Back in December, I made a birthday cake with almost all its main ingredients made out of local stuff. I'm lucky to be in a place that had apples in early & mid-December this year. I'm also lucky to be in dairy country, where I had buttermilk & cream cheese available for decent prices (local, unbranded cream cheese from the co-op: 2x the price of Philly on sale; half the price of the local branded cream cheese).
Essentially, you take a carrot cake recipe, replace the crushed pineapples with baked & mushed-up apples (I added a wee bit of honey while baking, hoping it would make them cook faster & mush more easily), replace granulated sugar with honey, and, if you're making it as late in the year as I did, once carrots have gone out of season and you don't have a root cellar, replace shredded carrots with shredded parsnips.
Parsnips don't shred as easily as carrots, but they do shred with work.
I combined the principles above, this recipe (which gives you the solids & liquids based on working with honey instead of sugar, and this one.
I did cheat on the icing. I tried flavoring it with honey instead of sugar, but it tasted so weird. I wanted people to eat the cake--how else would I convince them that local food was great? Having spent the better part of 2 days on parts of this cake, I was too exasperated to meditate upon a great solution, so I threw tons of sugar & vanilla extract into the icing. :-\
A few weeks later, I made a stew that's to die for. I'm heartbroken because there's only 1 serving left. I keep wanting to try it on injeera (sour sponge bread), because it reminds me of Ethiopian glops, but I keep forgetting to pick up a sheet or two. So there it sits in my freezer, and I try to discipline myself not to eat it until I am in the Ethiopian neighborhood again and can get some injeera.
This stew is the perfection of my practice based on the observation that many foreign foods I love start as onion reductions.
It took 2 days and all my patience, but I did it! (I think my boyfriend did the dishes, though.)
Day 1: chopped a gazillion onions (can't remember if I found local ones left or not) and left them in a crock pot overnight.
Day 2: added tomato sauce, tomato paste, "Maggi" brand chicken broth seasoning (which I might not buy anymore, but I bought about a 10-year supply in 2005 after a Mandingan (sp?) friend told me it's what he uses), and, I think, some salt. Later added a bit of water? Not sure. Then ground goat--the last of my supplies from a co-op that had just branched out into carrying locally raised goat and then shut down. Peeled & chopped some local potatoes pretty small. Found that my local carrots from the first week of November had stayed all right in "green bags" in the fridge (not surprised--the farmer told me his carrots would last a long time). It was early in the day yet, so I had the energy to dice them. I definitely like that. Also diced the parsnip cores I couldn't manage to shred for that birthday cake. I'd saved them in a Tupperware, thanks to Pam Anderson's advice not to throw leftover fish & chicken away, in case you want it shredded on a salad.
Boy, oh boy, what else went in there...
Well...cloves galore. (Which is funny, because I thought I hated cloves. Turns out they're fine in slow-cooker stew with lots of far eastern spices. It took forever to crush them with the back of a spoon instead of a mortal & pestle (I didn't have one!). Crushed cumin seeds & crushed cilantro seeds (also w/ the back of a spoon), curry powder, pepper...I don't remember what else. Things that weren't spicy and were listed on the back of my roommate's "Indian" spice mixes. Plus perhaps a few random Euro stew things. Oregano? Maybe a pinch of herbes de provence, but not enough to make the dish taste like them? Cinnamon, I'm sure. Parsley, maybe? (It's in Lebanese sausage, I found out the other day.) Oh, a bit of allspice, but I tried not to overdo that. I don't know...stuff. And same with what went into it...did I have more veggies around? Can't remember.
It cooked forever because that water at the beginning was a mistake--it ended up with plenty--and now I needed to reduce it to "glop." I also wanted to make sure I didn't eat raw ground goat meat.
Oh, I remember! I used a potato masher to crush a huge can of chick peas and threw that in as thickener, too! I would've loved to have lentils in it, but I don't think I ever found any. I also put in lots of pressed garlic--probably the very last locally grown garlic available in town (I hope what I have left lasts, since I don't have a root cellar!)
At the very end, I put in collards I'd treated myself to (yeah, they were out of season here and had been for at least a month).
Since the ingredients were only sort of local, I tried to eat it over large portions of wild-harvested, MN wild rice (I mixed a little white rice in).
I thought maybe my boyfriend was sick of stew on rice, and I wanted to save some stew for injeera, anyway. I rummaged through the freezer and found out I'd bought frozen walleye! Score! I botched cooking it (thought I could saute it w/o breading it), but I did get the remains of the butter & skin off the frying pan with farmer's market apple cider and local butter. Plus, the "pan sauce" that that resulted in even tasted good--though it didn't go with fish at all. As a side dish, I lucked out--frozen vegetables are available locally grown & packed around here.
This one was a good budget item: I got a bag of apples, only half of which I've had the patience to peel so far, for $5.
There were probably 30+ apples, averaging medium size, in that bag.
Step 1: peel apples & pick out bad parts after neglecting them for weeks after buying in December. Step 2: chop 'em. Step 3: Leave 'em in a crock pot. Step 4: Mash 'em with a potato masher. Step 5: Leave 'em in a crock pot. Step 6: Refrigerate (can last about 3 weeks, the farmer told me). Step 7: Freeze (can last till next apple season, though don't be surprised when it thaws runny--freezing broke most of the water-retaining cell walls).
I wonder what the nutritional value of applesauce is compared to apples. It didn't take up that much space--the apples reduced to at least half their size. Plus, one apple's worth of applesauce just doesn't seem as filling as an apple. Some of what's filling is water that's in an apple but evaporated out of applesauce. But...is the air between "apple" molecules filling, too? How much applesauce should I be eating to have "an apple a day," and how much is letting the non-fillingness fool me into gluttony?
Mashed celeriac/potato/sunchokes (w/ salt/pepper/milk & some pressed garlic I've been hoarding) & lasagna.
Holy crap. An image linked in this blog is #2 on a "Google Images" search for "mashed celeriac." What the...?
Note: potatoes are ready to mash in 5-10 minutes. Celeriac & sunchokes, more like 20-30 or more. Do NOT "test" the potatoes for doneness by squeezing them with the tongs to see if they break apart. They will. And you'll still need your hot water for your other root veggies, meaning you can't strain for the potato crumbs you just made.
(How do I know this? *whistles innocently*)
I'm glad I finally made myself get ground beef. I kept ending up using deer, lamb, elk, pork...where I should've been using burger meat. What a way to run through money! (Yet probably less expensive than making a special run for beef or eating out because I couldn't make anything.)
Anyway, with ground beef bought while I was already out shopping and nicely tucked in the freezer, I was able to make lasagna! (On the beef trip, I bought a block of mozzarella for an eventual lasagna pan.)
Had trouble finding cheap ricotta that was mere ingredients I could pronounce, then finally remembered I'd found the local, real, & cheap cheese I'd found was at a mainstream grocery store. Didn't feel like running to one and bought the overpriced organic, local, real-ingredients ricotta.
I think I'm supposed to mix the shredded mozzarella into the ricotta or something, but I forgot & just put it on top. Along w/ shredded parmesan that's been in our fridge forever yet only had one small spot of mold to cut off (weird).
Just realizing I forgot to put any vegetables in it (I have frozen spinach, I think, but didn't use it). No wonder it tastes so rich.
I was exhausted by the time the meat should've gone in and didn't want another dish, so I threw it in raw. Don't know if it cooked fully while in the oven. I'll just microwave every piece I eat.
Still haven't done the dishes.
Last week, I found burdock (finally in tiny enough slices to make it worth tasting something I might not like!), celeriac, jerusalem artichokes, watermelon radishes, and spanish radishes still available locally grown. I was surprised about everything but the burdock. I thought those other 4 were "December-only" foods.
And perhaps they might be, some years--by this week, at a different store, the radishes seemed to be from California.
Too bad I let my burdock, watermelon radishes, and spanish radishes go soft. (They shriveled in 4 or 5 days in the fridge, then even more once I took them out of the fridge. Way to go, Katie.) I took a bite out of the center of the watermelon radish, and thought, "Yup, tastes like a radish." The main value in those things, I think, is having them firm all the way to the edge so you can actually slice them up & show them off. Still haven't tasted a black Spanish radish, since I let one shrivel last year, too, then wouldn't buy a California one to replace it. The sunchokes I'd left out, but they were shriveled by the time I got around to using them (6 or 7 days).
Not much left--just sunchokes (probably only a week or two longer), burdock, some root veggies I'm really not looking forward to eating (maybe I can stand them in goat stew)...
Even the potatoes that were around at the end of December (after the onions stopped being local) are gone. (Note: fancy potatoes finish here around the end of November--that's when my roommate could get red, but no longer blue, potatoes.)
(Awful, icky confession in the "read more.")
I need to get serious about washing my old Tupperware. Over the past few years, I've accumulated many while thrift storing, and I'm sure I have plenty of freezer-burn-resistant Tupperware. But, you see, I'm...I'm one of those people who doesn't wash Tupperware the night it came home from work and, as the stuff gets more and more caked on, hides it...and becomes less and less likely to unearth it once I know it's got mold, too.
I salvaged my moldy Tupperware in the summer of 2006, when I could do it outside with a hose and let all the mold sit on the grass, but I didn't bother in 2007. Actually, I didn't find the bag of collected dirty Tupperware my boyfriend put together in the dead of winter of 2007 until the end of September, 2007, and then I made lots of excuses to ignore it.
Anyway, NO BUYING. I just have to have the self-discipline to get that bag to my boyfriend's house, remember to take it out of the trunk of my car, and run everything that's only lightly crusted through his dishwasher so I can handle a round of hand-scrubbing. (I think if I do that, I can get through my freezer-safe crunch until summer, when I'll do the ones that are half-full of mold.)
It's strange to think that the "easy" solution for someone with my cleaning problems in my culture is to throw the things away and start over. That costs are so externalized that prices are actually low enough to do that.
Anyway, I refuse. I refuse to take advantage of that cost externalization.