Eat Mendocino

2 women, 365 days, 3,878 square miles


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What my freezer looks like with 12 days to go

While most people are baking sugar cookies and singing the Twelve Days of Christmas, I am now facing the unbelievable reality that we are only twelve days away from the end of this indescribable year. Twelve. Less than two weeks to go. The thought of it is surreal. I can only wrap my mind around what is what is right in front of me, and what I’ll be eating next (which I guess is how we’ve made it this far). While staring into my freezer today, I realized that this is the well-stocked freezer of a locavore who knows what she’s doing, in stark contrast to what it held one year ago when we were about to learn what it meant to be hungry in the middle of the winter.

In preparation for the Christmas break, I spent the day wrapping up some projects for work, hastily doing my taxes so that I can apply for Obamacare, and doing various food projects. Like devouring this rockin’ quesadilla…

Homemade tortilla with flour from the Mendocino Grain Project and fresh mozzarella cheese

Dehydrating a bunch of Hachiya persimmons…

Persimmons

And, making a batch of sea salt. This jar is Gowan’s Christmas present!

sea salt

While we only have a couple weeks left (and trust me, I’m really looking forward to relaxing my life a bit when this is “over”), it’s not really about the countdown. I could survive on what’s in my cupboard and refrigerator for months. I don’t need to keep processing and putting away food. But, that is not the point. This project is as infinite as nature. It’s not really ending and it never will; the seasons will continue to cycle and the rhythm of this new food lifestyle will continue as naturally as the wind blows. I like this rhythm, no I really, really love it, and I want to follow it to the best of my ability always.

So, back to the freezer. If my kitchen were any smaller it couldn’t even be called a kitchen. But, I do have a pretty standard-sized freezer and it is completely stacked with food collected over the last twelve months. Here’s what it holds today…

Freezer Inventory:

Beef marrow bones from Magruder Ranch
The BEST peaches I’ve ever had
Elderberries
Salmon Steak from Noyo Fish Company
Three pork chops
A pig heart and other organ meat
Bone broth made from beef marrow bones and crab shells
Meyer lemon juice frozen in ice cube trays
Brown rice from Massa Organics at the Chico Farmers’ Market
Persimmons
Raw butter
Squid bait for fishing
Spicy tomato sauce
Yellow plum jam
Figs
Bean soup
Ice packs for my trusty cooler
The bowl for the ice cream maker (it’s important to always have this in the freezer in case you have a sudden need for ice cream)
Plus, a plastic bag filled with compost. Yes I keep my compost in the freezer until I dump it. It helps mitigate funky kitchen smell and flies when you cook as much as I do. Feel free to borrow this trick.

Quite a list, eh? I even impressed myself by digging out things I’d forgotten about! Two indisputable lessons from living the local life: nothing is more comforting than full cupboards and nothing is sweeter than a perfectly ripe persimmon. I am an extremely fortunate girl and I might even have subsidized health care soon, too.


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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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Locavore Potluck on Tuesday August 13th: Eat local with us!

Today I found out that we actually got the ear of the much discussed SF Chronicle writer, and she published a response to readers regarding her story, which includes a direct link to our post. I’m not going to comment on her calculated response; I have said enough!

I do want to invite you to have dinner with us. It’s about time that we did this. We are hosting a community potluck and everyone is invited to break bread with us. We will also discuss the upcoming Farm to Table Dinner at the end of August,, so if you’d like to volunteer it would be wonderful to have you there.  Pick something up at the Farmers’ Market, or bring something from your garden. Be sure to check out the rules, so that your dish is “legal.”

We will have local sea salt, herbs, chili pepper, olive oil and apple cider vinegar on hand in case you need some help in the flavor department. This will be a casual event with good food, good people, and possibly a trouble-making baby goat. Families are welcome!

Eat Mendocino Potluck

Tuesday, August 13th, 6:30 – 8:00 pm

Location has been changed to the Mendocino Community Center on School Street in Mendocino.

What to bring? Anything and everything local!

Watercolor painting of the Noyo Food Forest


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How to open a wine bottle with a rock

What happens when a bunch of amazing women who are thought leaders in the food/farming movement get together for a weekend on a cattle ranch? For those who came from the coast and the Bay Area, we strip off our fog-proof layers and introduce the Potter Valley sun to our flesh. The inlanders greet us with and ATV loaded with ice chests and lead us to the river.

River bound!

Where we float on innertubes like kids, drink chilled wine, apply precautionary amounts of sunscreen to the places we can’t reach, and do what women do best: we bob around in the current, naturally flowing in and out of conversation with old friends and new faces as our bodies languidly salute the afternoon sun.

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We discuss things like the feasibility of a meat processing plant in Mendocino County, how to follow your passion for food systems change and also pay the bills, and setting boundaries with men – and baby piglets (which actually have quite a lot in common).

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The best way to summarize the amazing weekend we had is with this video. For nothing demonstrates the creative resourcefulness of a bunch of Type A food visionaries who are not waiting for a better world. We are picking up whatever tools we’ve got to make it happen, right now. Everyone has something to offer and we are all indispensable. In this case we would have been lost without Katherine’s primitive bottle busting know-how when we realized we’d brought everything but a wine opener…

We were invited to Magruder Ranch for a retreat with a group of women who work in food and ag as farmers or ranchers or media people, advocates and organizers. Basically, it was a locavore’s dream. We were surrounded by our people, filled with vibrant enthusiasm for creating a new agriculture future. Most of all, it was a chance to connect with other womenfolk, talk about life and work and health and joy and how to balance it all. And, of course we ate a TON of incredible food.

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… including TWO different kinds of local popsicles. Farmer Kyle made us these peach, mint & redwood tip delights!

Popsicles!

Eaten on the patio of Black Oak Coffee Roasters, where Gowan had a LOCAL LATTE, made with Lover’s Lane Honey and bee pollen. We were pretty much brimming with happy.

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And then we picked up berry-apple pops at Gowan’s Oak Tree farmstand on the way home. What a weekend, what a life. Thank you women, for a wonderful, heart-bursting getaway of goodness. We returned to the coast with toasted skin, renewed smiles, and sticky popsicle fingers. It’s so good to know that there are friends and colleagues out there, all over the state, country and the world who are working toward a food world that truly feeds people. But, it’s even better when we actually get to hang out together, gather around the cutting board and the stove and share a glass of wine. These comings-together are just as important as the work we are all doing; that truly is what it’s all about.


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Candy Cap Mushroom Ice Cream Recipe

I love my mom for many reasons. But, I especially love it when she comes to visit and I wake up to a yummy local breakfast, and a clean stove. Apparently I do did not inherit the gene that motivates you to wipe down the stove after every meal (or the one that makes you fold laundry straight out of the dryer) I decided to demonstrate my daughterly appreciation with some limited edition Mendocino grown candy cap mushroom ice cream.

Disclaimer: Writing recipes is hard because we don’t often use them, or modify them so much at whim that we don’t exactly remember what we did, but we’re just happy it’s not totally gross. We have, however, made this ice cream so many times that we have something that closely remembers a replicable recipe. When I am less than exacting or if things don’t turn out as I hoped, know I am not withholding my secrets – just admitting a highly improvisational approach to cooking. You might finding it liberating to find out that it’s hard to screw up most things.

For those of you who are not familiar of the wondrous candy cap mushroom, welcome. They have the scent and flavor of maple syrup and grow abundantly in the woods on the Mendocino Coast. We harvested ours last winter and dried them. Sadly I am down to the bottom of the jar, because we love this ice cream so much. Good thing berry season is here.

Dried candy cap mushrooms

Candy Cap Mushroom Ice Cream

2 cups of milk (we like it whole and fresh). This is the right amount for my ice cream maker – depends on your machine.

about 1/4 c. dried whole candy cap mushrooms (or approximately enough to cover the bottom of the Vitamix blender…)

a few Tbsp. of local raw honey. I used wildflower honey from Lovers Lane Farm

Equipment:

An ice cream maker. This is the Cuisinart that I have and I’ve been really happy with it.

A blender or coffee grinder.

Directions:

Begin by grinding the candy caps in the blender or coffee grinder. I use my Vitamix for this, which powders them really nicely.

Candy cap mushroom powder

Heat two cups of milk in a saucepan until the edges are just starting to simmer. Don’t let the milk burn, as always.

While milk heats, beat 3-4 eggs in a bowl with 2 Tbsp+ of honey. I have started adding a bit more honey. Beat well until blended.

*Slowly* pour the warm milk into the eggs, whisking continuously.

Add candy caps to the mixture and whisk everything together.

Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan and heat on low, stirring constantly with a big spatula. You may need to lift it off the stove to control the temp – you want it to thicken, but not curdle. This is the only delicate part of the process. Stay alert. *If* it starts to curdle, take it off the heat immediately  and whisk vigorously. It’s probably thick enough once this happens.

Chill the mixture, ideally overnight, in the fridge. In an ice cream emergency, an ice bath will do. The results are much better when the ice cream mixture has cooled completely.

When ready to make ice cream, pour into the ice cream maker. Turn on and let the magic happen. I think it usually takes about 20 minutes.

Cuisinart ICe Cream Maker


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Local wheels for local food

It has been a big, big week for Eat Mendocino.  I baked my very first loaf of bread (after 5 1/2 years of being gluten free and a lifetime of not being a baker) the same day that the owner of the big local grocery store, Harvest Market, contacted us wanting to collaborate to get more local food on the shelves! Then, Gowan’s goat Mandy delivered twins on Mother’s Day. And, the very next day, Gowan adopted a third baby goat, which we snuggled while eating our first 100% local apple pie. She has since been aptly named, “Apple.” It’s a good, full life. *sigh*

Apple, Gowan's new dwarf nigerian baby goatSarah eating sourdough rye bread. Joyful disbelief.Sourdough rye bread for breakfast!Bakemistress Jacquelyn cutting the apple pie!

But, that is not what this blog post is about. This entry is about mobility. It has been a month and a half since I totaled my darling steel tank, Mrs. Butterwheels. I still don’t love talking about it, but it’s essential to understanding how my life is changing in deep and important ways. Time has passed, but I do not like being in cars, to say the least. I try to limit most of my activity within walking radius, and ride the bus or carpool when I really need to. Usually, this works. I have swiftly and resourcefully redesigned my life so that I can do most of my work from my living room, walk or ride the bus when I must get to the doctor or visit just-born baby goats. I’m learning to slow down, in profound ways. I am rethinking how much I really “need” to go somewhere, and am exploring the wonderfully dangerous world of online shopping (my shiny new bread knife arrived today!) There are flaws in all of these systems and choices, but it’s basically working out so far and the local diet has yet to be compromised, thanks to many benevolent agents who have delivered food in clutch situations.

Ironically, the main obstacle in this locavore’s life is my new gig as manager of the Mendocino Farmers’ Market. It is located approximately 7 blocks from my house, and you would think it’s the ideal job for a localized locavore. Yet, the only thing that has forced me behind the wheel of a car is my market manager duties. I have to lug tons of heavy signs around town before market day, and then bring all the gear for my booth every Friday (table, chair, paperwork, schwag, and the machine to accept Food Stamps, etc.). Thankfully I have many wheeled friends who have been helping me thus far, but I’m feeling far from autonomous and my favors are running out.

I have been fretfully wrestling with this conundrum for the past 2 weeks. I need wheels. But, I don’t necessarily need a car. The first thought was a large red wagon, at the suggestion of some of the other market managers. Which might work, but wagons are most efficient when used at the market itself. I need to schlep signs all over town, and then pick them up after a long day at the market. I need to cover ground, and not spend my entire Friday night doing so. The solution became fairly obvious.

As my favorite bumper sticker says, I realized it was time to, “Put the fun between your legs.”

I needed to outfit my bicycle with some kind of cargo cart! After some internet research, I have found the perfect thing: the Croozer Cargo Bike Trailer. It’s probably made in China, but it’s all part of the transitional economy…Croozer Cargo Bike Trailer

My market budget cannot afford this new expense ($200), so I’m inviting you, beloved fans, to help me get back on the “horse” and fuel a pedal powered local food economy. It’s easy, just click here to donate safely and securely via Paypal. Donations of any amount are deeply appreciated, from the bottom of my shaken but mighty little heart.

The market is off to a great start, and I know the season is going to unfold in wonderful and unexpected ways. Sheriff Tom Allman drops by for a visit at the Mendocino Farmers' MarketMy goal is to use it as a platform to get as many people excited about local food as possible! Sheriff Allman dropped by during opening day and purchased an apple tree grafted by the horticulture students at Mendocino High School. He invited Gowan and I to visit the County Jail’s garden, which has introduced locally grown food into the jail kitchen, allowed inmates to get their hands in the dirt, and reduced the annual food costs by $40,000! This is what it’s all really about. Do come by and say hi to me at the Mendocino market every Friday from Noon – 2 pm. You will find Gowan and her lovely produce at the Wednesday market in Fort Bragg from 3-6 pm.

And, if you need to see more baby goat pictures (because who doesn’t?), check out our Facebook page, and our YouTube channel.

xo
Sarah


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How to make real yogurt

In the natural division of labor in our domestic pact, I make the yogurt and Gowan makes the cheese. It’s largely based on equipment: I have a gas oven, and she has a dehydrator. But, I like my job a lot. It might have something to do with a genetic predisposition to yogurt (I am Greek after all). But, I like the many steps to yogurt making and find the process grounding and meditative. And, now I will share all my secrets with you. The thing about making yogurt, and making most things really, is that none of it is very complicated. It just requires a few simple pieces of equipment and good timing. You can’t let the milk go bad, make sure you don’t run out of starter, and make the time to get it going and also be sure that you will be available to take it out many hours later. (I have ruined yogurt due to late night escapades…) So, it is really an act of being present more akin to meditation than cooking. But, maybe they are one and the same. Making yogurt is also a lesson in freedom.

There are lots of different ways to make yogurt. I’m not an expert, this is just the way I do it and I think it reliably makes damn good yogurt. Gowan agrees. Wild FermentationI learned from the book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz – which is a fantastic resource for all things cultured and fermented. I don’t have a yogurt maker, but I’m not opposed to using them – I just don’t have one and don’t seem to need it. So here it is:

Equipment:

  • A sauce pan or small/medium soup pot – sized according to how much milk you have and yogurt you want to make
  • A gas oven – this is important for this method. If you don’t have a gas oven, you will need to find another way to incubate the yogurt at a steady temp (like a yogurt maker). Some people put it in a cooler, wrapped in towels, next to bottles of hot water. The oven is just easy and the temp seems to stay steady.
  • A candy thermometer
  • Whisk or rubber spatula
  • Mason jars – I like the wide mouth quart or pint sizes for yogurt making
  • Ice and a sink or large bowl for making an ice bath

Ingredients:

  • Cow Milk. We are lucky to have fresh milk right from the udder. You can use any kind of milk – store bought, Organic, rBGH free, but we strongly recommend using whole milk – always. I have ranted about the integrity of whole milk in another post, so I will not belabor this point here. It is possible to make yogurt with other kinds of milk, but cow is what we have, so that’s what we’re using right now. It’s true that all milk is breast milk, and we recommend getting as close to the breast as possible. It really will taste better.
  • A little bit of yogurt for starter – this can be from your last batch, or from the store, or from a friend (which is my favorite place to get it). You don’t need much, but we’ll get into that later.
  • That’s it!

Directions:

  1. Pour milk into saucepan, insert the candy thermometer and begin to heat on low to medium low. Stir frequently. Do NOT let the milk burn. That is your number one priority. I post up next to the stove and try not to leave it, because I burned it once and I will never let that happen again. Burnt milk = gross yogurt.
  2. Keep stirring diligently until you raise the temp of the milk to 180 degrees. Stirring keeps it from burning and keeps the temp even throughout the pan.
  3. Prepare an ice bath. Once the milk has reached desired temp, turn off the burner. Place the pan in the ice bath and allow the milk to cool to 110 degrees, stirring occasionally so it cools evenly as well.Yogurt in an ice bath
  4. Turn the oven on to the lowest setting for a few minutes while you complete the next step.
  5. Pour the cooled milk into the mason jars and then stir in the starter. Yogurt in jarsYou need way less starter than you think – only 1 tablespoon per quart. I learned this from one of my favorite cooking quotes of all time, found in Wild Fermentation and borrowed from the Joy of Cooking. (P.S. I just added Joy to our Wish List b/c I don’t actually own a copy which is unbelievable, yet true.) Ok, so this is why yogurt is all about freedom:

    “You may wonder why so little starter is used and think that a little more will produce a better result. It won’t. The bacillus, if crowded, gives a sour, watery product. But if the culture has sufficient ‘Lebensraum’ [German for ‘room to live’], it will be rich, mild, and creamy.”

  6. Turn off oven, and then place jars on oven rack for incubation. The oven will retain warmth from pre-heating it, and the pilot light will keep it warm enough for the cultures to get happy and do their thing. Try not to move the jars at all once incubation begins – it makes the yogurt unhappy.
  7. Leave yogurt in the oven for 8-12 hours, depending on desired thickness – or when you remember to take it out! I like to do this in the evening so that there is fresh yogurt in the morning – which is the best thing ever (and so that my oven isn’t occupied during the day).
  8. Remove and enjoy straight out of the jar! If you are Greek like me, or just have really good taste, you may want to strain your yogurt to make it even thicker. To strain it, you line a colander with cheesecloth and place in a bowl. Pour in the yogurt and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The whey will separate, making your yogurt even thicker, creamier and more delicious than it already was. Save the whey for other cooking uses. This is what I do when I have the patience to not eat it right away.