Friday, August 22, 2008

Who the Hell Cans

Me, I inspire local eating. OK, between some casework this afternoon I helped my wife a bit. I peeled about 20 tomatoes and de-seeded maybe five. Me, I applaud the effort my wife makes towards our eat local eating. I did just come down and wash a few bowls. I did the really fun job: shove things down the garbage disposal.

Who the hell cans.

There are very good reasons for canning food. Firstly, probably foremost, it allows you to eat local for many months after the market closes. Canning allows you to find fine product, and grab it for when the time is needed. It can save a lot of money. We got an ungodly amount of Michigan tomatoes, a full bushel, for under $17. We will have at least 15 quarts of canned tomatoes. Lastly, canning spares precious freezer space.

Who the hell cans.

Maybe, someone's day would not start quite like my wife's, consulting 43 or so cook books. She was most vexed by the choice of acid. Most recipe's, including Ball, which we would trust the most, call for lemon juice. She found vinegar based recipes.

Who the hell cans.

The cleaning of jars. The sanitizing. Score tomatoes. The boil. The shock. How much ice do you have. Peel. Seed. Pack. Process. Some say 45. Some say 50.

Who the hell cans.

We have barely made a dent in our bushel of tomatoes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Eat Local Jobs

Well, maybe not eat local postions near Chicago, but eat local jobs nonetheless.

From St. John's e-mail:

Now that St. John has reopened following a summer break for refurbishment works, we have a number of vacancies on our restaurant floor and behind our bar. If you one of our website members in the hospitality trade the do visit the news page where full details of current situations vacant can be found.[sic]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It Must Still Be Paradise

Martha Bayne wonders.

A Bushel Here, Bushel There


The family and I remain very busy locavores. I blog and take the glory. My wife does the hard work. I'll be keeping track of our acquisitions over at the Local Beet. My last report was here. I expect to file a new report today at the Beet. The Beet also has its latest feature up, on some truly local food, by Michael Gebert. Gerbert's been on the weed trail as he prepares his next Sky Full of Bacon video. It won't make for as interesting TV, but Cassie Green of Green Grocer and myself are being interviewed for a cable show in Highland Park, IL today.

Driving through Michigan recently, we picked up a 1/2 peck of Red Haven peaches. She, with (the sometimes) able help of younger daughter, peeled all of these, a process involving much pots of water hot and cold. Some went into a recently baked pie. The rest have gone into the freezer for later pies and cobblers.

Chicago to Urbana on a Saturday morning, Interstate, took less than 3 hours. Urbana to Chicago via US 150 and Illinois 1, took most of the next day. 13 ears of sweet corn in Hooperstown; a bushel of crowder peas--actually we do not know exactly what type of beans these are within the family of Southern style fresh beans--from a man selling in his front lawn near Momence helped slow us down.

All four of us did some shelling, but as typical She did more. Most of the beans went into the freezer. We ate some last night. We also ate some of the corn last night; we will probably freeze the rest today.

We could not resist a brimming bushel of Michigan tomatoes for sale at Caputo's in Elmwood Park. I could say "we" expect to can them today or tomorrow but that would be a disservice to the Woman who will do all the work.

Another way to make your summer veg last is to cook them all down into a jammy, spreadish sweet n' sour, condiment, appetizer like thing called caponata. The version She made included eggplants, summer squash, onions, tomatoes, capers and chopped prunes. She did not seal the product, but it should last a good long time in the fridge.

You can track our put-aways here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Drink Local Beer

Not everything on this blog is related to local beer, but enough is.

No Place Better to Eat - Farm Dinner - Prairie Fruits Farm

KennyZ, an LTHer really has my number. Not that long ago my wife and I went to a food based event presented by the Shriver Center that we learned of from Kenny. Kenny and I are also charter members of the Mado fan club. I had my first Mado meal with him. When Kenny told me about a farm dinner at Prairie Fruits Farm, I think he knew I'd jump at the idea. We had a near ideal dinner on the prairie the other night. (The night also very much possible by the gracious sitting of my parents.)

Prairie Fruits Farms is the off-spring of Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband. As they say on their site, they moved from urban and academic life, to life on the farm. They raise goats, producing farmstead goat cheeses, and they grow fruits including peaches and berries. They are especially committed to local foods. Beyond selling their fresh fruits, they are looking for ways to offer their produce year round through canned goods, freezing and perhaps drying. They also realized that nothing showcases local foos more than eating local food, and there is no place better for eating local food than feet from where it grew (at least some of the meal). Hence the farm dinners. I should also add that at this was a bargain at $65/BYOB.

The night began with very refreshing mason jars of tea made with the farm's peaches and black currents. The day started out cool, but near dinner time, it felt more like Illinois August. The tea fixed a parched throat. With the tea went assorted nibbles. They grilled cheese sandwiches of their Little Bloom on the Prairie goat milk cheese, then accented it with peach chutney and farm harvested honey. They fried squash flowers plus tiny squash, the blossoms stuffed with the freshest of chevre.

Our last pre-bites: corn cakes with andouille sausage from Stan Schute's Triple S Farms with a roasted green chili relish. This could have been a great dinner here.

Momentarily satiated, Wes took us on a small farm tour.

We all gathered around Wes's tractor pulpit including the hens that followed us and the goats that wandered in from their pasture, to hear about farm life and cheese production. That was interesting, but the highlight was Wes teaching us how to pick a fresh peach, about as good a taste as we had all night.

That's not to diminish at all the work of Alisa DeMarco, the farm chef.

I'm more of a fan of chunky gazpacho, but I cannot complain in the least of this pureed version, its strong tomato essence highlighted with a good kick of garlic and touch of hot pepper. Dinner came in large platters. For all the talk of slow food conviviality at the dinner, we went after the food with much gusto. Thus, I never got around to capturing the servings. Instead, see what my first helping looked light--I had much more of everything. We all loved the Country Cottage Farm lamb, but really loved the veg including eggplant agrodulce and roasted heirloom potatoes.

After dinner Kenny hit on the one flaw in the night (I have one other quibble, but I'll get to that in a moment). Our tables were oriented so that half the crowd, the unlucky half, faced the still blazin' prairie sun for most of the dinner. It was hot. It would have made more sense to face the tables the other direction. On the other hand, it meant we got to take in the blazin' prairie sun-set without craning our necks.

Of course there was cheese and then dessert.

We had three house cheeses in a range of ages, with little doo-dads of flavors along side such as currents in gin syrup and honey comb. The finish included their peaches and gelato made from their goat milk. My one quibble of the night, the only food touch that did not work for me; I did not much go for the bits of fresh herbs on the peach pie. Of course, I just picked them aside and ate away.

You all should be inspired by KennyZ's idea.

The Crack is Back

I needed to put my older daughter on a train this AM very early. It meant I also got to get my Marion Street Cheese fix very early. So early, however, that the ode-worthy (you know who you are, Mr. Poet) danish were still in the oven. I settled for a cup of coffee and a very needed fix for the wife.

Hoo-hoo, see the coolers are all back in service at Marion. With that, Marion is now carrying my wife's favorite local dairy product (and she has a lot from Hidden Springs Creamery "Driftless" spreads to chevres from Prairie Fruit Farms to all our Wisconsin cheeses). I'm talking her near addiction, Trader's Point Creamery Orchard Trio yogurt. I'd ask her for a few words but she's sleeping off a very late night, a deadly combination of shelling beans and searching for a cell phone.