Sunday, June 7, 2009

One Local Summer 2009

As usual for this time of year, we're eating primarily out of our garden but this week I made a point of planning one whole meal comprised entirely of foods produced within a 100-mile radius (excepting oils, salt, pepper and spices) in order to celebrate the return of One Local Summer. I still relied on our garden's produce for the vegetables and berries but sourced the pork, cornmeal, wheat, honey, and dairy products locally.

It started with a huge dishpan of Swiss chard and bok choy which DH cut along with a couple heads of garlic and a few Egyptian onions pulled on the way to the house. I sent DS out to pick the sugar snap peas and strawberries and as usual a lot went directly into the picker before the rest were delivered to the kitchen. Fortunately this is shaping up to be the best year ever for peas and strawberries -- lots of rain has made a big difference in production amounts for both so DS's been able to eat his fill at each picking without causing any problem for the cook's supper plans.

The pork came from Staunton's BackDoor Butcher, a shop located one street over from the Staunton/Augusta Farmers Market. They don't seem to have their own website but the link will take you to their listing on the Eat Well Guide site. I cubed 12 ounces of meat and set it aside to marinate in a mixture of 1/2 cup soy sauce, 3 tablespoons sherry, and 2 teaspoons honey while I prepped the vegetables. The honey came from an apiary only a mile away as the crow flies -- who knows? Maybe the bees who produced the jars I have gathered pollen around our homestead...

I came close to exceeding the 100-mile radius with the soy sauce. It's brewed in Richmond, Virginia and I buy it locally but depending on the company's exact location in Richmond (I didn't look that up), it may exceed the desired distance by a mile or so. I decided to include it in the meal anyway for several reasons. We like soy sauce and I often use it to marinate meat destined for a stir fry plus I already had it on hand and one reason I like to participate in the OLS meal planning is to expand my knowledge of what I can find locally and then continue to buy those local foods as available year-round. So for the last couple of years I've started keeping a large bottle of San-J Organic Shoyu Naturally Brewed soy sauce on the pantry shelf in addition to my stand-by gallon-sized can of Kikkomann. I like San-J's slightly lighter, and I think, vinegary taste in lots of recipes.

So, if the soy sauce most likely falls within the allowed radius for OLS, I know the sherry I used doesn't. Again, it was from a bottle I had on the shelf but it hails from California as, tho Virginia vineyards almost always can provide me with great wines for drinking or cooking, I haven't been able to locate one that makes anything close to a sherry. If anyone knows of a Virginia winery that does, please let me know.

After washing the Swiss chard I chopped the stems and the first inch or two of each leaf for the stir fry. The bok choy leaves showed some insect (probably slug) damage so I treated it similarly. The garlic and onions were cleaned and chopped and I snapped the stem ends and pulled any tough strings from the peas. The rest of the chard leaves went into a pot for eating as cooked greens.At DH's request, I also scrambled three eggs from our hens and made a thin egg pancake to shred and toss with the stir fry before serving.

Before I started the stir fry I mixed up a batch of cornbread to go with the meal. Usually I would rely on brown rice as an accompaniment but I don't know of any rice still being grown on the East Coast, much less within 100 miles. Cornbread's always welcome here in any case and I even think some days DS would eat cornbread as the MAIN dish if he could get by with it. As always I used my mom's recipe which makes a hearty, non-sweet cornbread and uses more cornmeal than wheat flour. I soured the batter's milk (sourced from Homestead Creamery, Burnt Chimney, VA by way of a local market) with a few teaspoons of apple cider vinegar I made from last year's cider. Generally I can just transfer the vinegar mother from one jar over to a new jug of cider and let it sit till it's turned to vinegar, too.

The cornbread takes about 15 minutes to bake so once it was poured into the hot skillet and went into the toaster oven, I heated the wok for the stir fry. With everything chopped and ready, it didn't take long to drain the marinade from the meat, pour a tablespoon of peanut oil into the almost-smoking wok and quickly cook the pork, removing it from the pan as it cooked. I wiped the pan out after cooking the meat as the marinade leaves a slightly sticky residue which, with the high heat, often burns before I can stir fry the rest of the ingredients. So next in another tablespoon of oil and then the peas quickly followed by the garlic, onions, bok choy and chard. I'd also covered the separate pan of still-damp chard leaves and set it on the burner to steam for a couple of minutes. I tossed the meat back in with the veg, added the egg strips and called it ready. We served ourselves straight from the wok with a separate bowl for the cooked greens topped with a splash of cider vinegar. With a side plate of cornbread, the table was loaded and it was all produced within a 100-miles. (See note below for final breakdown of local vs. non-local.)

For dessert I whipped almost a cup of top cream with a few tablespoons of honey to sweeten and served it on top of the hulled strawberries DS had picked. The cream for the berries and butter for the cornbread both came from Homestead Creamery, too. And the corn and wheat I ground for the cornbread both came from Wade's Mill in Raphine, VA. They more normally sell the local grain already ground but will accommodate a home grinder if they have the whole grain on hand.

Locally sourced ingredients (H-produced at home, LP-local producer):

Garlic (H)
Walking onions (H)
Swiss chard (H)
Bok choy (H)
Sugar snap peas (H)
Pork (LP)
Eggs (H)
Honey (H)
Cornmeal (LP)
Wheat (LP)
Butter (LP)
Milk (LP)
Strawberries (H)
Cream (LP)
Vinegar (H)

Non-local ingredients:

Peanut oil (2 tablespoons)
Sherry (3 tablespoons)
Baking soda (1 teaspoon)
Salt (1 teaspoon)

Honey-sweetened Whipping Cream

1 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons light-flavored honey
1 teaspoon vanilla, optional

Beat cream till soft peaks form. Slowly add honey and vanilla. Continue beating till stiff peaks form. Makes about 2 cups.


Aly Marks said...

Hey Walnut Spinney,

Thanks for mentioning the Eat Well Guide in your post! Your meal sounds delicious and very healthy! I intern at the Eat Well Guide, an online directory of small-scale sustainable farms, markets, restaurants and other distributors of good, clean food throughout the U.S. and Canada. Be sure to check out our site for more locations around your area where you can find sustainable food!

Carolyn said...

Thanks for the note, Aly.

We try to eat healthy and it's not hard considering fresh food tastes so great! Plus having sites like the Eat Well Guide to help find what I need is a BIG help. I refer to your site often -- keep up the good work!

FoodieTots said...

Sounds like a great start! Are you near Wade's Mill? I came across them when looking for local grain last year but they are well over 100 miles from Northern VA, unfortunately.

Carolyn said...

Yes, Wade's Mill is about 15 miles south of us. They're just down the road from Rockbridge Vineyard, too, so we often combine the trip.

Are you still looking for a local mill? I read about Byrd Mill in Ashland in an issue of Cooperative Living a few years ago but can't remember if they use all local grain or not.