Friday, July 04, 2008

Locavorism: Week 1

We are four days into our real experiment with locavorism. As I mentioned, it seemed like we were already well underway because I'd been researching food sources, stocking up, and practicing recipes for the things we'd need to prepare from scratch.

The diversity of produce available at the farmers markets expanded greatly just this week. I even have tomatoes - tomatoes! They are hothouse, but very local.

Here are some things I've learned.

Although local dairy products are not a problem, the one thing I haven't found is yogurt. We can get yogurt from Oregon cows, or California, but not Washington. But my trusty book* told me that yogurt is very easy to make. All you need is milk and...more yogurt. I tried my first batch this week, and it was a flop. It separated into liquid whey and, well, whatever else there is in milk when you take out the whey.

Upon re-reading the instructions, I noticed the firm admonition to only use very fresh ingredients. Since I'd scraped the bottom of a yogurt tub that had been open for two weeks to get my yogurt starter, I figured this was my problem. So I tried again, and this time it came out beautifully. It is indeed very simple, except for the fact that you have to heat the milk to boiling, and of course that takes some care. Then you have to let it cool to a very precise temperature before putting in the starter yogurt. So it doesn't take a lot of work, but it takes a lot of attention while you're doing it.

So, add yogurt-making to bread-baking, steam-juicing and canning, on my list of newly developed skills.

Speaking of juicing, I finally managed to extract a full half-gallon jug of juice. It took somewhere between 4 and 5 pounds of fruit.

Meanwhile, our strawberry patch is going nuts, producing way more strawberries than we can keep up with. I have no desire to freeze the excess since local frozen berries of all kinds are abundantly available here in winter. So I decided to take a bunch to our friends on 4th of July, as part of our food contribution. The strawberries were so ripe that I didn't think they'd keep even two more days, so I cooked them down slightly with some honey and a bit of (local) apple cider vinegar. I'll bake a loaf of fresh bread, too, and probably take the juice.

So behold the fruits of my recent labor: yogurt; strawberry sauce; and a jug of aprium / apple/ strawberry juice:

* Stocking Up, by Carol Hupping, which covers things like canning, drying, freezing, making dairy products, baking bread, preserving meat and - I kid you not - storing food underground for the winter. It's like a pioneer woman's survival guide.

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