pullets a few weeks ago.  They are getting close to being ready to start laying.  We look in the nest boxes every day.  We will have multi-colored eggs from 3 Wheaten Marans, 3 Ameraucaunas, and 2 Olive Eggers.  Can’t wait!

Some of the new chickens.

Old-Fashioned Tomato Ketchup, but I made mine spicy.

It has been a great summer for tomatoes.  Last year was awful.  I only had the small cherry types.  This year they are everywhere, big heirlooms, new roma types, all colors of cherry tomatoes, hybrids that actually taste good.  I’ve canned about 12 quarts of quartered tomatoes but the thing I have really wanted to do since last summer, is to make ketchup.  I never buy regular ketchup, it just seems like the total opposite of what I am about; high fructose corn syrup, highly processed, coming from who knows where.  There are probably organic versions out there, but it just did not seem worth it.  But every now and then someone eats with us who asks for ketchup and I have none to offer.  Well, now I do.  I can also put it on my purple hull peas and dry beans like my daddy did.  It is not hard to do; it just takes a really long time and a lot of stirring.  The tomatoes, bell peppers and onions came from the local farmer’s market.  The lone jalapeno came from my garden.  After finishing my batch, I read on the internet about someone who used a crockpot with the lid off, to do the long slow cooking.  I think I will try that next time.   The recipe I used was from Well Preserved by Mary Anne Dragan.  I made a few changes, but not much.

Old-Fashioned Tomato Ketchup

For Spice Bag, gather:  2 cinnamon sticks, broken; 1 tsp whole cloves; 1 tsp whole allspice; 2 Tbsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp celery seed.  Tie all up in a cheesecloth bag.

10 lbs Roma type tomatoes

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup red or green bell pepper, chopped

1 red jalapeno pepper, chopped with seeds (this was my addition)

The cooked tomatoes in the food mill.

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar

1 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 Tbsp salt

Quarter tomatoes and put them and peppers and onions in large pot.  Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer for about 30 minutes.  Let cool some.  I actually put mine in jars in the refrigerator at this point and went to bed.  It was late.  The next afternoon, I put all the veggies through the food mill into the heavy enameled dutch oven.  You could go for the crock pot at this point.  Add the brown sugar, salt and vinegar, put the spice bag into the pot and cook.  The recipe says 1 hour, but I must have had mine at a much lower temperature than they did.  I cooked it for at least 5 hours.  I did not want to have to stand over it constantly to keep it from scorching.  When it as thick as you like it, take out the spice bag, spoon into half pint jars and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes.  I got 7 half pints.  The recipe says 6.

Spice bag in place.

The ketchup is delicious, much better than anything out of a bottle.  I may actually come to like ketchup.

The lids have popped.

Local Food is Everywhere!

Here in Covington, Georgia, the supply of local food has increased dramatically in the past couple of years.  Some new options have sprung up this Spring.  Two new farmer’s markets have opened, one on Saturday mornings in Porterdale at the old train depot and one at the Episcopal church on Clark Street on Wednesday afternoons.  They only have a few farmers, but the quality is exceptional and as more people discover them, the better they will become.  I got herb plants, beets, cabbage and eggs at Porterdale a couple of weeks ago, and this week at the Episcopal Church I got soap, red onions, pattypan squash, pesto, and the first tomatoes of the season.  They were bigger than your average cherry tomato, but not slicers.  They were delicious in a salad.  It is so wonderful to have real tomatoes again.  

The old stand-by’s are still going strong.  Our CSA with Mary Denton of Denton Flower Farm continues on this year.  Had a lovely arugula salad at lunch with her arugula, that red onion from the farmer’s market, some goat cheese from Split Creek Farm, through Conyers Locally Grown and a little Dijon mustard viniagrette.  It was scrumptions.  The little Green Livin’ store on Floyd Street is bursting at the seams.  They always have Johnston Farm milk, and lovely artisan breads.  Now that summer has hit, they have tomatoes, new potatoes, blackberries, squash and corn.  They grow locally and without pesticides so that is good. 

I was very slow starting my garden this year so I do not have any ripe tomatoes.  Tomatoes were terrible last year; I hope they will do well.  So far all the plants except one are healthy and I ripped that one right out.  I’ve got zucchini and cantaloupes, pole beans and okra also.  And of course my usual herbs.  They are right by the back door so that they are convenient.     I’m back on track and eating locally as much as possible.

Dark Days Challenge #1

Scarlet Turnip and Green Onions make a yummy salad.

Well, so far it does not seem that this is so difficult.  I have not actually made the meal but am reporting as I go.  First thing on the stove is a pot of yummy mixed greens from our Locally Grown service.  The greens include, mustard, Swiss Chard, kale, and collards.  There are Locally Grown groups all over.  The link to the one here is http://conyers.locallygrown.net/.  It works like this:  They post the list of what is available in the area on Sunday night and you have until Tuesday evening to choose what you want.  They go around and pick up the items from the producers and you go pick up your stuff from them on Friday evening.  There are many farmers and other producers that are involved in the program, so you get a lot of variety.  The people who run it here really do a good job of providing lots of good produce and other locally made items like cheese, and meat and craft items and bread and salsa and even canned goods that are made from locally grown food.  So that is what makes my winters much easier.  Also there is the fact that I live in North Georgia, near Atlanta, where it does get cold but we are pretty much able to have something growing in the garden year round. 

My CSA has stopped except for a couple of holiday deliveries.  I have some scarlet turnips from the last delivery.  I am going to use some in the salad and roast some in the oven.  It should start back up in April or May, but that will be long after this challenge is over.  I also still have some sweet potatoes from the CSA.  They will go into this meal today. 

Scarlet Turnips and Sweet Potatoes roasting in the oven.

These are my rules for the Dark Days Challenge.  I won’t rely on lots of canned goods because my summer just did not allow me to do that this year.  I consider local to be  anything grown in Georgia or grown within 150 miles of where I live.  Because I am in North Georgia that will mean that I could get items from the edge of Tennesse or South Carolina.  I have not done that, but I could.  I will use a few non-local items in these meals and they will be:  olive oil or other vegetable oil; salt and pepper; vinegar; boxed organic chicken broth when I don’t have a local chicken from which to make stock.  I will try my best to have those local chickens and their stock for these meals.  I have locally grown and milled polenta and I may use corn meal, flour, polenta and rice from Anson Mills.  You should see a link to their website on the side.  They grow organic, historically authentic grains that would have been grown in the Southeast from Colonial times up until the Civil War.  They do grow many of their items in Georgia and the Carolinas, in fact a farmer I know here in Newton County is one of their growers.  What I use from them will not be the main part of the meal, only used for thickening or such.  I’ll check on where the rice is grown; that may be within my limits set out above.  If I need some parmesan cheese in anything, I will use that.  There is no good local substitute for that.  I expect that I will not choose recipes that call for parmesan.  I will use local honey for a sweetener when that makes sense.  For all my cooking, I use the local honey or organic sugar made in Florida, so that is not as bad as sugar from Brazil.  It’s not Georgia, I know, but I don’t use a lot of it and probably will not use any for this challenge

Today, I am trying my hand at making butter from the local cream that is available.  It turned out to be very easy.  I did it in the food processor.  I ended up not having anything to put butter on, but at least I have some for toast in the morning.  I think I got all the milk out of it.  You really have to mash it a lot. 

Butter in a bowl.

So everythng was pretty simple.  I fried some locally grown and made sausage, which was very tasty.  It was not so hot as indicated on the package, but it was good.  We had a simple salad of mixed lettuce, diced scarlet turnip and green onions, with just a little olive oil and Bragg’s organic cider vinegar on top.  We had a bowl of greens and the roasted root vegetables.  I like this Dark Days Challenge.

A plate and a bowl. A satisfying meal.

Salad

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