Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas, the Local Foods Way!
This year's local foods Christmas gift.

Each year Chris and I make food baskets for our family and friends and like to tie in our love of local foods.  Part of the fun is brainstorming ideas for our basket, and this year, we decided to share homemade mulberry syrup and pancake mix made with organic locally grown wheat.  Every year isn't successful, like the year we made homemade pasta and due to lack of proper drying time, the jar was filled with mold by the time it reached Chris's grandmother.  (Yes, you need to start early for some of these projects, which we don't always do!)  Yikes!  Well, at least we had a festive colored package, even if it wasn't supposed to be green!

I wanted to share the process we went through, okay, Chris went through, to make part of the gifts this year.  The mulberry syrup was an extra special project that expanded my food knowledge.  Here's the process...

Of course, every good local gift begins with the harvest.  Here are a couple pictures of the May mulberry harvest we enjoyed over the summer.  Yes, Clara helped :)

and she enjoys feeding others as much as Chris and I do.

Chris began the syrup process by thawing, boiling and mashing the mulberries.
Once they were adequately boiled, he cut up an old (but clean) shirt and tied them up to drain all the sweet goodness out of them, and to remove the skins and seeds.
We put what we didn't use in the compost bucket, which made me a little sad because I like to use EVERYTHING if we can.  What could we have used this for?  Fruit leather?  I figured the flavor was mainly gone, so I didn't put up too much of an argument to save this compost.  Chris said it's hard because there are so many seeds.  And really, as compost, what is seen in this picture will become tomorrow's nutritious garden soil and our yummy tomato.
Before packaging, Chris reduced the mulberry juice, added sugar, corn syrup, salt
and a couple drops of lime juice.
When I finally got to taste the syrup, I was ecstatic over the flavor of the syrup.  As I described it to Chris, I said the flavor was really "quick" or "short."  That maple syrup has a much longer, milder flavor but this syrup, this was powerful and wonderful.  He confirmed that people in the foodie industry do use the terms "long" and "short" to describe flavors, which was new to me but made complete sense after tasting this mulberry syrup.
Now, for the pancakes, the less interesting (in my opinion)  process included milling the flour.
Once he milled the local flour, Chris added a few necessary ingredients like salt, baking soda and cream of tarter (our own aluminum free baking powder mix), etc.  Then it was time to package.
We hope everyone who received a little part of Kansas this year enjoyed it.  I know I sure do (thankfully, we've got some syrup left over!)
From our lil' family to you, hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Heritage of Local Eating...and a Surprise!!

Clara helping Daddy prepare to start seeds in March, 2012.
If you're a regular blog follower, you know Chris, Clara & I said goodbye to the garden we planted in the spring, and moved to a new community in June.  We're incredibly pleased with our new home (although, there is a TON of updating and work to do to make it ours, which will take YEARS!)  Friendly faces surround this community, and we already run into people we know regularly.  I felt a little as if we are local food failures this year, but then I began to take account of the winter pantry we built.  Smaller than previous years, but still plentiful.  This year we:

*Picked mulberries, froze.
*Picked June berries, froze.
*Picked apricots, froze.
*Picked apples, dried and froze.
*Picked pears, dried.
*Grew a ton of butternut squash that we are using consistently and squirreling away for the winter.
*Enjoyed a ton of homegrown watermelon.  Gpa's farm grows the best watermelon!

We also planted two grape vines, a pear tree, and a couple apricot trees on our new property.  And of course, we always have our stash of local, organic wheat berries to grind for fresh bread, crackers, pasta and other grain foods.

This summer, while watching Clara (now 20 months) help us harvest various items, I've pondered how there really is a heritage to local eating.  I want to share some pictures of the heritage we are building into her life and the lives of those around us this summer.

This is my little cousin, picking June berries and, according to his father, eating them "like candy."  His mom is an avid gardener and says she doesn't get any strawberries in her house in the summer because he is out there picking and eating the ripe red jewels. 

Here's Clara on one of our many harvesting adventures.  Even at 14 months she loved helping pick mulberries.  Now, anything that looks like a berry (Holly berries, etc.) she picks, so we have to be careful because some of those berries can be toxic if eaten.

Here's Clara helping her Daddy make apple cider to take to a local butchering party (note her shoving the apples into the juicer).  Yes, the butchering party is another blog post to come.  Building community over slaying chickens - gotta love that!

I hope you enjoyed your local foods season, and if you were able to store away like us, or plant a fall crop I hope you're still enjoying it!  If there are young ones in your life, I encourage you to begin building into their lives a heritage of local eating.  By doing that, they'll know potatoes don't come from a box, but from the rich ground.  We'll for sure continue to do this, and if you haven't heard, we'll be doing it with another new life beginning late January...