Posts Tagged ‘Local Food’

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.

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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

Pickled Scallions, Blah!

Me, pulling green onions from my garden.

Wow!  Finally the food of the month is something I have in my own garden.  I don’t have to go to the store or anything.  After foreign oranges and carrots, I can do something local.  See, that’s me right there, pulling them up myself.  I was so happy to be able to do this one right.  I pulled up all the remaining green onions I had in a bed, that had once grown irises, yarrow and coreopsis, among many other things.  My current desire for more local food has forced me to convert several flower beds to vegetables.  Over the winter, I also had carrots and beets out in that same bed, but, unfortunately, I had eaten all the carrots before the carrot challenge was announced.

In a very busy weekend I worked half a day on Saturday, worked in the garden in the afternoon, supervising my young helper, Holmes, while he was turning compost and spreading it on my asparagus bed; then, on Sunday, a friend came out to hang out and make two batches of mozzarella.  We went out to the dairy that is about 20 minutes from my home , got the milk and made the cheese.  After she left, taking a jar of the Rosemary Pickled Carrots with her, I also made a batch with Patrick, my DH, who wants to move right ahead to gouda and cheddar.   We made ricotta from all the whey left from all that cheesemaking.  Then I pulled those onions and washed them about 10 times.  I kept remembering that botulism spores reside in the soil.  I don’t want botulism, so I kept washing.

Prepared for the soak.

The only canning recipe I could find for scallions or green onions was Pickled Scallions on several websites.  So I went with that.    After they were washed, I cut them to fit the 1/2 pint jars and stacked them in layers in a bowl with salt, covered them with water and allowed them to sit overnight.

That leaves me where?   Monday morning to make pickles before, I say before, I go to work.  I was up at 5:00 and moving slowly.  My first problem, was realizing that the tiny little half-pint jars would not sit in the rack in my water bath canner.  Now what do I do?  So I got out my Revere Ware stock pot.  I only had enough for 4 jars, so they would fit in that, but how to keep them from jostling into each other.  Somewhere I had read that someone put a dish towel in the bottom of the pot and that kept them steady.  It sounded half-baked, but I was desperate at that moment.  I had to get this done and go to work.     So I put the water on to boil.

I then prepared the spice bag to boil in the vinegar.  The recipe called for pure vinegar, no water to dilute it.  That made me feel better about the botulism.  It had only 2 Tablespoons of sugar in 3 cups of vinegar.  It called for white, I had cider and besides, what I had was organic.  Who knows what is in that white vinegar.  The recipe called for whole allspice, which I did not have, mustard seed and whole peppercorns, which I did.  I punted and used whole cloves instead of the allspice.  I hung the bag on the pot handle and draped it into the caramel colored vinegar and turned on the heat.  Then I packed the jars with the onions, a garlic clove and a bay leaf; then placed them just so on the counter.

So far, all was well.  Or, at least so I thought.  I poured the vinegar in and put on the lids.  Now, how do I get these jars in a pot of almost boiling water with a dish towel floating around in it.  It was supposed to lie on the bottom and behave, but that is not what it was doing.  It was flapping about crazily and there was no way it was going to protect my jars from jouncing around in the hot water.   The other thing I noticed was that there were suds in the pot.  My dish towel apparently had not been rinsed thoroughly in the washing machine.  I don’t want sudsy tasting pickled scallions.  It is now about 6:30.   I have to be at work at 8:30.  I dumped out the pot rinsed it several times and refilled it with clean clear water and waited for it to heat up.

Busted jars.

It took longer than you would think for that to happen.  I just sat and watched the pot come near a boil.  I never thought about how much the jars had cooled down by this time.  I also had nothing in the bottom of the pot to cushion the fall of the first jar that slipped from my jar tongs and banged into the bottom of the pot turned over and popped.  The entire bottom sheared off.  I fished it out.  Somehow the onions all stayed in.  The next jar went as peacefully as you please.  The third jar was going good, but then I heard that pop again.  The bottom had broken off that one, too.  All the vinegar rushed out while I held the jar with the scallions remaining suspended in the jar tongs.  I sat it down beside the other broken jar and crossed my fingers.  The last one was no problem.  They sat on opposite sides of the pot and I put the lid on and set the timer.  15 minutes I had to wait.

Finished!

They rattled away in the pot, but no pops or crashes.  At fifteen minutes, I took off the lid, lifted the two jars out  and set them on the towel to cool and seal.  It occurred to me then that I did not know what one did with pickled scallions.  Do you just eat them out of the jar like the pickled carrots?  Do you put them in cocktails?  Do you just admire them on the shelf?  The thing that  I was really wondering about, was what I was going to do with the mountain of green onion tops that I had left over.  I wrapped them up and put them in the refrigerator to use in salads and such, but would we really be able to eat them all before they wilted?  This seems like one of the more wasteful kinds of pickles that you could make.  I still had to get ready to go to work, but I was really hungry by this point, and what is better in scrambled home grown eggs than green onions?  I chopped up some of the tops and made me a lovely plate of scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast.

 

The Recipe – Pickled Scallions

To make 4 half-pint jars

48 green onions

3 cups apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup salt

2T sugar

2 T whole cloves

1 T whole mustard seeds

1 T whole peppercorns

4 bay leaves

4 cloves garlic

Wash and trim scallions to fit in jars.  Remove the tough outer layer of skin.  Wash again. Place the scallions in layers in a bowl, sprinkling each layer lightly with some of the salt.  Cover the cold water and let stand 12 hours or overnight, making sure scallions stay submerged in water.  Drain the scallions, rinse then in fresh water and drain again.  Combine the sugar and vinegar.  Add the spices together and tie up in a cheesecloth bag.  Bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes.  Discard the spice bag.  Pack the scallions, standing upright into sterilized jars.  Add one bay leaf and one clove of garlic to each jar. Fill the jars to within 1/2 inch of the top with the boiling liquid and place the covers on loosely.  Place the jars in hot water bath and process for 15 minutes.  Remove and let them cool and seal.Buy a mini canning rack from Amazon that fits in a Revere Ware stock pot.  These pictures won’t line up like I want them to, but here they are anyway.  That’s my blood orange marmalade on the toast.  A lovely breakfast and off to work.