Tag Archives: local food

Real Food: Animals

After my last two posts, which were more philosophical than I usually tend to be (I’m more of a realist), I wanted to share the food choices we make.  This is what works for us, after a few years of working on making our food more sustainable and seasonal.  I’m going into a lot of detail, so I’m going to split it into different categories over a few different posts.

I’m starting with meat because I believe we can be ethical omnivores.  I believe we can be animal lovers and still eat animals and animal products.

I’ve found a standing freezer to be our most valuable purchase when it comes to eating meat sustainably.  Because we get meat seasonally, we get a whole lot at once and keep it frozen all year.  It’s a great feeling to know that I have a ton of meat in the basement and don’t need to run out to the grocery store.

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My husband’s family started raising pigs again a few years ago.  Ed’s dad grew up butchering animals for local farms with his family, so he knows how to slaughter and process the meat.  One pig provides all the pork, bacon, sausage and ham we’ll eat for a year.

My husband’s family also raises turkeys.  We don’t eat a ton of turkey, so the couple that we have in the freezer will last the whole year for us.  We cut it into parts before we freeze it, so I’ve got turkey breast, thighs and drumsticks, as well as parts for soup, in the freezer.

Finally, Ed’s family started raising chickens for the first time this year.  We had our first chicken the other night, and it was great.  One roasted chicken gave us two suppers and lunches for two days as well.  We’ve got three more chickens in the freezer, so I’ll still have to get some antibiotic and hormone free chickens from the store.

We also get beef from Ed’s uncle in Maine.  The beef is grass-fed, and a quarter of a cow lasts the whole year for us.  It’s been interesting, because I’ve learned to cook all different cuts of beef, including roasts, london broil, and making stew.  But, there’s also a ton of ground beef, so I wouldn’t recommend buying a whole or partial cow unless you make a lot with ground beef.

We’re also lucky to live very close to the ocean.  Ed and his family love to go out on the water, and his brother owns a shellfishing business.  So, our seafood is always caught by Ed and his brother.  We enjoy blackfish, porgies and the occasional bluefish or striped bass (it’s suggested to eat no more than one serving every six months from Long Island Sound, and I skip them because I’m “of reproductive age”).  We also get clams and oysters, but I’m not really a fan of either.  Ed’s parents have a cottage on a little island in Maine, and we’re friends with some local lobster fishermen.  So, whenever any of his family goes to Maine, they come home with fresh lobster, scallops and crab meat.  Finally, we eat the occasional wild-caught Alaskan salmon or a can of tuna.  We can’t eat locally all the time!

What choices do you make about meat?

Next Post in my “Real Food” series: Animal Products

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Local Strawberries for Valentine’s Day

We don’t make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day.  Years ago, when Ed and I were first dating, we’d go out to a fancy restaurant.  But now, we’re just as happy to enjoy a quiet night at home.  I try to make a special meal for the two of us, and I always like to include a strawberry dessert.

Big red hearts on Valentine’s Day make me think of strawberries.  Unfortunately, strawberry season isn’t until June around here, and those berries shipped into the grocery store can be pricey, especially with this year’s weather.  Not to mention, they’re gassed to ripen and never seem to have the same flavor or aroma as truly local, fresh, ripe berries.

If you’re a strawberry fan like me, you probably preserved a bunch of berries when they were in season, making jam or jelly, freezing or dehydrating.  So, this year for Valentine’s Day, I’m going to make a strawberry dessert using the bounty of my freezer, and I wanted to share a few recipes that will work nicely with preserved or frozen berries.

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Strawberry Cutie Pies are the perfect size for a romantic dinner with your Valentine.  I think I’d put little hearts on the top this time instead of stars.  Frozen whole berries, thawed and crushed, make a great substitute for fresh.

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If you’re spending Valentine’s Day with the whole family, make a full size Strawberry Pie, or Strawberry Rhubarb if you’ve got rhubarb in your freezer, too.

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Strawberry Shortcake is a perfect way to use frozen sugared strawberries.

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And for those of you who simply must have chocolate on Valentine’s Day, try Chocolate Cheesecake with Strawberry Topping.  I made this last year for Valentine’s Day and I was so happy to have leftovers for days.

I haven’t decided which one of these recipes I’ll make for Valentine’s Day this year, but I’m currently leaning towards the cutie pies.  Any one of these desserts, when served after a meal cooked with love at home, makes for a wonderful Valentine’s Day.  Use some beeswax candles for ambiance, and I’m certain you won’t even think about how eco-friendly it is.  You’ll just enjoy the time with your sweetie.

This post is my contribution to this month’s APLS Blog Carnival, which is themed “Greening Valentine’s Day.”  To read all about how to have a more eco-friendly Valentine’s Day, visit Retro Housewife Goes Green on January 19.

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Turkeys

I didn’t get to help out with the turkeys today, since I went to school and later to help out at the farm market with Thanksgiving pies.  Thanks to Ed’s mom Marie for these pictures!

 

The turkeys

After the turkeys are killed, using a cone, and bleed out, they’re dunked in boiling water to scald them and make the feathers come out easier.

The turkey then goes into a plucker, which removes most of the feathers.

Some feathers remain, and need to be taken out by hand.  The turkeys are also gutted.

It was chilly enough today to do this outside, which helps to cool the meat.

The finished product goes into the cooler.  Some will be cut apart and/or vacuum sealed and frozen.

Tucker had a hard day!

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Local Food in Winter

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Now that it’s November and the weather is cool, the garden is put to bed, and people are already thinking about Christmas, I’m thinking about eating locally throughout the winter.

I wasn’t as successful with preserving the harvest over the summer as I had wanted.  I’ve got tons of excuses: tomato blight so I didn’t get enough tomatoes to can; taking a 3-week long intensive summer class; the first trimester making me tired and too hot to work in the garden or over a canner…  My excuses go on.  Although I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, we’re still in pretty good position to eat locally.

In the next few week, Ed’s family will be slaughtering the turkeys and pigs.  Ed’s uncle will do the same with his cows and we’ll get our 1/4 in December.  So, we’ll have local, humanely and organically raised turkey and pork, as well as grass-fed beef in our freezer.  I can’t explain how wonderful it is to bypass the meat case in the grocery store, except for the occasional piece of salmon or chicken.  Local milk and eggs are available year round, so that’s easy.

The pantry is pretty well stocked with jellies (strawberry’s almost gone already, but peach and apple-cider jelly are plentiful), applesauce, cranapplesauce, chutneys, and maple syrup.  There are storage onions in a basket.  There are also sugared and plain strawberries in the freezer, along with wild Maine blueberries, green beans, snap peas, carrots, tomato sauce, butternut squash, and chicken stock.

So what are we missing? Well, I didn’t freeze any corn this summer, which I regret.  I wish we had canned tomatoes, but the blight took care of that.  Canned peaches would be wonderful.  Some storage potatoes and more onions would be nice.  I’d love to have made saurkraut, but I don’t know how yet.  (However, one of my uncles has offered to teach me.  Unfortunately, we already had plans for when he’s making it this year.)  More carrots and a winter garden would be good, but I missed the window for planting and it’s too late now.  I had wanted to get cold frames up and running, but that never happened either.

I think instead of looking at the failures, we need to realize how lucky we are to be prepared.  While our stores aren’t perfect, they’re good enough.  At least we’ll be inspired to do more next year during the growing season.  As the years go by and our berry patch and apples start to produce, as we add peach, plum, pear and cherry trees, get chickens and build a barn and greenhouse (that one will probably be 20 years!), our independence will grow.  Besides, if we were perfectly independent now, what would I daydream about?

How do you eat locally out of season?

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Fresh Fried Fish

I’m fortunate to be married to a man who loves to fish, so we have a lot of fresh fish to eat.  Ed’s favorite way to eat fish is fried, and while that may not be the healthiest recipe, nothing compares to fresh fried fish.  It’s easy to make, but can be intimidating for people who have never made it (I know, I was one of them until Ed’s mom showed me how).

You will need:

  • fish filets (how many will depend on how many fish you catch!)
  • about a cup of flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2-3 beaten eggs
  • a bottle of canola oil

You really need to get fresh fish, which translates to local fish, since that will spend the least time traveling from the ocean (or stream) to your plate.  Ed and his brother clean the fish, cutting it into filets and removing the skin.

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Today we have blackfish and fluke.  I cut the filets in half to make them easier to handle during cooking.

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Coat the filets in a thin layer of flour.  I find that a pie pan works well, but you could also use a shallow bowl.

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Next, dip the fish in the beaten eggs.  Again, I like to use a pie pan for this task.  Coat the fish in egg on all sides.  I like to use tongs so I don’t end up with thick layers of flour and egg on my fingers, but you could certainly use your hands.

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Return the fish to the flour mixture and coat again.  This will provide the crunchy coating on the fried fish.  I’ll often mix equal parts panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs and flour for the second coating, but I didn’t have any today so I just used flour alone.

Next, fill a pan with canola oil to about an inch depth.  I usually use my dutch oven, since the high sides help to keep the oil from splattering my kitchen.  However, today my dutch oven was full of leftover macaroni and cheese, so I used a cast iron skillet instead.  Heat the oil over high heat until it begins to shimmer, meaning it is hot.  You can test it by dipping the edge of a piece of fish in the oil.  If it simmers, it’s ready; if not, it needs to heat up more.

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Add some of the fish to the pan, giving it plenty of space.  I turn on the fan in the hood now, to prevent my house from smelling like fish for days.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, depending on thickness, until you see the edges start to brown.

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Flip the fish carefully.  I use tongs but you could use a spatula.  Allow the fish to cook another 2-3 minutes, or flip it a few more times until you get the level of browning you like.  If the coating begins to burn, you may need to turn down the heat.

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Remove the fish to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Cook the remaining fish in batches following the same procedure.  You can keep the cooked fish hot on a sheet pan in a low oven if you’re cooking a lot of fish at once; if you only have two batches, it can rest on the paper towel.

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Serve with lemon and tartar sauce.  Leftovers make excellent sandwiches the next day!  See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

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June Challenge Update

Now that summer’s (finally) in full swing, it’s time for a gardening challenge update.

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Plant:

  • most of my planting was done back in spring, but I have added succession carrots, bush beans (purple, green and wax), lettuce,  more zinnias and morning glories 

Harvest:

  • lettuce, scallions, dill, parsley, chives, sage, thyme, snap peas 

Preserve:

Reduce Waste:

  • continue to carry water bottle, reusable bags, reusable containers, cloth napkins, etc.
  • compost

Preparation and Storage:

Build Community Food Systems:

  • the biggest development was the birth of the little horse, who will help build our local food system by attracting children and adults alike to our farm market
  • visit local farmers’ markets
  • of course, visit my family’s farm market for anything I can (strawberries!!!)
  • Ed continues to help at his brother’s aquaculture business

Eat the Food:

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