Eat Mendocino

2 women, 365 days, 3,878 square miles


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How to make a pumpkin pie from scratch

Carl Sagan says if you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ssV79Qi7mM

At my family’s house, (or rather, our clan of houses all clustered together) that was pretty much true. I learned pie from my Great-Grandma, from apples we picked from her trees. As a little kid looking up at the generations above me, it did seem like the genesis of each apple was infinite, and the steps to bring them together were alchemical and ancient. The recipes were an oral tradition, a creation myth with room for individual interpretation but centered around some core beliefs.

These simple rules are not flexible but allow for infinite variation. So, to make a pumpkin pie from scratch, first invent the universe. Plant, tend, fertilize, water and harvest your pumpkin. Then bake until semi soft, slice in half, and bake some more cut side down until very soft.

1226131245This particular pumpkin is a Minnesota Sweet that did very well despite our drought causing me to decide to stop watering my variety trial patch halfway through summer.

While the baking is going down, make your crust.

1226131301Add your dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. For me, this was about two cups (I have never measured, nor seen a family member measure) of Doug’s flour, grated Bay nuts for spice, and a pinch of salt. I used evaporated salt from a rice cooker because its texture is much finer than the larger sea salt we’ve gathered or made in bigger pots. For a non-local version, you can add sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg to your crust.

1226131302Grated Bay nuts! These little guys are like a combination of chocolate and nutmeg. They are my favorite spice and they are free for the taking every fall- check your local bay trees.

1226131304This is Clover Stornetta’s unsalted butter, which is processed in Sonoma County from cows raised in Mendocino and Sonoma. My folks live right next to Stornetta’s dairy, and I grew up riding bikes out on their cow paths, so while I’m visiting my folks this butter is Eat Mendocino legal.

1226131305The important thing about adding your fat, is it should be COLD. As firm as possible. Over working or warm fat makes pie dough super tough, which is extra challenging with our local, heirloom, real flour- it’s burlier and more prone to getting tough. Butter and lard work great, Crisco is the devil. Chop it into the flour with a pastry cutter if you have one, they rock- or a fork, but go for the bare minimum it takes for it to hold together.

1226131307This was my Great-Grandma’s trick- ice water. Apparently it’s a lot of other Grandma’s trick, too, and it really works. Use a spoon or fork to gently incorporate the smallest possible amount of water. Don’t overwork! Stop when dough holds together.

1226131308bThis is about the point when you can make a ball.

1226131309Ball of dough! On floured cutting board.

1226131310Make sure you flour your surfaces and pin (or wine bottle, whichever) more than you think you need to. Don’t stress about butter chunks in your crust. Ideally they’re small, maybe they’re not. It’s cool.

1226131315Okay, big moment. Transferring the crust from board to pie dish. To do this, sprinkle generous dustings of flour onto half of the crust.

1226131315aFold like a big pie quesadilla.

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1226131316And then unfold!

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Time for little decorative pinches. Or just cram the edges down.

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Poke some holes in the bottom of the crust, using a fork.

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Pretty spiral patterns are bonus points, mine never come out that way.
1226131320Pre-bake your crust for 10-15 minutes. Some people cover with foil or part of the bake time, or weigh the crust with dry beans. I never have, and it’s been fine.

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Time to wrangle pumpkin.

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Slice off the skin, or scoop out the flesh if you’re using a thick skinned squash.

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Cut up your squash and add it to a heavy stock pot.

1226131430I added tons of honey, grated bay nuts, and lemon zest to the mixture.

1226131435Once it cooked down a bit on very low heat I added a cup of heavy cream and three beaten eggs and blended it with an immersion blender.

1226131347Pre-baked crust!

1226131442Fill with the squash goop! Then bake at 375 until the center is barely set and a knife comes out clean. About 40 minutes.

1226131449In my family, the tradition is to make tiny tarts out of whatever dough is left over. When my cousins next door were little they would sneak over when my mom was making pie and make a big show of stealing the tarts, and my mom would recite the nursery rhyme and chase them around. The Knave of Hearts is now an official teenager with the beginnings of a mustache, but it’s still a fun thing to do with excess dough. You can also freeze it, it works just fine later.

1226131612aSnack sized pumpkin bites.

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Pie love .

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This is my last pie in this house, and it feels really good. For Christmas, my mom gave me my Great-Grandma’s serving bowl, to take with me to our new home. I’m also going to pull a farmer trick and cut scions from the apple trees to graft to new rootstock, planting the fruit of my family in new soils, where they will bear for generations to come.

Loves,

Gowan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Honey-poached quince & apple pie

It seems like Christmas is a time to wear ugly sweaters, celebrate the white elephant, and cook things you’ve never attempted before. I have done all of the above in the last week. In this episode of, “It might be totally gross,” I decided to bake a pie, against my better judgment. I am not a baker, and I really have no business making pie. But, I had some quince patiently waiting in my fridge forever that I had purchased from one of my favorite vendors at the Farmers’ Market and I wanted to do right by them and to honor Lillian Drinkwater’s beautiful hands. So, I set out to make pie.

Quince

I loosely followed this Honey-poached quince pie recipe, with a lot of adaptations. The main reason I am not a baker is that I categorically defy recipes, even when I’m not limited by the local parameters. In this case, I substituted honey for sugar, which was no problem, and added apples to the mix. The crust is where things didn’t exactly work out. I fear pie crust, and I decided to use some previously made tortilla dough to roll into a crust, rather than starting from scratch and dealing with diced butter, ice water and other delicate maneuvers. I don’t even own a rolling pin so I used a bottle of olive oil to roll it out.

Honey-poached quince apple pie

I think it would have worked out OK if I had had enough of the dough, but the amount was only sufficient for a very thin bottom crust, leaving the top exposed and the edges sparse. It smelled like a proper pie, but didn’t quite come out like a masterpiece. The thin crust got too crispy around the edges and I think it got too dry due to being topless.

I was planning to bring the pie to a White Elephant party, but I got too self-conscious at the last minute, so I left it in the car. It tasted pretty good based on my low baking standards, but it wasn’t anything to brag about. And then I got to eat it for breakfast for many days, topped with yogurt and honey so I guess it’s a success of sorts.

Quince & apple pie

A bigger success was the gift exchange at the party. My first gift was tiny bottles of Patron tequila (my fave) and Bulleit bourbon, and I unwrapped them with wide-eyed amazement at the existence of hard liquor and the realization that I could actually consume it in fewer days than I could count on my fingers. As white elephant parties go, this gift was of course stolen from me, despite my dramatic pleas. It was, ultimately, a happy ending. I scored some beautiful handmade beeswax candles from Carson & Bees, and then in a most un-Grinchlike act, the winner of the tequila gifted it to me!

Beeswax candles & tequila!

In the next installment I will share the wonderful adventures of making 100% local Christmas pozole in Santa Barbara with my family, with the assistance of my pug-niece, Lola.

Lola the pug-blogger

Merry merry to all!


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Clean slate

Our Americorp team at Noyo Food Forest is amazing. With their help, we’re totally re-organizing the farm at Fort Bragg High School and designing a system that will be streamlined and efficient enough for me to manage it part time, the way my job was always designed.

1205131617Its so cathartic and amazing to me to see the ground cleared, all the odds and ends of years and years of teenager traffic wiped away, and the possibilities laid out for us to see.

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I’m convinced Americorp members are some of the best people out there. They have without exception been intelligent, positive, scrappy, incredibly energetic and happy to jump in and do just about anything- including shovel manure. 1205131618fThe garden is looking very different- we now have nine eighty foot long beds for our main market garden, a big change from the patchwork of smaller beds and perennials we had before. This will allow me to produce food for the school cafeterias on a truly wonderful level. The wide beds carry the garden’s legacy of biointensive practices, and the deep rich soil made with composted hops and grain from North Coast Brewing Company will make for some very happy plants.

We’re starting 2014 in the perfect way.

 

Loves,

Gowan


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Thanksgiving

This was a really sweet and lovely year. It’s going to be the last year having Thanksgiving in my family home, by the ocean in Gualala. My mom bought the house in the late 70’s, and it’s the only family home we’ve ever had. My Aunt is our next door neighbor, and my Grandma is staying with her, so it’s a lot like my childhood, except my Gramps has passed away and my cousin and I can drink a glass of wine if we want.

I’m totally re-designing the market garden at Noyo Food Forest, with the help of an amazing group of young people- ten Americorp NCCC volunteers. I love Americorp, some of my favorite people have come into my life through that organization. Americorp team members are some of the most positive, hard working, scrappy, fun people I’ve ever gotten to work with, and I feel very lucky.

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This team helped to clear out all the final, end-of-season produce from the garden so we can re-do the beds and irrigation.

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They also processed the turkeys I raised this year- the first experience for all of them. Its was a really profound and sometimes difficult experience, but the birds were raised with love and care and died quickly and with respect, and that’s as much as anyone can do. The team pitched in and helped my amazing mother, veteran of many many big family dinners, prepare a local feast for 20 people. My family and the Americorp team crammed into the old house, and I felt so thankful for everyone, and the animals and plants that feed us, and the people who raise and grow them, and that I’m alive after all these months in their collective care.

1128131558I’m so thankful. After dinner we all piled onto the floor of the living room with a fire in the big cast iron wood stove, and watched Women on the Land, our dear friend’s Carmen and Laurie’s film about the history of women farmers in Mendocino. I feel so thankful to get to be here, and get to be part of the legacy of this place, and to have the elders that are here to go back to for advice and inspiration and perspective. I feel fed by this place in so many ways, physically and practically, and emotionally and spiritually. I give thanks for the food, the land that sustains it, the people that tend it, and the learning process we all take part in collectively, through the generations, to be stewards and students of this place.

Loves,

Gowan


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December 1st

Sarah and I are now entering out 12th month of our local eating adventure.

This morning as I sipped mint and nettle tea and ate left over mashed potatoes my mom grilled crispy under the broiler, I thought about a questions my mom, my dad, my grandma, and pretty much everyone else has asked me recently: “what’s going to be the first thing you eat, January 1st?” People ask that a lot, all year it was “what do you miss?” and now that we’re in the home stretch, it’s “what are you most excited about?”

I have to say, I can’t think of anything I want. I’m starting to go over it in my head- what does New Year’s Day look like? I honestly have no idea.

I was a super hardcore coffee addict. It still smells good to me, but I haven’t had the slightest inclination to actually drink it in months. I can’t think of anything else. I sorta want to say something really epic and exotic- like kumquats or haggis or fish curry- but none of that sounds like food to me at this point, and as much as I remember loving Thai and Indian and Vietnamese food, I’ve had a fairly spice free existence for a year and fear the consequences of reacquainting myself with it.

I’m not sure what, if anything, will change 30 days from now, for me. Sarah might have a totally different feeling about Jan 1, and I’m sure we’ll both have a chance to talk about it a lot in the next month. I definitely feel a sense of appreciation for everyone who’s followed our journey this far and I’m so grateful we started on this path- I had no idea it was going to be so humbling and empowering, so much work and so abundant, so isolating and so connecting.

It’s been, in other words, just as diverse and beautiful, remote and embracing, as this place we live.

Loves,

Gowan


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Farm to Table Harvest Feast: A Benefit for Mendocino County School Gardens

Farm to Table Harvest Feast

We are delighted to bring the Farm to Table Dinner experience to our inland community this fall, to help keep school gardens open throughout the county.

Eat Mendocino Presents a Farm to Table Harvest Feast

Hosted at Black Oak Coffee Roasters (476 N. State Street, Ukiah)

Saturday November 9th, 2013

Join us for a 100% Mendocino-grown harvest dinner paired with local wine and coffee

6:00 pm: Open wine bar & behind-the-scenes tour of the roasting room

6:30 pm: Dinner begins

This is a benefit to help save Mendocino County’s School Gardens. We will be raising funds for the Garden Enhanced Nutrition Education (GENE) program, to support a healthy, fresh food future for the children in our community.

Tickets will be available at Black Oak Coffee Roasters and Westside Renaissance Market in Ukiah. Or email eatmendocino@gmail.com to RSVP.

$50 advance/$55 at the door

Contact Sarah for more info (707) 593-6135

Read more about the funding crisis for Mendocino County School Gardens and learn what you can do about it (in addition to coming to the dinner!)


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Corn Harvest this Past Weekend

Over the hills, through the fields, into a magical corn patch we went. The corn grew red and green and handmade fresh tortillas were served to us in the field between shucking and tossing! Thank you to our badass friends who grow real, beautiful food and invite us to partake in work parties that hardly feel like work at all. I went home with a belly full of tacos and local wine with the smell of bonfire in my hair. Another day in the good life.

 

Mendocino Meats

Many thanks to everyone who helped us harvest the Oaxacan Green dent corn in Potter Valley on Saturday! We had 15 wonderful people from all over the county join us on a beautiful fall afternoon. Everyone was extremely helpful and we harvested about half of the Oaxacan Green corn. The Abenaki Calais flint corn did not produce so great, so we didn’t bother with it.

Non-GMO-Month-2013-Logo-300x149What better way to celebrate our right to choose non-GMO food than to harvest open-pollinated heirloom corn. Corn is one of the most widely planted GMO crops in this country. We have always been passionate about promoting non-GMO food and farming. In 2003/2004, Adam was an active campaigner for the successful “Yes on Measure H” campaign to ban GMO crop cultivation in Mendocino County. He has fond memories of collecting petition signatures and organizing his first fundraiser dinner! Although, while we can petition and vote…

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