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Local eating: start with your proteins

9 Jan

Beef au Jus: Entirely made from things harvested and grown within 20km

There are innumerable reasons to eat local – depending upon your appetite and tolerance for the facts.

If you’re an optimist, you might do it because you believe in supporting local farmers and businesses.   If you’re a pessimist, it might be due to the reoccurring nightmares caused by watching Food, Inc.  Or perhaps it’s just because it’s trendy. (I’m fairly confident that anyone who’s bought a pair of wellingtons in the last decade has a food foraging fantasy.  Mine’s collecting mushrooms and wild greens to make pizza over a campfire).

Whatever the reason, the impact of buying local is significant and the rewards are delicious.

aL’s top 5 reasons for buying local meat:

  • It’s good for the environment.  Eating local meat is an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint (besides doing something crazy, like becoming a vegan…)
  • It builds community.  Farmers are hard working, dedicated and generally pretty awesome people to know.
  • It’s high quality.  Small-scale producers can take the time to manage their operations organically.  This means every morning they open the paddocks to let their cattle feed on grass.
  • It’s good for your imagination.  Eating nose-to-tail forces creativity (there’s only so many porterhouse steaks cut from a cow…so you’re going to have to learn to do something with the rest of it).
  • It feels right.  I drove through Texas once and was deeply disturbed by the cattle feed lots nestled right beside the eight-lane interstate. That, coupled with a few food security fiasco’s like the 2012 XL Foods beef recall, made me consider my options.  I wholeheartedly believe that happy chickens are tastier.

I am fortunate to live in an area where dozens of dedicated farmers coax amazing food from the land.   One of my favourite farms is owned by the Ireland Family.  They raise the sirloin that sizzles on my barbecue, the pork chops in my smoker, the lamb braising in my oven and the chicken in my soup; and all just 15 km away from my kitchen.  There are several wonderful shops that sell their meat around town. However, I prefer to deal farmer-direct.  Over the last few years, it’s become a tradition I share with a few friends.  We get together to butcher and vacuum seal our chicken, make our own stocks, swap recipes, and save some cash. (On average, we save 25-40% off the market prices).

Now, many people will get hung up on the idea of only getting beef, pork and lamb once a year, but fear not!  Over the next month I’m going to dish out some tips to make this easy.  And hey, if you really need more rack of lamb, there’s always more at the store.

Resources
Top 10 food documentaries to watch on Netflix (via The Kitchn)
Article about Ireland Farms (via Red Barn Market)
XL Foods scandal; one year later (via McLeans)

 

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Why you should grow garlic [reason:ONE]

5 Apr

garlic scape botanical drawingI ran out of home grown garlic two weeks ago.  It’s been terrible. I bought some grocery store crap, and threw half of it away in frustration.  I even forked out $14.99 a kilo at The Root Cellar for some Russian hardneck.  (That’s works out to an insane $1 per clove BTW).

Then I remembered I had a secret weapon stashed away in my freezer – garlic scape pesto.

Garlic scapes are basically the flower part of the garlic bulb (kind like the tulip).  Scapes are harvested to stop sending energy into the flower production, and back into the bulb.  So they’re actually just a by-product.  Lucky for us, they also taste delicious.  Wikipedia can tell you more.

They’re very recognizable in the garden by their pig-tail curls.  In the shops, they are usually accompanied by an equally cute price.  Especially at organic markets.  If you need to buy some, then find a real farmers market (not the hipster kind, they’ll charge you double), or head to China Town where they sell them at a reasonable price.

 

garlic Scape pestoGARLIC SCAPE PESTO

Rinse and dry freshly cut scapes.
Puree along with some olive oil in whatever machine you prefer.
Use enough so that you’re left with a paste strong enough to stick to a spoon held upside-down.
Portion into small freezer containers or cubes (probably not the same container you make ice in).
Label and freeze for up to 9 months.

TO USE: Defrost in the fridge and use a teaspoonful as needed where you might otherwise use garlic or pesto.  As with a pesto, use in applications that don’t involve direct heat to avoid burning or loosing the bright green color.

 

I have a couple dozen bulbs growing in the back yard.  I’m REALLY looking forward to harvesting the scapes later this spring. I’ll share some recipes.  If your really smart, you’re already growing garlic.  If you might have overlooked this in your extremely busy life; I understand completely.  But if there is only one thing you plant in a garden, it should be garlic in the Fall.   Don’t worry, I’ll remind you again.  And in the meantime, I’ll see how many people I can convince with at least five more good reasons to grow garlic.

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Putting up more tomatoes

17 Oct

My last post provided details on canning whole/half tomatoes to replace the nasty tinned kind.  The next level of domestication is making tomato sauce. I don’t have the same disgust with commercially available sauces like Classico or Molisana.  They’re decent bases for a quick sauce.  If I was making spaghetti on a weekend, I’d likely reach for the canned whole tomatoes, but on a weeknight it’s nice to have the sauce.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

Use the best tomatoes you can find.  San Marzano’s will add a good robust texture to the sauce.

 

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