Locavorious: Ann Arbor frozen food CSA

This is about seven kinds of wonderful. Rena at Locavorious has expanded on the idea of a CSA in some really interesting ways. First, instead of a box of fresh vegetables, these CSA shares are made of frozen fruits and vegetables. All products are sourced locally within a short distance of Ann Arbor, Michigan, from existing farms (either by contract or U-Pick). After prep and freezing, Rena stores the veggies in a commercial-quality “community freezer” until November or December. There will be four monthly pick-ups, so there’s no need to buy a freezer to be able to enjoy locally-grown, frozen foods in the middle of winter. Not to mention the labor savings for folks who don’t have the time to tramp to half a dozen U-Pick places and then process all the food!

One of the things I like most about this kind of business is that it really is helping to build an interdependent local economy that’s accessible to mainstream culture. Let’s face it; most of the current US society isn’t going to cook every meal from fresh vegetables just harvested by Farmer Joan down the road. But they might serve a side of frozen green beans harvested by Farmer Joan and frozen by Rena two months ago.

Shares run for 4 months and will probably yield a total of around 30 pounds of food. The “early bird” price for 2008-09 is $100. Sounds like a great deal to me! I’ve already signed up. See details at http://locavorious.com/Eaters.html

Are there other innovative local food businesses out there that I’ve missed? Please let me know if you know of more innovators!

My first township council meeting

As my sweetie and I were eating at our favorite local restaurant tonight, the manager came by. Last time I was in, I’d asked if he might look into getting grass-fed beef for their burgers, if nothing else. He sounded very interested and promised to look into it…but really, what else was he going to say? So I nudged him again this week, and was able to point out to him that Eat Local Eat Natural, which I first heard about a couple days ago, would be moving in right across the street and could supply them with locally-raised grass-fed beef. His eyes lit up and he said, “Across the street? Then we wouldn’t have to pay for shipping!”

This reminded me that the township’s Planning Council meeting, where they were discussing rezoning a parcel of land for Eat Local Eat Natural, would be meeting tonight. And that I wanted to go and voice my support, because no one spoke up for it at the last meeting. (A friend who’s up on this sort of thing tells me no one ever says anything unless it’s to complain, so that’s not much of a surprise.)

So I quickly rescheduled my evening and attended my first township meeting. What’s it like to speak to the council? What’s the quickest way to make friends in a business that you’re passionate about? Read on… Read the rest of this entry »

Local food depot in Ann Arbor!

According to this news article, a new enterprise called “Eat Local Eat Natural” will be opening on the west side of Ann Arbor. Explicitly inspired by The Omnivore’s Dilemma, it will serve as a warehouse and distribution center for local, natural foods – making it easier to get local meat and produce into local restaurants. They will also have a cafe and market. Hooray! The missing link in the chain from farm to restaurant – not to mention much easier local shopping – will soon be here!

Strawberry-Rosemary Jam

jam2008.2A friend and I went strawberry picking this weekend, so Sunday arrived and I had to make jam…or expensive compost. I had planned to make freezer jam, as I’m feeling a bit lazy about the whole canning thing, but when I saw that freezer jam requires twice as much sugar as fruit, I was a little put off.

Then I discovered Harriet Fasenfest and Marge Braker’s Portland Preserve web site and their Small Batch Strawberry Jam. It’s a brilliant and simple recipe: 3 c. sliced strawberries, 1c. sugar, 2Tbl. lemon juice. You cook it in a skillet, and it makes about a pint. I put it up in half-pint jars, which hopefully won’t dry out before we eat them. I also followed their directions for inverting the sterilized jars, which will hopefully keep without refrigeration.

This recipe and method is perfect for me. We don’t eat a lot of jam, so I was perfectly happy to come away with five half-pints from the half-flat of berries I’d picked. And that was actually three different batches, so I got to play with the recipe some. The process felt manageable, too; I’d been dreading hours spent over the stove, five pounds of sugar used, and enough plain old strawberry to last us three years. This recipe is so do-able, I could see doing a batch from a quart of strawberries as the whim takes me during strawberry season, without feeling the need to mark off an entire weekend to pick, clean, cook, and can jam. Brilliant! Thanks, Harriet and Marge!

The first batch was straight strawberry. The second had candied, dried, and grated fresh ginger. The third batch – and I have no idea where this idea come from – had fresh rosemary (about 10 leaves) and sage (2 leaves) shredded and added in the last 3 minutes of cooking. Sample tastes suggest it’s going to be a fabulous flavor combination, especially with slow-risen wheat/rye bread.

And if you’re counting, this is local except for the lemon juice (actually, lime juice in my case) and ginger, because Pioneer and Penninsular beet sugars are grown and produced in Michigan’s thumb area. Strawberries were from Rowe’s U-Pick farm, and herbs came from the deck.

The Rooms at Grayfield, Jonesville, Michigan

Rooms at Grayfield logo.Depot in Jonesville, Michigan.

I just had a lovely belated Mother’s Day dinner with my mom, and I’m so excited by what she’s doing I had to share.

Mom and Dad run a bed and breakfast in Jonesville, Michigan, called the Rooms at Grayfield. The building is the 100+ year old Lakeshore and Michigan Southern railroad station that I grew up in – it was converted to a home in the mid-70s and the garage and most of the station converted to a B&B in 2005.

Mom cooks the gourmet breakfasts and also caters private parties. I have to brag a little about my mom…bragging and the local food connection after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Apple Schram: Michigan Sausage and Bacon…and Apples, Too!

Pig in OrchardPork and apples go together like…pork and apples! Pork chops and applesauce, pork loin and baked apples, roast pork and sauteed apples, potatoes and cabbage stir fried with ham and tart green apples. But a local organic apple orchard is re-discovering an even older pairing: hogs and apple orchards.

Apple Schram orchards (sorry, no web site that I can find…), run by Jane Bush near Charlotte, Michigan, has long supplied SE Michigan with organic apples and cider. In 2003, they started raising hogs, too, in a very impressive bit of orchard ecology. I spoke with Jane on the phone this morning – I hope you’ll be as impressed with her setup as I am.

Details of hogs, apples, and phenomenal sausage after the cut… Read the rest of this entry »

Squashycrumble

Thanks to my sweetie for naming this dish. I was getting tired of calling it “pumpkin pie that isn’t really a pie and isn’t made from pumpkin.”
Recipe:

2 c. butternut squash, baked and mashed (imagine the neck of the squash in a 1c. measuring cup, and bake twice that much. The neck of a largish squash is usually about 2c.)
1.5 c. milk (soy works fine)
2 eggs (don’t add these until after the milk, or the hot squash can cook the eggs)
1/4 c. +/- maple syrup, or sugar to taste
1 tsp. ground dried ginger
3/4 tsp fresh shredded ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves

Pour into ceramic dish and bake at 350 for 15-20 mins. In the meantime, combine until crumbly:
1/2 stick butter or 1/4 c. oil or 1/4 c. coconut shortening
1/3 c. rolled oats
1/3 c. flour (wheat is fine)
1/3 c. (or a little less) sugar

When the filling is half-cooked, spread a handful of crystalized ginger (diced small) over the surface. Then top with the crumble and continue to bake for another 20 minutes or so.

I believe this should be categorized as a breakfast food. 🙂

NaLoFooMo Wrapup

We’re well into December, and I haven’t written since Thanksgiving. Mea culpa. Actually, I don’t feel all that bad about it; this is the most family-centric time of year for me, and if the blog suffered, so be it.

So, how did I do on my self-imposed challenge?

Things I really hope to find:

Boulevard Market: Tecumseh, Michigan Cheese Shop

Boulevard Market owners John and Erika AylwardSaturday I took a drive with a dear friend and visited the Boulevard Market in Tecumseh, Michigan. I’d found them on the web by searching for “Michigan Cheese,” and when I found out what all they had to offer, I knew I had to make a trip even though my relationship with dairy foods is strained, at best.

Read about all the goodies within…

Read the rest of this entry »

Cilantro Chicken Soup: NaLoFooMo Recipe 3

I started with a whole, local, free-range chicken from Ernst Farms.

To make stock:

  • I had roasted the chicken earlier in the week, then, after we’d eaten all the easily-accessible bits…
  • Throw chicken carcass in crock pot. Cover with water and simmer on “low” overnight. (If you don’t have a crock pot, simmer on the stove for 2-3 hors on low.)
  • Strain the broth into a large pot. Pick over the bones and put the chicken back in the pot.
  • Add salt – about 1/2 tsp. per quart of stock.
  • This stock was so rich, I also added a little more plain water to make it a more normal broth strength. Still, it was richer in flavor and less salty than anything store-bought.

To make the soup, add:

  • One large potato, diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2-3 c chopped kale

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are done, about 15 minutes. Just before serving, add:

  • 3 Tbl minced fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 c. frozen corn kernels
  • a squeeze of lime juice (not local, but a nice touch)
  • ground red pepper to taste

The frozen corn will bring the temp of the soup down from scalding to merely “hot,” and that’s all the cooking it needs.

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