Sunday, August 24, 2008

Homegrown meals or One Local Summer challenge weeks 9-12

For the past month or so I've been whinging offline about having to post locally sourced meals for the One Local Summer challenge. Now, this is especially bad because I chose to sign up for this challenge but have not been keeping up with the posts.

The one thing in my favor is we have not deviated from the local foods idea behind the challenge. Even tho drought in our part of Virginia is playing havoc with our garden and those who supply most of the local farmers' markets, we've managed to keep some things growing and producing. Because we're diligently preserving any excess produce we're in good shape to continue eating locally through much of the coming winter.

So the one local meal (out of many eaten this week) that I want to describe was a harvest party of sorts that we enjoyed at my sister's house yesterday. We were over at her neighbor's to pick grapes and since her neighbor happens to be our mother, it quickly turned into a big family gathering, even including DBil's parents. That happens a lot in our family. Two will gather and the next thing you know there are so many family members around we're spilling out the door. Could be good, could be bad, I guess. In our family it's usually good.

Mom's two grapevines were filled with particularly sweet grapes this year thanks to the very dry weather we're experiencing. And, since Japanese beetles didn't besiege the grapes this year, it was a bumper crop. We picked grapes, washed, stemmed grapes, put them in jars and processed several batches of jars in a boiling water bath to make 54 quarts of grape juice concentrate.

The next thing you know, it's getting late and everyone's hungry. Do we call for pizza delivery? Are you kidding? First of all, they live in the country -- I'm not sure that's even an option. And secondly, DSis and DBil's garden was just sitting there waiting to be plundered.

From their home garden we prepared corn on the cob with fresh butter, Italian flat beans cooked with a small piece of home-cured ham, sweet and juicy muskmelon and sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. Alongside she served Harvey House slaw made earlier in the week with some of the cabbage we harvested earlier this summer and stored in their cellar.

DH cooked a few brats over the fire in the outdoor fire ring while every thing else was being prepared in the kitchen. The brats are made by a local seller at our farmers' market. DH can't go there without getting one hot off the grill and sometimes picks up a few for the freezer, too. DSis didn't have any rolls for the brats (this was a spur of the moment dinner party, remember) but we just spread a little Nectarine Mustard on them or, in DS's case, topped them off with homemade fresh salsa.

There's only one more week left on the One Local Summer challenge and the idea of spending time over the next few days searching out some esoteric ingredient perhaps only available in this county or finding a local source for oats, a food we use a lot of both as a dish on its own and as an important ingredient in many favorite recipes, is very appealing. But I know it's not going to happen.

Tomorrow I'll spend several hours processing homegrown tomatoes into beautiful jars of whole tomatoes or salsa or just plain dried tomatoes. Tuesday's probably going to be focused on making more jerky -- DH and DS have found a recipe they both love. The fall crops of beans and more tomatoes need to be weeded and watered. Wednesday I'm going to check on a friend's pear tree and pick if they're ready. Thursday's subject will be either pears or more grapes. Jelly's on the to-do list. And so it goes.

My envy of those posters who weekly get to track down sources for local foods is part of the "grass is greener" thing. I get to harvest most all of what we eat but I do it at the expense of time to be out in the world amongst other consumers. Everyone has a niche, I just get the urge to move outside mine after several months of continuing garden care, harvesting and processing. But I'm not giving up my garden.

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