Monday, December 31, 2007

In AZ, small ranchers turn back the clock

This story about two small ranchers in Arizona who are opting out of the grain-finished beef production line and have returned to producing beef the way it was produced 100 years ago on the Arizona ranges -- 100% grass-fed using rotational grazing, which protects the animal and the environment -- would be worth clicking to if it weren't for the incredibly annoying animated advertisements on the website. If you decide it's still worth a visit, don't say I didn't warn you.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

News from Australia

Not local news, but news of locavorism: In Stirling, South Australia a new cafe called The Locavore, which sources all ingredients from within a 100-mile radius or doesn't use them.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Chalk Food + Wine to focus on local, seasonal ingredients

According to a press release today, Jean-Robert de Cavel's Pho Paris at 118 Greenup Street in Covington will reopen January 15th as Chalk Food + Wine with a menu

using the best fresh ingredients from the season and trying to use local products as much as possible, making everything from scratch.
For reservations call 859.643.1234, and soon the restaurant will be added to OpenTable.

Cheap Food is not an American Tradition

When I hear people complaining about how expensive food is -- and especially about how eating locally is too expensive for the average American -- I like to annoyingly helpfully point out that we spend a smaller percentage of our disposable income than any previous generation.

From a USDA chart showing the percentage of disposable income spent by the average American on food (including food consumed both at home and away from home):

Food -- the food we get from supermarket, the processed and refined food that does us no good, harms the environment, and doesn't provide enough income for small farmers to keep body and soul together -- is cheap. Cheaper than it's ever been, in fact. So cheap that the poor are more likely to be obese than hungry.

Good food -- the sustainably-grown, fresh, tasty food we get from small local farmers -- costs a bit more than the commercially-produced similar items bought in the supermarket. How rich do we really have to be to justify spending what our parents spent for food instead of settling for cheap stuff?

No worries -- the danger is only to the farm and its workers

This response (scroll down to the second Q&A) to a question about whether a gardener who uses his Christmas tree branches as mulch on his strawberries should be concerned about pesticide residues appeared just before Christmas in the New York Times:

A: Probably, but probably not enough for serious concern, especially if you remove the boughs in spring before the needles drop.

The use of pesticides on Christmas trees is decreasing, and most are applied in the growing season. This does not magically render them benign, but it does mean that they largely migrate or degrade before the tree is marketed. Any ill effects fall primarily on the farm, its workers and its environs, not on your strawberries.

Oh, well then. Carry on.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

NPR on the demand for hormone-free milk

National Public Radio's Morning Edition included a story this morning on the demand for milk produced without use of artificial hormones which the government insists are harmless to humans.

CAFO'd pigs 'mix' viruses, pass them on to humans

In case you needed another reason to source your pork from local, pastured, sustainably-raised, closed-herd animals, this article in the Dec 19 issue of Meat & Poultry, the business journal for meat and poultry producers, warns pork producers that a new strain of swine influenza holds an ominous difference from earlier versions:

...this new strain has a molecular twist: It is composed of avian and swine influenza genes.

These findings provide further evidence that swine have the potential to serve as a "mixing vessel" for influenza viruses carried by birds, pigs and humans. It also supports the need to continue monitoring swine ― and livestock workers ― for H2-subtype viruses and other influenza strains that might someday threaten swine and human health.

Or possibly we could consider whether the CAFO business model is simply a failed experiment.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ham from Mohr Animal Acres

I picked up a ham for Christmas brunch from Mohr Animal Acres last time they made their once-a-month winter dropoff in Hyde Park. I wanted to see exactly how it tasted, so Christmas morning I simply put it onto a rack and into a 325 oven until the thermometer read 140, no marinading, glazing or basting. This is the true test of a ham -- can it stand on its own with no overnight marinades, honey-marsala glazes, studdings of cloves, pineapple rings, or every-fifteen-minutes bastings? If it can, it's a darn good ham. Well, this ham was excellent. Several folks commented on how moist, tender, and flavorful it was.

Next time, I'll probably go ahead and gild the lily with a glaze, but if I'm ever short on time and need to just be able to put a piece of meat into a slow oven and serve it two hours later, I'll know I'm safe with a ham from Mohr.

Boulder Belt farm

I drove up to Boulder Belt in Eaton (just west of Dayton) last Friday to visit their farm store. They have a very cool setup, with a separate building right on the road for the store. Boulder Belt is growing in hoophouses and under row covers this winter, so they had a surprising variety of veggies including a large selection of lettuces, leeks, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, beets, and radishes. I also bought three cornish game hens (small young chickens) which I roasted in a clay pot and were delicious. No spinach, as that particular row cover was frozen to the ground with last week's snow, and farmer Lucy says the carrots are about over for the season.

I'd been hoping to walk around a bit and take pictures, but the ground was so wet and mushy that it wasn't meant to be. Next time I visit I'll try to pick a drier day and ask for the full tour!

Monday, December 24, 2007

For the locavore who has everything

This is a very cool little cart for running around the farmers' markets.

It folds up to store in your car.

Too bad it's $60. Might be a nice gift for your childless rich foodie uncle, though!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Kinkead Ridge Winery

Kinkead Ridge Winery in Ripley OH is celebrating their fifth anniversary with an accounting of their long and impressive list of this year's accomplishments. For those who haven't yet tried a Kinkead Ridge wine (I've found them at Dilly Deli in Mariemont and at The Wine Store in Montgomery) you're missing out. It's a lot of fun to open a really good bottle of wine and after someone has commented on what a nice wine it is, to say, "Oh, yeah, the Kinkead Ridge? That's in Ripley," and watch the reactions.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Reuters' Top Health Issues of 2008

Reuters has released their predictions for the top health issues of 2008. Topping the list: Raw Milk. According to Reuters,

1. Raw Milk

People will go to extreme lengths to get it, farmers will risk their businesses to sell it, and most state governments want nothing to do with legalizing it. Raw milk -- milk that hasn't been pasteurized or homogenized -- was one of the most talked-about foods of the year.

Its fans say that pasteurization removes proteins, enzymes and healthy bacteria from milk, making it less nutritious, and that the taste of raw milk is incomparable. Those opposed to raw milk consumption -- including health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control -- argue that the harmful bacteria are of primary concern, and that the dangers posed by E. coli, salmonella and listeria are not worth the risk.

The debate is sure to continue in 2008 as raw milk goes mainstream, governments try to make it unappealing and people find more creative ways to get their hands on it.

Also on the list: the 2007 Farm Bill, Food labelling, Michael Pollan, The End of Cheap Food, and Fixing the FDA/USDA. Pretty much an all-star lineup from the Local Eating team.

Ohio Dairy Labelling

The folks up in Columbus who feel compelled to protect us from things we want to do by making them illegal have sunk to a new low: now they want to protect us from knowledge.

Up for consideration: a bill that would make it illegal for Ohio dairy farmers who don't use hormones on their cows to label their product 'hormone-free.' It seems all the dairy farmers who do use hormones on their dairy cows think such labels might make consumers think there was something wrong with milk produced when dairy cows are injected with hormones to make them produce more milk than nature intended. And, not coincidentally, farmers using hormones tend to be the ones with the most money to spend on lobbying government officials.

This letter to Governor Strickland, signed by many notables in the food safety, consumer protection, and dairy industry (including, strangely, Aurora Organic Dairy who have been in the news lately for playing fast-and-loose with the term 'organic') asks Ohio's governor not to interfere with our right to know.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The BBC on the Fife Diet

The BBC today has this article on the Fife Diet, an experiment by a group in the Scottish county of Fife to eat foods grown or produced only within the county. As one of the group comments,

"It's incredible we've come to the situation where people find it inconceivable to eat food from near where you live."

Menu for Hope IV: Two more days to buy a raffle ticket!

As Menu for Hope 4 draws to a close, organizer Chez Pim believes the food-blogger fundraiser will likely raise more than last year's $62,000 total. For those who haven't yet purchased raffle tickets for any of the incredible variety of tempting and sometimes unique prizes, here is an article on how the funds raised will be used to support the Lesotho School Lunch Program, which buys foods produced by Lesotho farmers to feed Lesotho school children. A win for the farmers, a win for the schoolkids, and a win for you when your charitable donations go to supporting local eating halfway around the globe.

For those new to reading this blog, Cincinnati Locavore is donating an All-Clad MC2 Saute Pot w/Lid and Loop. You can read about the other raffle prizes here. If you're interested in food, you'll find dozens of prizes to make your mouth water both literally and figuratively. How about a private wine class for you and twenty of your closest friends? A package of Jeni's Ice Cream, the Columbus ice cream named by Dean & DeLuca 'the best ice cream in the US'? Would winning a guided pizza tour of New York City be a good enough reason to plan a trip to the big apple? Or maybe a two-day vacation in Napa at the Meadowood Resort is more your style.

Whatever foodie items you're interested in, take a look at the prizes and see if you can't find one you'd love to win. You'll be donating to a worthy cause while you're at it.

2008 CSA Updates

Gravel Knolls Farm has updated their CSA page for the 2008 season. Their pickup point is the West Chester FM off I-75 on Union Blvd on Saturday mornings. They're offering a new plan this year whereby members can sign up for five-week blocks rather than the whole season if they prefer, to allow folks to work around vacations and such.

Greensleeves farm has updated their CSA listing for the 2008 season at Pickups are at the farm in Alexandria KY on Tuesdays 7-8. They offer a reduced share price for those able to come early on pickup days and help with the harvest.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's in season?

This very cool tool on the site of the National Resources Defense Council lets you input your state and the time of year (early January through late December) and up comes a list of what's fresh and available. Nice idea! Unfortunately there are still a few glitches to be worked out -- during early December, for instance, Ohio is listed as having only cauliflower available while Pennsylvania is listed as having beets, cabbage, brussels sprouts, carrots, turnips, and other late-season crops and Kentucky and Indiana are listed as having NOTHING available. Oookay. Someone needs to take a look at a map.

Monday, December 17, 2007

US Senate commits 'Act of Cowardice'

The excellent Blog for Rural America calls the Senate's refusal to pass the Dorgan-Grassley amendment (limiting payments to farmers to $250,000) to the 2007 Farm Bill 'an act of cowardice.' It's hard to argue with them. This decision all by itself continues a systematic exclusion of new young farmers into the industry and protects the wealthiest farmers from competition. Once again when it comes to decisions made by those we've elected, money talks.

Ohio Milk Labeling: if it's us vs. them, why are we being represented by one of them?

Oh, that's nice. According to Saturday's Columbus Dispatch, on the Ohio Department of Agriculture's advisory committee to investigate whether Ohio dairymen should be allowed to label their milk as "hormone-free," the consumer point of view is being represented by Robin Steiner. Ms. Steiner once worked for Monsanto (which markets the synthetic growth hormone given to cows to increase milk production) and is married to a dairyman who uses the hormones in his herds. She's the only member of the committee with "consumer" listed as her affiliation.

Her point of view? Her elderly mom

...lives on a limited income and doesn’t have extra money to spend on milk that isn’t compositionally different from less-expensive types.

So clearly the solution is not to tell mom what’s in the milk. Ignorance being bliss, and all.

Uh, do you think maybe she’s already made up her mind about this one?

Blah blah blah locavorism blah blah blah

It's become very fashionable to point out that eating locally doesn't always necessarily equate to eating sustainably. Duh. Apparently everyone is smarter than we are. In the New York Times Op/Ed section, this opinion piece from Sarah Murray of The Financial Times. Her conclusion?

The “food miles” concept has helped raise awareness of the environmental impact of one aspect of our daily lives: eating. Yet the potato chips example demonstrates that greening our food supply means we have to think more creatively. The danger of going for the easy target of transportation is that we focus too narrowly and miss the bigger picture.

We get it. You can't just focus on miles the food has travelled -- you have to consider other aspects of food production. Where do these folks keep getting the idea we're all just blindly looking at a single piece of information? And why does it feel like they're much more focussed on that single piece of information than we are?

Michael Pollan in the NYT Magazine

Michael Pollan has an article the connections among bee colony collapse, MRSA, and factory farming in yesterday's New York Times Magazine. According to Pollan,

...the story of Colony Collapse Disorder and the story of drug-resistant staph are the same story. Both are parables about the precariousness of monocultures. Whenever we try to rearrange natural systems along the lines of a machine or a factory, whether by raising too many pigs in one place or too many almond trees, whatever we may gain in industrial efficiency, we sacrifice in biological resilience. The question is not whether systems this brittle will break down, but when and how, and whether when they do, we’ll be prepared to treat the whole idea of sustainability as something more than a nice word.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Your next meal is out back eating your hostas

A deer hunter in Anchorage in yesterday's New York Times points out that the product of his hobby is

free-range, grass-fed, organic, locally produced, locally harvested, sustainable, native, low-stress, low-impact, humanely slaughtered meat.
I'm thinking he has a really good point. I had venison several times as a teenager when a hunting friend's parents held an annual 'game meal' for their kids' friends. The food was always great. I wonder where I can find local game meat?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dark Days Challenge/Every Thursday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and butternut squash

I like to cook. Love it, really. But even so it's nice to have something in the freezer for those busy days when I'm getting home too late to start from scratch or just don't feel like it. One of my go-to meals is meatloaf, which I usually serve once a week with the mashed potatoes I put up while potatoes were in season and the butternut squash I stocked up on in October. (I'll post my make-ahead mashed potatoes recipe in a future post.)

I generally make four batches of meatloaf at a time and produce five slightly-smaller-than-usual loaves with them, as we aren't huge eaters at my house. (My husband and son are lobbying for larger loaves to facilitate leftover production, as this is one of their favorite meals.) Last Thursday we ate the last of the meatloaves I had in the freezer, so yesterday I made up another batch. This recipe is adapted from Pam Anderson's The Perfect Recipe.


2 T olive oil
4 c chopped onions
8 garlic cloves, pressed (if you don't have a garlic press, mince)
8 eggs
1 1/2 T dried thyme
1 T salt
2 t ground pepper
1 1/2 T Dijon mustard
1 1/2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 t hot sauce
2 c plain yogurt
4 pounds ground beef
4 pounds ground pork
2 2/3 c panko breadcrumbs (if you can't find panko, substitute quick oats)
1 1/3 c minced fresh parsley

2 1/2 pounds of bacon, divided into 1/2-pound portions and wrapped for the freezer.

Heat oil and saute onions and garlic five minutes. Set aside to cool.

Mix eggs with thyme, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcester- shire, hot sauce, and yogurt, whisking to blend well. Add to meat in a very large bowl along with breadcrumbs, parsley, and onions/garlic. Mix gently with a fork until evenly blended.

Divide into 5 portions, weighing to even them out. (If you don't have a kitchen scale, just eyeball it.) Form into loaves and wrap tightly in foil.

Package each loaf with a half-pound portion of bacon and freeze.

On serving day:

Thaw meatloaf and bacon. Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Wrap a cooling rack in aluminum foil and poke the foil full of 1/8" holes in an area larger than the size of the loaf. Set the rack on the cookie sheet and center the loaf over the holes.

Make glaze:

1/8 c chili sauce
1 T sriracha sauce (this is usually in the asian section, or you can make your own.)
2 T brown sugar
2 t cider vinegar

Mix together well.

Brush glaze over meatloaf. Cover glazed loaf completely with bacon, using toothpicks to secure the ends. Insert thermometer and bake at 350 until loaf registers 160, about 45 - 50 minutes. Cool 15 minutes before removing thermometer (if you remove the thermometer too soon, you'll lose a lot of juice), then slice and serve.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dark Days Challenge/Goodwinter Soup

I can't decide whether this one qualifies as local or not. The kale, tomatoes, squash, chicken, onions, carrots, celery are local. The pasta is semi-local. The chickpeas aren't local, and neither are the porcinis or the parmesan.

I adapted this recipe from an excellent one found on Restaurant Widow's wonderful blog. Her version is quicker if you have parmesan stock and leftover chicken on hand but requires several pots if you don't, so while I've made some ingredients changes my adaptation is primarily to trade time for dirty pots. I changed it enough that I decided it needed a new name, so as the ingredients are wintery and the instructions now call for an all-day babysit (though requiring little attention; perfect for a long winter day spent at home but with only occasional visits to the kitchen), I decided to call it Goodwinter Soup.

My husband, who is not generally a fan of chickpeas, asked me to add it into the regular rotation. And it's gorgeous enough to serve to guests -- the combination of the different shapes (round chickpeas, diced squash, spiral gemelli, julienned tomatoes) and colors (the bright orange of the squash, dark green of the kale, and deep red of the tomatoes set against the muted earthtones of the chicken, chickpeas, pasta and stock) have a homely beauty.


1 c chickpeas with water to cover
10 c water
1 3" x 4" piece of Parmigiano Reggiano rind
1/4 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 med onion, quartered (or several onion ends)
1 carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into 3-inch pieces (or equivalent trimmings)
1 stalk celery, cut into 3-inch pieces (or equivalent trimmings)
1 parsnip, halved lengthwise and cut into 3-inch pieces (or equivalent trimmings)
1 T peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 boneless skinless chicken breast (or two half breasts)
3 - 4 c chicken stock
4 oz sundried tomatoes, cut in fine julienne
1 bunch kale, cleaned, veined, and roughly chopped
1 butternut or other orange-fleshed winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
1 c gemelli, cooked until not quite al dente (about a minute less than the package instructions.)
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash chickpeas well, cover with water, and set aside to soak.

Place water, parmesan rind, porcinis, onion, carrot, parsnip, celery, peppercorns, and bay leaves into a soup pot, bring to a boil, lower to simmer, and let stew for several hours, adding water as necessary to keep covered.

Add chicken breast and more water if necessary to cover completely, return to boil, cover, remove from heat, and allow to cool. (This will poach the chicken breast perfectly; do not remove cover until pan feels just warm to the touch.)

Remove chicken breast, cut into 1/2" dice, and set aside. Drain chickpeas, reserving a cup of the soaking water.

Strain stock in a fine sieve and return to pan. Add drained chickpeas, the reserved chickpea soaking water, and enough chicken stock to cover completely, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until chickpeas are tender (1-3 hours depending on how long they soaked), adding more chicken stock as needed to keep chickpeas completely covered.

When chickpeas are tender, add reserved chicken, kale, tomatoes, and butternut squash, add more chicken stock to barely cover, return to boil, and reduce heat to simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add cooked gemelli and heat through*. Correct seasonings (NOTE: the parmesan rind contains a lot of salt and your chicken stock may, too, so taste before adding salt) and serve with rustic bread and a salad.

*One additional way to avoid dirtying more pots is to cook the gemelli actually in the soup -- throw the cup of uncooked pasta in during the final few minutes of the cooking process, stir to prevent sticking, cover the pot and allow the pasta to steam for five minutes. This is tricky, though -- for your laziness, you risk overcooking your pasta, and the texture of the finished pasta will never be as good as pasta that is cooked in plenty of water until not quite al dente, drained, rinsed in cold water to stop the cooking, then added to the dish to reheat just before serving.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Local = Green?

As usual, the media gets it about half right. The New York Times recognizes the idea of eating local as partially motivated by environmental concerns, but they don't even seem to consider whether there may be additional reasons to eat local, such as health, taste, or supporting the local economy. Nor do they recognize that eating truly local generally also means getting food that is more sustainably produced in many ways. All the meat I buy from local farmers is pastured. The produce I buy from local farmers is produced using fewer chemical pesticides or fertilizers.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Menu for Hope 4: Cincinnati Locavore's prize is an All-Clad 6 QT MC2 Saute Pot with Lid and Loop!

When Chez Pim asked for participants in their annual world hunger fundraiser Menu for Hope by donating a prize to be raffled, I said I'd love to. Then I wondered what I could donate.

The beauty of this pot is that it is so versatile. It is broad-bottomed enough to use as a saute pan and deep enough to use as a stockpot or casserole/dutch oven. It can go from stovetop to oven and back. The handle and loop mean that even a heavy load can be carried easily two-handed. Like every All-Clad product, it heats up like a charm and holds heat evenly. The brushed-finish exterior is a joy -- unlike polished stainless, a fingerprint doesn't show. I LOVE these pots! This is a brand-new, never-used pot in its original box (I only removed it from the box to photograph it, then I rewrapped it in its protective plastic and stored it away again.) If you have room for only one large pot in your kitchen, this is the one! It retails for $245. Sorry, the bulk and size of this item mean I'm offering shipping within the US only.

To see all the prizes offered by food bloggers worldwide to raise money as part of Menu for Hope, go to Chez Pim. If you'd like to see what's being offered by other food bloggers in our general region (all of the non-coastal US), go to Kalyn's Kitchen.

To buy a raffle ticket for this or other prizes:

1. Go to online charity auction house Firstgiving.

2. Make a donation. For each $10 donation, you'll receive one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. The prize code for my All-Clad Saute Pot is UC07.

3. If your company matches your charity donation, please remember to check the box and fill in the information so Menu of Hope can claim the corporate match.

4. Please also check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

5. Check back at Chez Pim on for the results of the raffle.

Thanks for your participation, and good luck in the raffle!

Friday, December 7, 2007

DC real estate ad takes a dig at wealthy farmers

We were alerted by Grist to this ad appearing yesterday in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, touting affordable condos. (Click ad to enlarge.)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Menu for Hope 4

Cincinnati Locavore is participating in the 4th Annual Menu for Hope! This annual online raffle by food bloggers around the globe raises money for hunger projects worldwide. In 2006 the project raised over $60,000 for the World Food Program. This year the project runs December 10 - 21. Bloggers all over the world donate food-related prizes, and blog readers participate by buying raffle tickets for the various prizes through online charity auction house Firstgiving.

Here at Cincinnati Locavore we're especially excited that funds raised this year by Menu for Hope IV are earmarked for the school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa. The Lesotho School Lunch Program is a model in local procurement, buying food locally to support local farmers and the local economy. Instead of shipping surplus corn across the ocean, the WFP through the Lesotho program buys directly from local subsistence farmers who practice conservation farming methods.

Other bloggers in our region participating in the project (along with the prizes they're offering this year) can be seen Monday, December 10th at the Central US Prize Roundup on Kalyn's Kitchen, the Utah-based host for flyover country blogs. For all prizes in all regions, visit Chez Pim. You can see all of last year's raffle prizes here.

And here's the really fun part: by "participating," we mean Cincinnati Locavore is offering a prize. We're not allowed to tell you what it is yet -- Menu for Hope likes to announce all the prizes at the same time on the morning of December 10th -- but we can promise this prize will make any serious cook drool.

Local Wines

From the blog of Wine Girl, this post on two local wineries.

From the website of Kinkead Ridge in Ripley:

The mission of Kinkead Ridge is to produce ultra-premium estate-bottled wine in Southern Ohio (Ohio River Valley appellation), exclusively vinefera, with great attention and care paid to cultural practices and classic winemaking techniques. Our primary grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Viognier, and Riesling. Smaller quantities of Petit Verdot, Roussane and Sauvignon Blanc fill out our mix.
From the website of Harmony Hill in Bethel:
The goal of Harmony Hill Vineyards is not to be Ohio's largest winery but instead to carefully select only the finest grapes to produce a limited amount of estate-bottled premium Cabernet Sauvignon wine in the Bordeaux tradition.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

King Corn on DVD

Oh, very cool! King Corn is now available on DVD for those of us in corn country who might otherwise not have a chance to see it.

Penny-wise Eat Local Challenge

Back in April, Eat Local Challenge started a new challenge intended to explore the question of whether the average family could afford to eat locally. They started with the Department of Labor statistics on the average amount spent by a family for food each week:

1 person in the family, one wage earner: $68 a week
2+ persons in the family, one wage earner: $121 a week
2+ persons in the family, 2 wage earners: $144 a week
2+ persons in the family, 3+ wage earners: $184 a week

Most participants ended up concluding there was a trade-off between money spent and time spent. Those who were willing and able to spend more time planning and more time in the kitchen could pull off eating local on an average family's budget as long as they ate at home and carried their lunches. A few participants found it difficult to avoid restaurants, and even if they ate in restaurants that sourced locally they ended up blowing their food budgets. A few had no problem staying within the budget at all as their normal weekly food budget is less than the Department of Labor average -- which would seem to indicate that there are at least some folks out there capable of eating locally on an average food budget.

Food Stamp Challenge

The Executive Director at Jewish Community Services blogged on her experience living on a food stamp budget for a week. This interested me because her comments on how hungry she felt and her 'food insecurity' (worries that her $21 food budget wouldn't last her the entire week) reminded me of a common criticism of the local eating movement: that eating locally would be impossible for someone on a limited budget.

But when I looked at her food choices, I had to wonder. She chose highly processed foods such as boxed breakfast cereal instead of something that would have offered her far more calories for the penny such as oatmeal. She chose convenience foods such as prepared spaghetti sauce, bagged 'baby' carrots, hot dogs, pretzels and microwave popcorn. She chose relatively expensive foods that provided very little caloric content such as a bag of organic lettuce (which used up over ten percent of her budget for the week all by itself) and very little in the way of nutritive value (2 2-liter bottles of pop.) Her fresh fruit choices included 4 apples for $3.44 when bananas were 4 for .79 and tangerines were 4 for fifty cents. When faced with a budget of $21 for the week, why wouldn't she simply add a couple extra bananas and/or tangerines to her cart instead of spending a whopping 16% of her budget on what probably amounted to 250 calories? Her shopping cart didn't contain much in the way of budget-conscious healthy standards -- where was the 10-pound bag of potatoes that leapt immediately to my mind when I considered the idea of trying to feed myself on $21 a week? No wonder she was hungry!

Her choices are hers; as she points out in her blog, it's none of my business whether a food stamp user chooses Cheerios over oatmeal. I agree, it's not my business. But it doesn't follow that her hunger is evidence that $21 is 'ridiculously insufficient' to provide adequate food for one person for one week. Her hunger and her food insecurity were the result of her food choices, not of her budget.

At Kroger's -- not the cheapest option for food buying -- I found these prices:

10 pounds potatoes $3.98 3000 calories
2 pounds rice $1.79 3000 calories
2 pounds beans $1.39 2340 calories
42 oz oatmeal $2.17 4500 calories
1 gallon milk $2.99 2400 calories
1 pound butter $2.72 3200 calories

That comes to $15.04 for 18,440 calories. The average diet is 2000 calories a day, so this is enough food for over nine days all by itself, which means that one week's food if you ate nothing but these food items would cost $11.39, leaving nearly ten dollars -- almost half the budget -- to buy other items. Assuming you're eating these other items, you'll of course end up eating less of the pantry staples, which means they'll stretch even further. At this point, she could afford the pop and the lettuce AND the apples.

Now, this is truly subsistence eating. It would be boring in the extreme, and while 'boredom' is a silly consideration in the face of true hunger (I suspect many people all over the world would be thrilled to be similarly bored with their diets), very few of us would expect anyone to eat this monotonous a diet week in, week out here in the land of plenty. But the fact remains: no one need go hungry or worry about their food lasting the week on a food stamp diet.

But that still leaves the question of whether eating locally is doable for a low-income individual. It would require a different set of pantry staples. Rice doesn't grow in Ohio. Local milk and butter are available only to those who have access to a car, because local milk means raw milk and that can only legally be obtained in Ohio directly from the farm via a herdshare and at around $5 a gallon, which by itself renders it unlikely for inclusion in a food stamp diet. Even dry beans and oatmeal can be difficult to find locally. But down at Findlay Market, smack dab in the middle of Over-The-Rhine, all farmshed vendors are required to accept food stamps.

I may have to try a Local Eating Food Stamp Challenge.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Farm Lobby

This article about the political power of large wealthy farmers and the profound ways in which their interests differ from those of small farmers, the first of a series of three from the excellent blog Ethicurean, is worth the time and effort even if you're tired of hearing about CAFOs.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dark Days Challenge/Pepper Chicken and Buttered Radishes

Yeah, I know. It sounds like a bizarre combination for a meal. And there's no good reason behind the combination. It was pure coincidence and unwillingness to delay gratification. (I'd already done my Dark Days Challenge Meal for the week, but I got it in my head to make a Pepper Chicken and ran out to Red Sun Farm and Greenacres for the necessary ingredients, figuring this would be an easy second meal.) Then when I got to Greenacres they had three bunches of radishes. I've been craving buttered radishes for weeks. I snapped up all they had, and that became the side dish du jour.

Greenacres also had all the peppers and onions my heart could desire in early December: Green bell peppers, pimientos, jalapenos, red onions, yellow onions, shallots. (They're growing in hoophouse over the winter, and the gardener says they'll harvest once a week as long as snow or ice doesn't collapse the hoophouses.) At any rate, their peppers were beautiful, and I grabbed an assortment figuring the more flavors the better. At Red Sun Farm I'd picked up garlic and several boneless chicken breasts. The only things I needed to pick up at Pipkin's were flatbread and cilantro.

For the Pepper Chicken, I used more or less the same seasoning mix I use for taco meat:


1 T olive oil
4 chicken breasts, sliced thin against the grain
3 - 4 c sweet and hot peppers, to taste, cut into 1/4" dice
1 1/2 c onions, cut into 1/4" dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 t corn flour
4 1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t seasoned salt
1/2 t paprika
1/4 t cumin
1/4 t cayenne
1 t salt
2 c chicken stock

In a medium saute pan, heat the oil on medium heat. Saute the chicken breasts until just opaque, then remove the chicken to a plate. Add peppers, onions and garlic to hot pan and saute over medium-low heat until onions are translucent. Add chicken stock and seasonings and bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer for twenty minutes until veggies are tender. Return chicken to pan, heat through, and serve on pita or flatbread.

The buttered radishes are a strange concept that I suspect is French in origin, but I like them nevertheless. The combination of butter, pepper, and tender-cooked radishes is irresistible. I'm experimenting with other additions. This version includes dill, but I'm not sure that's the perfect enhancement.


2 T butter
salt to taste
~25 radishes, trimmed
2 t sugar
1 t red wine vinegar
1 T dill, minced
1 1/2 t ground pepper

In a small skillet, melt butter. Add radishes and salt, coat radishes with butter, then cover pan and leave over low heat for 4-5 minutes depending on the size of the radishes. Add sugar and vinegar and saute 2 minutes, then add dill and pepper, remove from heat, and serve.

Red Sun Farm & Greenacres Farm

I took a trip out to Red Sun Farm on Grog Run Rd in Loveland today. Red Sun offers a nice option: a self-serve farm store (the photo is theirs from their website) with an honor box. They have pastured chicken, pork, beef, and eggs. Their own garlic and potatoes were available today along with dried lavender and basil.

I also hit Greenacres Farm on Spooky Hollow in Indian Hill. They had peppers, lots of herbs, arugula, onions, shallots. Also three bunches of radishes, which I snapped up because I've been craving buttered radishes. They're growing in hoophouses this winter. The gardener told me they'd have produce unless/until snow or ice collapsed their hoophouses and will be harvesting weekly, generally on sunny afternoons because it's easier to get inside the plastic if it's been warmed by the sun.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Dark Days Challenge/Fettucini and Meatballs in Marinara

This one is a stretch to call 90%, I think. Certainly 90% of the cost of this meal went to local ingredients, but some of the bulkier ingredients weren't local.

The marina is the least-local portion of the meal, and that's my husband's mother's fault, god rest her soul. My husband's favorite meal is his mother's spaghetti, which family legend has it was passed down to her by her husband's mother, an Italian woman who immigrated in 1906. So of course when I married him, I got the recipe from his mom.

Well, maybe old Mrs. Finocchiaro had to make do with what she could find when she moved to South Philly from Sicily as a young married woman, but I really can't believe she strayed this far from her roots:


1/2 stick Olio
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1/4 c dried parsley
1 T salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t garlic powder
1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes + 1 can water
1 15-oz can Hunts sauce
1 12-oz can Hunts tomato paste

Brown the beef in the olio, drain off excess fat, and add the onion, parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Saute 10 minutes and add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer 2 - 3 hours.

When I first saw this recipe, I suspected my (of Swiss extraction & raised in Bucyrus, Ohio) mother-in-law had massively adapted her mother-in-law's recipe to what could be found at the Foodarama (I swear that was the name of our local grocery store) in Dayton Ohio in the 1950s. So the first time I made it for my husband, I tried to take it back to Italy at least a little. I skipped the olio, used fresh parsley and garlic, and used nothing but whole San Marzano tomatoes plus a little beef stock to make a long-cooked sauce.

My husband said, 'This is really good, but it's not my mom's sauce.'

So I relented. Other than starting with a 'half stick of olio' and then draining it off (I just saute the onions and seasonings while the beef is browning in its own juices) I now use The Recipe. It's become my son's favorite meal. Someday I'll probably be handing it over to a daughter in law. Sigh. On the bright side, it's the easiest dinner I ever make, the ingredients are always in my cupboards, and my husband and son are delighted to see it every week. So while I'll never love this sauce, I do love having a go-to recipe for crazy days.

The meatballs have only one non-local ingredient (the romano -- cheese as always is a challenge to find locally.) These are adapted from the recipe used at Maroni's in Northport, NY on Long Island and featured on one of my guilty pleasures, Throwdown with Bobby Flay. It's an odd meatball recipe, with four times as much egg and breadcrumb and twice as much milk as most meatball recipes contain. Maroni jokingly refers to it as 'more of a quiche' and I have to agree. They're probably not for everyone, but they're growing on me. Changes I made: I used half beef/half pork because that's what I prefer (the recipe calls for all beef.) I didn't have enough garlic, parsley, or basil in the house to meet the recipe's specifications and ended up halving the amounts -- for instance, the recipe called for 2 ounces of garlic. Well, a full head of organic garlic weighs less than an ounce. Same with the parsley and basil -- I chopped a mountain of both and ended up with just an ounce of each, so while the recipe called for 2 ounces of each, 1 ounce is what I used. I'll probably try to follow the specified amounts next time, and probably I'll add ground pepper, too, now that I've tasted the finished meatballs.


1/2 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound ground pork
4 ounces dried bread crumbs
4 large eggs
4 ounces whole milk
6 ounces grated Romano
3 ounces grated onion
1 ounce pressed fresh garlic
1 ounce Italian parsley, chopped
1 ounce basil, choppped

Preheat oven to 350. Coat a baking sheet lightly with olive oil.

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in large bowl.

Roll meatballs loosely to about the size of a large golf ball and place on baking sheet. Place into preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Serves six (about 3 large meatballs each.)

For pasta, I used the garlic fetuccini made by Rossi's, which is made in Marietta Ohio, about 200 miles from here and probably not with local grains. I'm going to keep my eyes open for a truly local product made with local grains, because that seems like something I ought to be able to find here in the middle of farm country.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Because Coffee Doesn't Grow in Ohio...

For those items that you can't find locally, it's great to find a source for organically-grown options that goes even a step beyond Fair-Trade. Benevolent Blends, run by Cistercian monks in Wisconsin as a way to support themselves, donates a portion of its profits to various charitable organizations.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Small Organic Farmer Faces a Difficult Decision

Another excellent article from Food Democracy. Must reading for any consumer who wants to eat locally.

From the article:

Have we failed? No. We’ve provided income to hundreds of people and their families, produced the finest organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers available anywhere and fed thousands. We’ve shared bounty with the needy and pumped large sums of money back into our local economy. Even though farming has not been financially rewarding, we’ve lived a life of indulgence that few can embrace·the life on a farm. No price can be placed on living the miracle of the soil, walking fields each week and witnessing the effect of warm rains and steaming sun brining life and growth of luscious, healthy produce grown naturally in concert with nature.

Joel Salatin on technology, science, and belief systems

From the excellent blog Food Democracy, Joel Salatin's article Sound Science is Killing Us is a bit on the long-and-dense side but worth plowing through.

From the article:

A diesel tractor can either pull an anhydrous-ammonia-fertilizer injector, or it can pull a manure spreader full of compost. It is the heart, the soul, the belief system that determines how technology will be used. Electricity can be used to power feed augers and ventilation fans, medication timers and artificial lights in a confinement poultry house, or it can power an energizer hooked to high-tech, information-dense, polyethylene-stainless-steel-threaded poultry netting in a pasture setting. The belief system defines the use.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Home Days

Pattie over at Foodshed Planet has a great idea which I am shamelessly stealing: setting aside several days between Thanksgiving and Christmas to do nothing special at all. Accept no invitations, host no gatherings, attend no shows, plan no shopping trips or outings. Just a day to take a deep breath and enjoy being together during the holiday season. This is especially a great idea for me because my favorite winter meals require ongoing light supervision which keeps me at (or very near) home but not really busy.

Pattie calls them 'yellow days' because that's how she marks them out on her calendar, but I think I'm going to call them Home Days. I'm marking my calendar right now.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Update on Locavore vs. Localvore

My indolence is fast becoming net-famous, with my rationale for choosing 'locavore' over 'localvore' ("reasons of simple laziness: it's easier for me to pronounce") being quoted by Language Log and Daylife. It seems locavore is still winning even though some folks fret about its unfortunate resemblance to 'locovore.' Which critics might use to imply we were crazy.

Really, is it any less likely critics will turn localvore into locovore? If people want to make fun of us I doubt they're going to stop and say, "Oh, but I can't turn 'localvore' into 'locovore.' There's an extra letter in there! Damn. So close."

The coiner of the term, Jessica Prentice, explains her reasons for choosing locavore over localvore here, noting that "if journalists wanted to question me on (the association with 'loco' as in crazy), it would be an opportunity to explain that what is really crazy is the amount of unnecessary importation and exportation of food that currently happens in our globalized food system."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

More backlash against locavorism.

William Moseley on condemns the locavore movement for hurting organic and fair-trade farmers in developing countries. It seems that supporting our neighbors is unfair to farmers in Chile and Africa who are depending on us.

Me, I'm prone to feeling liberal guilt. But it seems like some people are just plain greedy for that extra helping of it.

Dark Days Challenge/Turk-a-leekie soup

Thursday's turkeys are picked over and the carcasses in the freezer for stock. I have a lovely bunch of leeks from Boulder Belt Eco-Farm, picked up at the November Winter Market in Oxford the weekend before Thanksgiving along with carrots, celery, and garlic, so I decided to make Turk-a-leekie soup. Like Cockaleekie, only with turkey.

First I started the stock. Into my largest stockpot I put one of the turkey carcasses plus several bags of vegetable trimmings I've been saving for the past week or so -- some carrot tops, onion ends, a celery end, some garlic ends, and potato peelings. I save these trimmings as I prepare veggies from week to week and stick them into the freezer for stockmaking. Seems a shame to put a perfectly good carrot into my stockpot when I can just save the trimmings which would otherwise go to waste. I also added a couple of bay leaves, a few peppercorns, a piece of ginger, and some allspice berries. Bring to a boil, lower to simmer, and leave for a couple of hours.

In the meantime I started the veggies for the Turkaleekie. I heated some good homemade butter in my 6-quart soup pot, pressed a couple of garlic cloves, and sauteed them for a few minutes. I ground a lot of pepper in, diced my carrots and added those, then the celery and leeks and turned the heat to low. All the trimmed ends went into the stockpot to help out.

While the veggies sweated, I cut up turkey into medium dice and set it aside. When the veggies were tender, I added the turkey, covered the pot loosely, and set it into the fridge. Then I waited for my stock. I let it simmer for a couple of hours, then strained it into a bowl and added enough to the veggies and turkey just to cover and returned the pot to the simmer. For a bit of added interest I stirred in some hot sauce and a couple of spoonfuls of leftover mashed potatoes. I didn't need to add any salt, probably because the turkey had been brined prior to roasting. The resulting soup was rich and flavorful.

We served it with rye rolls that were purchased from a local baker, but I doubt the grain was local. But with local turkey, local butter, local garlic, carrots, celery, leeks, and potatoes, we're still calling this a 90% local meal.


3 T butter
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 C diced carrots
2 C diced celery
3 C leeks, halved lengthwise, cleaned well under running water, then sliced thin
3 C diced cooked turkey
4 - 8 C turkey stock
Dash of hot sauce (optional)
1 C leftover mashed potatoes (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, melt butter and saute garlic. Add carrots and saute briefly, then add celery and leeks and turn heat down to sweat vegetable until barely tender. Add turkey and stock and bring to a simmer. Add hot sauce and potatoes if desired and correct seasonings. If you aren't starting with good homemade stock, you may want to add a bouquet garni when you add the carrots. A good addition to this soup would be barley, potatoes, or wide noodles.

I had lots of stock still left, so I packaged that up for the freezer. I still have another turkey carcass, too, but as I used up all my veggie trimmings I'll probably wait a week or so before I make the second batch of stock.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dark Days Challenge/Taco potatoes and broccoli

Last night we had taco meat over baked potatoes and steamed broccoli. The ground beef, potatoes, garlic, onions, beef stock and broccoli were all local, so although the corn flour and most of the spices aren't, we think this qualifies as a 90% local meal. I wish I'd taken a photo, but we ate late and everyone was starving.


  • 1 1/2 t corn flour
  • 4 1/2 t chili powder
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t seasoned salt
  • 1/2 t paprika
  • 1/4 t cumin
  • 1/4 t cayenne
  • 1/4 c grated onion
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup beef stock
  1. In a small bowl, combine the corn flour, chili powder and spices.
  2. Crumble the ground chuck into a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring, until browned.
  3. Stir in contents of seasoning bowl and beef stock. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until most of the liquid has cooked away, about 20 minutes.
To serve, pour over split baked potatoes. If desired, top with sour cream or shredded cheddar.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Find your 100-mile diet

This cool little mapping tool from the 100-Mile Diet site will let you enter your zip code and click to see a map centered on your zip with a 100-mile radius drawn on it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Defining local and regional foods

There's an interesting post by Gary Paul Nabhan, one of the earliest proponents of local eating, in the must-read blog EatLocalChallenge. He offers suggestions on how to define local and regional foods:

1. Local means from a farm, ranch or fishing boat that is locally-owned and operated, using the management skills and the labor of local community members. A farm that is owned all or in part by an extra-local corporation, and which uses migrant workers who live outside the community does not benefit its community economically or culturally as much as it should.

2. A regional food is one that has been tied to the traditions of a particular landscape or seascape and its cultures for decades if not for centuries. If the same mix of mesclun greens is grown in greenhouses across the country and sold in every farmers market from Maine to New Mexico, it is more like a franchised product (from a seed company) than it is a local or regional food. Yes it may be produced five miles from your home and thereby reduce food miles, but its seeds are not saved and adapted to local or regional conditions, they are bought from afar every year.

3. The miles a food travels (“food miles”) must be placed in the size and volume of the mode of transport, its source of fuel, and its frequency of travel. Using biodiesel in a larger truck may be more efficient, and leave less of a carbon footprint than using leaded gas in an old clunker. One in every five kilocalories in the American food production and delivery system now underwrites transportation, as well as packaging and cooling while in transit, so this will be an increasingly important issue to solve by using alternative fuels, cost-efficient volumes, and ensuring that vehicles holding their full capacity in both directions, perhaps by carrying compost back to farms where the vegetables originated.

4. On farm energy and water use matter. If a farm near Tucson Arizona is irrigated from a canal that transports Colorado River water hundreds of miles (and at high ecological cost to wild riverine species), or if it uses fossil groundwater set down during the Pleistocene pumped by fossil fuel set down in Iran during the Pennsylvanian era, what is to be gained by promoting its food?

5. Other on-farm inputs matter just as much. Where are the sources of hay for livestock, compost for garden crops or nitrogen for field crops? They should be locally if not regionally-sourced. Why call lamb locally-produced in Idaho when its flock has wintered part of the year in California and its hay comes in from southern Colorado?

6. Fair-trade with other cultures, localities and regions is fair game. Circumvent they globalized economy for the items you truly need from other regions by establishing fair-trade exchanges. It is not that we don’t care about farmers and ranchers elsewhere, we simply don’t wish to see middlemen gaining more of each consumer dollar than the producers do. Producers inevitably plow money back into their communities and lands, intermediaries seldom do.

7. Invest in the foods unique to your region that cannot or should not be grown anywhere else. The attached RAFT map (pdf) reminds us of ancient food traditions based on climate, soil and culture, involving both native and immigrant foods that have adapted and been integrated into particular places. Because the U.S. currently lacks the geographic indicators such as denominations of origin that reinforce the links between place, culture and genetics of a particular food, these place-based foods are truly threatened by globalization. Invest in them and their original stewards.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

2007 Farm Bill -- this time with feeling.

I know I've already mentioned this, but it's important, and here are three really easy links you can click to and send a message to your Senators and the Senate leadership. It's really important, and you can do it in about three minutes. Please do it. If you truly want local sustainable foods, this is one of the easiest ways you can help.

Issue: Leadership Support for Farm Bill Reform
Sign your name to an already-written message to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today. Or edit the letter any way you like -- it's up to you. Urge him to support the efforts of reform-minded Senators to bring meaningful payment limits, and increased resources for conservation, rural development, and beginning farmer programs to the Farm Bill. Click to write now It really will take 2 minutes! I promise.

Issue: Your Senators' Support for REAL Payment Limits
Whether or not the Senate Farm Bill includes real payment limit reform that finally brings an end to the million-dollar payments to the nation's largest farms could very well come down to an important vote on the Senate floor. Every single Senator will cast a key vote, and every single one will be important. Every. Single. One. And this year, there's an Ohio Senator on the committee. Write to your Senators today.

Issue: Support Rural Development in the Farm Bill
The Farm Bill should support all of rural America, and one way it can do this is by putting more resources into rural microenterprice development that will help entrepreneurs start and maintain businesses up and down main streets across rural America. This kind of help encourages young people to go into farming. Urge your Senators to support this legislation today!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cincinnati Locavore at yahoogroups

I've just opened a yahoogroup for Cincinnati Locavores. If you live in or near Cincinnati and are looking for local food sources (or if you are a farmer or producer of local foods) please join us and let's see if we can bring the food and the consumers of it together!

Dark Days Challenge/Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and salad

I just realized it's the end of the first week and I've neglected to post this week's official 90% local meal. I also neglected to take a photo, but next time I make this particular meal I'll photograph it.

Thursday night, we had:

Meatloaf (local ground beef, ground pork, eggs, onions, garlic, parsley, yogurt, and bacon, along with non-local pantry items: olive oil, chili sauce, brown sugar, cider vinegar, dried thyme, Dijon, Worcestershire, hot pepper sauce, panko bread crumbs. I ought to be able to find a local source for the chili sauce, vinegar, thyme, Dijon, hot pepper sauce. Not sure about the sugar -- do they make brown sugar from beets? I could also use locally-produced bread and make my own crumbs, but I really like the panko crumbs in this particular recipe, so I'll keep using them. And Worcestershire -- no idea, there. I know it contains anchovies, though, so I'm thinking not.) The meatloaf was out of the freezer, and it was my last one, so I need to make up a new batch of five. I'll take pictures and post the recipe.

Mashed potatoes (local potatoes, butter and cream.)

Salad (local lettuce and microgreens)

Salad dressing (locally-bottled, don't know any more about it. I should try making my own. I make my own mayonnaise, how much harder can it be to add yogurt and herbs?)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Today we freeze...ONIONS?

Yes, onions in the freezer. One of the nice things about onions -- an ingredient many of us use for nearly every meal -- is that they freeze beautifully with minimal processing. Unlike many vegetables, they don't need to be blanched before freezing. The thawed product can't be substituted for onions eaten uncooked (frozen and thawed onions have a texture similar to that of onions that have been sweated briefly) but the difference is imperceptible in nearly all cooked dishes.

We're nearly at the end of onion season here in Southwest Ohio, so this week I went out to Greenacres and bought all they had. The gardener said they might have a few more, so I'll probably head over again in the next few days and see what I find. In a month or so, when my fresh onions have reached the end of their storage life and everyone else is buying onions shipped from Texas, I'll still be using Ohio onions.


Peel and chop the onions into whatever size you find you use most often -- I generally do a 1/4" dice, as that's a fairly versatile size. Spread in a single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet and slip into the freezer for several hours or overnight.

When they're frozen solid, pack the frozen pieces into bags. If you use gallon bags, you can simply take out the bag, remove what onions you need (freezing them before packing means they don't stick together in a solid lump, which facilitates the removal of the exact quantity required) and put the bag right back in the freezer.

I like to vacuum pack whatever I can because removing the air means less freezer burn and in turn longer storage life. I've never vacuum packed onions before, though, so I'll have to see how it works. They may end up sticking together a bit, but maybe if I slam the bag on the counter that'll break them up. I used a 6" vacuum bag rolls, cut a long bag and sealed one end using my handy-dandy Seal-a-Meal. Stuff it full of onions, seal the other end, and place it in the freezer. When I cut open the bag to take some out, I'll end up with a smaller bag but fewer onions and (I hope) have enough room on the new open end to make a fresh vacuum seal. (Sealing requires about 2" of unpacked bag end.)

I'm also saving and freezing the ends of today's onions for the end of next week's roast chicken. When the carcass is clean and I'm ready to make stock, I'll pull the onion ends out of the freezer. How frugal am I?

Eyes on Iowa

There's an argument to be made that as Iowa goes, so goes the future of American farming. Iowa produces more than its fair share of our feed crops and industrial food inputs. Nowhere has industrial agriculture been more important in changing the face of the countryside, and yet fewer Iowans than ever are actually farming, and diversified farms have for the most part gone the way of the VCR.

In a series of reports, Grist investigates what's happening in Iowa and what Iowans are doing to get Iowa -- and perhaps all of American farming -- on a different track.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) thinks we're just dumb.

Rep. Collin Peterson, Chair of the House Agricultural Committee, doesn't think farmers raising organic produce and grass-fed beef for local consumers needs any federal help. ‘It is growing, and it has nothing to do with the government, and that is good,’ he told a reporter for Financial Times. ‘For whatever reason, people are willing to pay two or three times as much for something that says ‘organic’ or ‘local’. Far be it from me to understand what that’s about, but that’s reality. And if people are dumb enough to pay that much then hallelujah.’

I went to Rep. Peterson's website to explain in words of two or fewer syllables that when we eat local and organic, we're supporting local small farmers and sustainable ethical food production, which in turn helps our community thrive and helps protect the environment. But he doesn't take mail from nonconstituents so I guess he'll just have to keep on thinking we're dumb.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Finally, the rain we needed in August and September.

It's raining again today, hooray! I've been assiduously watering my trees since mid-August and anxiously watching those trees that had no one to water them as they slowly turned brown. According to CincinnatiGreen, a blog written by a local arborist, trees can go dormant in a severe drought but whether the tree has gone dormant or has died won't be apparent until the next spring when the tree either leafs out or it doesn't. And even if it does survive, the effects of the drought on that tree can be felt for a decade after.

Here's a fascinating animated map showing the progression of this year's drought week by week. (If the animation doesn't work, click refresh to get it going.)

Well, fascinating to me, of course. To local farmers, it's just plain depressing. I have heard of local grassfarmers having to sell off their pastured herds because there's no pasturing left and the costs of bringing in organic hay are prohibitive in a down year. Other farmers simply gave up on entire crops this year, or opened dying crop fields as pasture for foraging cattle. A year like this can provide a final blow to a struggling small farmer, so it's especially important to buy local whenever we can.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sustainable Organic Local Ethical milk

When I decided I wanted to extend my local eating to local dairy, I discovered it wasn't going to be as easy as finding a local source for tomatoes. Most of us buy milk from some anonymous corporation which in turn has bought it from multiple dairy farms -- some of them megafarms -- and put it all into one big vat. It's impossible to know exactly where that glass of milk came from.

It may have come from somewhere not too far away. United Dairy Farmers' milk is local, if you consider the tristate to be our local area. Their 200 stores in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana are supplied by a milk co-op that includes approximately 75 dairy farmers located throughout the three states. In the grand scheme of things, that actually seems pretty local to me.

But there's a further issue. When I walk out of a UDF with a half-gallon of skim, I have no idea which of those 75 farmers produced that milk, whether his farming methods are sustainable, or how the cow was treated. I also know that the farmer likely is making around $1.77/gallon for his product, which for a small dairy farmer almost certainly isn't enough to keep his farm going from one generation to the next.

Part of my reason for wanting to eat locally -- a big part of it -- is that I want to know how my food is raised. I want to know my food dollars are going to support local farmers using sustainable, humane methods. When possible, I want to know the person who is feeding me. About the only way you can know who produces your milk and how it was produced is to buy it directly from the dairy farmer -- which means it probably hasn't been processed. It's raw. And here in Ohio, that's illegal. In Ohio, raw milk cannot be sold.

Which is why I bought a herdshare.

Under a herdshare agreement, the milk consumer purchases a portion of a cow, pays a set amount per month for that cow's board and care, and receives milk back as the owner's dividend.

I found a dairy farmer nearby who for $50 sold me 1/25th of one of his eight cows. I pay $22 a month for my portion of the cow's board, and in return each week I drive out to the farm and pick up a gallon of fresh raw milk, which works out to about $5.08 per gallon if you discount the original purchase price which I'll get back if I ever decide to sell my portion of the cow. My farmer* produces only raw milk -- an important distinction, as milk intended for pasteurization is generally handled very differently from that which is consumed raw. On my first visit to his farm, he took me out to his small sweet corn field where 'the girls' were eating the remains of the stand of corn that had been lost to this year's drought. They looked up when we came through the gate and came when he called, Cinnamon and the others, and they clearly expected to get petted for their trouble.

The farmer's wife told me on my last visit that they now had a waiting list. I told her they needed to buy another cow. She threw her hands up. "Don't tell him! That's what he's saying! We don't need another cow!"

* I won't reveal my farmer's name for fear of getting him in trouble. Herdshares take advantage of a loophole in Ohio law which has been treated differently by different administrations. The current administration is looking the other way, for now, but given that Big Dairy is a powerful lobby, that could change at any time. The previous administration had a policy of harrassment of herdshare offerers in what seemed a clear attempt to put them out of business by the simple but very effective strategy of requiring them to run up legal fees until they went broke.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

At the Hyde Park Farmers' Market

I joined the Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge, which asks us to prepare one meal a week from local ingredients from now until the end of the year. I've been putting some apples and potatoes by, but I figured we were going to want something green for those late-season meals. Today at the Hyde Park Farmers' Market I found some beautiful kale at Running Creek Farms, so I bought 6 bunches -- all he had -- and I'm going to blanche it and put it into the freezer today. Also grabbed some sort of Japanese greens from Rising Sun Farms, a couple of pounds also for the freezer. I also picked up a half-dozen butternut squash to store in the basement, hoping to serve those once a week, too, and some more raw local honey from McGovern Bee Company.


Fill spaghetti cooker with water, salt lightly, and bring to a boil. Wash kale well (don't skip this step -- like many greens, kale tends to contain a lot of grit, which is not fun to eat) and trim by folding each leaf in half lengthwise and cutting through both sides of the leaf along the main vein to remove the tough vein. Place the trimmed kale into the spaghetti cooker's colander insert and into the boiling water for 2 minutes, then immediately into cold water to arrest the cooking. Drain well and squeeze gently to remove excess water. Separate into meal-size portions (I generally allow 3 ounces per person) and freeze.

If you process several batches of kale like I did today in the same water, consider saving the cooking water as vegetable stock for your freezer.

2007 Farm Bill at YouTube.

This from Oxfam on why it's time to call your Senator.

So that's why it's so hard to know whom to believe.

The New York Times this week offers a fascinating question: Is it possible doctors have succumbed to an irresistible pressure to agree that fat is bad for us when there's no such proof?

In Diet and Fat: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus, (Findings, October 9th) columnist and debunker John Tierney talks about why physicians such as former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop might have made dietary recommendations based on received wisdom rather than on actual evidence. Tierney presents evidence of a phenomenon social scientists call 'informational cascade' in which one person tends to agree with the opinions of trusted others rather than evaluating the evidence independently. As agreement on the issue builds, dissenters are ostracized until eventually an entire community of so-called experts may very well believe something that simply hasn't been proved.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Cultured butter from kefir-cultured cream

I attempted my first cultured butter today.


Place your kefir grains into a flow-through bag (this will keep you from having to fish through the cultured cream, which is as thick as creme fraiche, the next morning to retrieve your kefir grains) and add the bag to a quart or so of raw cream in the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir gently, then cover loosely with a clean cloth. In the morning, the bowl will contain cultured cream. (Which by the way is delicious -- far superior in both taste and texture to commercial sour cream. Use it in place of sour cream, or mix with honey and use in place of cream fraiche or whipped cream.) Fish out the bag containing your kefir grains, squeezing the bag gently to remove as much of your cultured cream as possible.

Place the bowl of cultured cream into the fridge until the temperature of the cream is 60 - 65 degrees. (I use a probe thermometer.) When the cream is at the correct temperature, snap the bowl into the blender and using the whisk attachment (and the shields!) whip on high until the butter comes. I scraped the sides down once after a few minutes.

Drain the butter into a sieve over a catch-bowl. In the bowl you now have cultured buttermilk, and it's delicious if you drink it immediately. If you don't drink it immediately, use it for cooking. If you have no culinary use for it, pour it over the dog's food. I've also used it to encourage the growth of moss in my garden -- moss loves buttermilk.

Place the butter into a small bowl and cover with cold water. (I fill it from the tap and add an ice cube.) With a wooden spoon, press the butter against the sides of the bowl. When the water becomes cloudy, dump it out and start with fresh water, each time using the wooden spoon to turn and press the butter against the sides of the bowl. Turn and press, turn and press, dumping cloudy water and adding fresh water (and if needed another ice cube) again and again until several minutes of turning and pressing don't cloud the water. This step is the most time-consuming and tedious, and it's tempting to stop too soon. Any buttermilk left in your butter will quickly turn rancid, ruining your butter.

When the water stays clear after several minutes of working the butter, drain and place on a cutting board. Work the butter a little longer to work the water out of it, then spread on the board and if desired, lightly salt, work a little longer to work the salt through, then pack and chill. I generally put the finished butter on to a piece of plastic wrap and roll it into a log, then chill. If it's intended for the freezer, I mark and seal.

On first taste, I don't actually detect much difference between the cultured butter and the butter made from fresh raw cream. I need to do a side-by-side taste test using a bland cracker or bread as the delivery medium. Or possibly I need to culture the cream for a longer period before making the butter to develop a stronger taste.