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Archive for October, 2011

A Little Batty

This last week I took my daughter to an activity at one of our local libraries about bats. We had a really fabulous time and learned quite a bit about the only flying mammals in the world. We even got directions to build a bat house and learned how we can help with bat conservation. And aside from the probable fire code violations for having stuffed about 300 people in a room built for a max of about 50, we had no issues with bats getting loose and flying into people’s hair; no one got rabies; and not a person had their blood sucked.

In fact, out of the 1,105 species of bats in the world, there are only three species of vampire bats – and they live in the tropics from southern Mexico down to South America. Not really a fun fact for Halloween, but it should relieve some people that have chiroptophobia, or an irrational fear of bats.

In most parts of America, the bats are pretty small. See what our bat-handler is holding:

Yes, that’s a bat – the “Big Brown Bat“. It’s what we commonly see here in the Eastern part of the U.S., and it’s only 4-5 inches tall! Not so big after all, eh?

The true big bats are in the tropics, and are sometimes called Flying Foxes. In the tropics, there are fruit-eating bats that help with seed dispersal. Without the aid of bats those bats, many of the tropical ecosystems would be out of balance: they are that beneficial. And then there are nectar-drinking bats that help with the pollination of plants like the mango, cashew, and bananas.The saguaro cactus in our desserts here in the U.S. have help with pollination thanks to these bats.

Bats are also a super beneficial creature for us organic gardeners. Insect eating bats eat approximately 1,000 to 6,000 insects a night (the equivalent of eating our own height in pizza every hour for about 6 hours straight!) including mosquitos, tomato hornworms, wasps, cutworm moths, cucumber and potato beetles, and corn earworms.

If you’d like to take advantage of a native and organic means of pest control – try enrolling the help of bats. They’ll feed on nighttime flying insects, including pollinators, so be sure to have plants that will attract these pollinators to increase your bat population. Evening primroses, moonflowers, and phlox are just a few. Batconservation.org is a great website with tips on gardening for bats (they were our hosts for our evening at the library).

This same website offers instructions for building your own bat houses – an excellent winter and early spring craft project, methinks. Since bats hibernate in the cold season, you’d want to have housing available when they start forming maternity colonies (bats mate in the fall before they hibernate).

And finally, the site has some really great facts for kids, teaching links, information on the medical advances thanks to bats, and lots of FAQs. I’ll also direct parents and educators to Step into Second Grade with Mrs. Lemons, where she shares some fun PowerPoints that she made about bats for her second grade class. NatGeo Kids has a fun presentation about the fun and spooky Vampire bat, and Defenders of Wildlife has some great information regarding the conservation of bats and even helps you “adopt” a bat.

Happy Halloween!

Jennifer can also be found at Unearthing this Life, in her kitchen, or reading stories to her daughter.

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Alas, this weekend marks the end of October and, for many, the end of the Farmers Market season. Of course the second best place to get your local Unprocessed fix is the Farmer’s Market; the first is obviously the garden out back. I’ll be spending my weekend at the various farmers markets, between various trips out back to my own garden to glean the last of the harvest of kale, brussels sprouts and pears.

We are lucky to live where we do because in Ann Arbor, Michigan there is an outdoor (canopied) Farmers Market that runs all year long, as well as an Artisans Market that runs through the holiday season. We also live within short driving distance of Plum Markets and Holiday Markets, who are two locally owned grocers that are kind enough to post where most of their produce comes from (as well as Whole Foods who does the same, despite being big-box).

Still, almost all of the markets in the area are closing their gates this weekend. This is when I start to peer nervously into my freezer and around my kitchen at the shelves; will there be enough food to keep us eating responsibly through the winter? Oh goodness, No. The frozen fruits and vegetables will be gone, likely used before the end of the year. The apples and pears may last, assuming they stay comfortable in their little makeshift root cellars of sand in the pantry.

So what happens after we’ve run our own supply dry? Well, we definitely have access to local meats and grains – it’s only a matter of 2-3 weeks before the drakes and the roosters go off to freezer camp – and many of the farmers around here are better at putting up food than we are so it’s possible to nab some of their preserved harvest at the markets and co-ops.

My winter rule for non-local produce is that it either has to be something in season that we cannot get here in Michigan, or it has to be grown within a few states of us. That means oranges from Florida are okay over the winter, and things like that. Carrots from Tennessee may have to see us through once I’ve exhausted my own, but I figure at least I am a conscious shopper. If I’m aware of the way I eat and shop, I can improve the way I eat and shop. (This is an edited phrase I use for my horseback riding students – “If you feel it, you can fix it!”)

So this weekend I plan to beat my way through the crowds at various Markets in their crowded “Harvest Weekend” chaos. I plan to stock up on the things I wish I’d already stocked up on (winter squash!) and I plan to take a long, deep breath; look around me, and try to think ahead to the markets of spring.

Do you have access to local produce year-round? How do you plan to forge through the winter without local markets (or are you lucky enough to have a winter market)?

Want to read more from Tanglewood Farm? Check out Emily’s blog over at A Pinch of Something Nice where she writes about her experiences with her gardens, her livestock and her leased historical home in SE Michigan.

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Good, Better, Best

What would I buy if I didn’t have the privilege of buying raw milk from a local farm? I was thinking about this the other day when I poured myself a glass of milk. Luckily, we have another small local dairy that has pastured cows and they use low temperature pasteurization for their milk, no homogenization. When the cows at the local farm are dry in the winter and I have no raw milk (yes, they’re 100% natural let the cows go dry in the winter), I purchase cream line milk from Hartzler’s Dairy in Wooster, OH. I also love that their milk comes in glass bottles, I return these to the store when I get more milk. It’s not as good as my raw milk, but it’s better than regular old grocery store milk. If I didn’t have this dairy to purchase from I’d probably buy Smith’s milk at the grocery store, they’re a larger dairy, but still fairly small and local. A lot of their milk comes from small local organic farmers, and they sell milk without antibiotics, hormones and other baddies. But I’d use this milk sparingly if ever because it’s pasteurized at high temperatures and homogenized.

You might be wondering why I wouldn’t purchase organic milk instead. All the organic milk available locally is ultra pasteurized and homogenized, neither of which I like. Most of it comes from huge dairies and I don’t know how the cows are treated, I’ve heard bad things about the cows from Horizon Organic. I’d rather not drink milk, than drink grocery store milk. Once you’ve tasted the goodness of raw milk, you’ll never be able to drink regular milk easily again. The cream line milk we get is good, but it still tastes boiled to us. It also lacks the depth of flavor our raw milk has. You may not realize that raw milk from pastured cows is kind of like wine. The flavor changes throughout the season depending on what the cows are eating, how much rain there is, and other factors. When the grass is growing lushly in spring in fall, the milk is sweet, the cream is extra thick, as yellow as the sun and there’s a lot more of it. When the cows are eating hay in late winter the milk is mild, lighter, there’s less cream and it’s almost white. There are times of the year when the milk has a slightly grassy taste, in the fall I notice that it’s extra sweet and the cream makes superb butter.

The truth is that I would go way out of my to find raw or lightly pasteurized cream line milk and would drive quite a piece to get it if needed rather than purchase a homogenized milk product. And of course, I always drink my milk whole since milk fat contains so much healthy goodness, especially from pastured cows! This is one area where I will seek out the BEST, sometimes if needed I’ll settle for BETTER, but GOOD doesn’t even cut it for me in this area.

So what are some Good, Better, Bests you can think of? Are there any areas you’ll settle for Good when you can’t get the Best?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, maple sugaring, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Your Day Magazine and you can follow me on Twitter and on Facebook.

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Recently a new friend remarked that I had “a lot of rules.”  This was in response to my statement that I don’t read the gossip magazines anymore, triggered by the death of Princess Diana, but supported by my belief that we are too susceptible to bread and circuses and that it interferes with our ability to live a mindful life.

Susy wrote about this same phenomenon last week, regarding people who feel like your choices are a direct insult to them.

But what I’m trying to do is not so much “have a lot of rules” as to be true to my internal political and moral beliefs.  You cannot state that you understand global warming and support the reduction of our dependence on fossil fuels, and then sit in a loading zone with the car running, or drive an SUV.  You cannot put a sticker on your car that says “reduce, reuse, recycle” and then walk out of the grocery store with 14 plastic bags, especially if you have resusable bags in the trunk of your car. You cannot complain about Big Ag if you get all your groceries at the national chain, and seldom cook from scratch because you don’t want to devote the time.  You’re not supporting the local food system if you’re eating at chain restaurants. If you believe that privatization of the commons is a bad thing, then you shouldn’t be parking at the privatized parking meters, or driving and paying a toll on the privatized road. A little inconvenience is a small price to pay,.

The political is personal. Your political beliefs should inform your life, not just your vote.

When people first meet me, I’ll warn them, I’m different. They will inevitably poo-poo this, stating that I’m just fine (as though I’m looking for reassurance). And then after they know me a little while, they’ll start to realize that in fact, I am different. I choose to live my life in a consistent way, even when it adds cost or inconvenience to my daily existence.

The personal is political. Small actions can lead to major change. Live your life by the rules you set for yourself, and mighty empires fall.

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Play with Your Food

A few weeks ago Hubby, the Kid, and I went to The Carve, a food carving fair and competition in Holland, Michigan. Since then, our daughter has found every excuse to play with her food.

I honestly can’t deny her because I think it’s a great excuse to teach her about food and how to properly use kitchen tools. For about two years, since she was five, I’ve allowed her to help me in the kitchen by cutting vegetables and cooking on the stove. Completely supervised of course. By teaching her proper technique* and making sure the utensils are in good condition, I know that she is less likely to hurt herself – plus she won’t have any bad habits to break later on.

I love that allowing her to decorate and carve food has made her more curious about vegetables and fruits she hasn’t been brave enough to sample. Kids naturally like raw veggies, since cooking them changes the sugars making them more bitter – so playing with raw food is a great way to try new foods without the stress of dinnertime. It allows her to explore the food itself, wonder how they grow, and what makes them each such different colors.

Here are a few pieces of equipment and other items you can use at home to make your own food creations:

  • Toothpicks
  • paring and filet knives (if you’re not confident with your child’s knife skills, allow them to use a plastic knife – just be sure to let them do it)
  • apple corer
  • melon-baller
  • pepper corns (for eyes of course!)
  • peanut butter or humus (as glue for small things)
  • lemon juice, salt, or citric acid mixed in water to keep fruits like apples from browning
  • bandaids (just in case!)
  • seasonal fruits and veggies – mushrooms, melons, strawberries, apples, asparagus, radishes, eggplant, carrots, celery, cucumber, zucchini, squash, cherry tomatoes, pineapple…
  • Brick or molded cheese can also be an easy item to carve
  • lots of imagination!

Do you play with your food? What kind of exposure to you allow your children to the kitchen?

*As an Alton Brown fan, I highly recommend watching the episode “Soup’s On” to teach kids how to properly use knives and learn how to play in the kitchen.

Jennifer can also be found at her personal blog, Unearthing this Life, where she blogs about homeschooling, cooking Real Food, and dreams about her homestead.

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This last weekend I purchased a bushel of Fuji apples. One of my absolute favorite apples. Ever. My intent was to store them in our cool basement since they’re such good keepers. (For a good list of apple varieties and their qualities visit pickyourown.org)

Instead I’ve been going mad for baked apple goodness. Sunday I made these:

apple dumpling

Apple dumplings that are knock-your-socks-off good. The key to such a good flavor was the boiled cider – also known as apple molasses – that I made. Just a little bit imparts an amazingly intense flavor. Sure you could buy it online and have it shipped, but if you have the opportunity you should try to make it, especially if you can get local apples!

So because I couldn’t get enough of that yumminess, I had to make something more…. but better for me.

Enter Apple Dumpling Oatmeal.

I prepared this last night before bed in 15 minutes, and it was ready to go for me this morning. You could alternatively prepare this in a dutch oven, or on the stove top if you don’t care to leave a crockpot plugged in all night. I’ve given you three options! Just bring your appetite. This is a stick-to-your-ribs kinda meal. The kind that makes you want to get outside and get something done. That, or help yourself to seconds…

apple dumpling-inspired oatmeal

Apple Dumpling Oatmeal

Makes 6-8 LARGE portions

  • 2 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1-1/4 cups steel cut oats or thick rolled oats
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 rounded tsp boiled cider (lick the spoon!)
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar (brown, raw, or sucanat), honey, or syrup
  • 1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries or cherries (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • (if you don’t have access to boiled cider, substitute 1 cup cider for 1 cup water, then get to the store and pick up some cider and boil it!)

Dutch oven:

Preheat oven to 400F. Meanwhile add ingredients to dutch oven on the stove top, bringing them just to a boil. Cover and put in oven. Immediately turn off oven. In the morning you may need to add some liquid in the form of milk or water, and to reheat on the stove just a bit.

Stove top:

Add ingredients to medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover tightly and lower heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally. It’s done when your oats are soft and apples are no longer firm.

Crock Pot:

Add ingredients to crock pot and turn on low. Let cook at least 6 hours. Stir gently before serving.

gone

Top with a drizzle of fresh cream(and maybe some maple syrup) and enjoy it while it’s still warm!

***

You can find Jennifer at Unearthing This Life where she’s currently focusing on autumn and homeschooling.

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We spend a lot of time here at Not Dabbling talking about living mindful lives, eating REAL food, reducing the amount of processed food in our lives, detoxing our lives, living more simply and how to achieve these goals. What we don’t often talk about it how the people around us react to these decisions. This really hit me the other day when someone from an internet show visited for a few days. When he talked about us on the show, he said “Wow, these people are great, I love what they’re doing, but they can really make you feel inadequate”. That was the first time someone had verbalized what I knew other people felt.

We all live in a community, with a web of people around us, usually comprised of friends and family. It can be difficult for those people around us to come to terms with significant lifestyle changes that we make, whether that be eating less processed food or trying to exercise more. I have found that people around me usually have two distinct reactions; they’re either inspired, or they get defensive; they encourage, or they become negative; they build up, or they tear down.

This can be a bit of a problem when the ones tearing down and being negative are those you are closest to. In one way you feel slightly betrayed since they are being negative about something you feel very strongly about. In another way you understand because it’s not something they care about. But if they’re being directly negative about your decisions, not encouraging to you, being negative and pushing back – it’s not healthy – for you or for them.

The truth is that it’s really not your fault if people feel inadequate around you because of you bettering your life, I believe it usually stems from guilt. I think deep down they feel they should make some changes but are unwilling to do so. In their mind, you being able to make some changes makes them look bad.

What do you do about it? Besides not talking about certain things in their presence, there’s not much you can do. I have certain people in my life that I avoid certain topics around. Eventually however, you might have to make the decision about whether or not they can remain in your inner circle. I really believe that those in your close circle need to be people that will accept you for who you are and accept the changes that you make. They should encourage you in your endeavors, even if they don’t agree with what you’re doing. Sometimes people need to be moved back to the acquaintance category so that someone who will support you can come in and take their place.

The farther I get down the road of simplifying my life, leading a mindful life, eating Real food, growing my own, cooking from scratch, and detoxing my life, the less contact I have with some people I used to be close with. As an introvert I do not have many close friends, only a very limited number of people reach that level. I feel the need to surround myself with people that will encourage me and help me achieve my goals in life, and sometimes people are simply unwilling to do that. Right now I’m feeling the pull to trim some of the relationship fat in my life. There are a few relationships that need to be moved bak to the acquaintance level because I simply do not have the time or energy to invest in relationships with people that are negative and defensive around me. I don’t want to spend my time thinking through every single thing I say to make sure I won’t offend them. I want to be able to be open and to talk about things I feel passionate about. I want to spend my time cultivating relationships with people that are good for me mentally.

Of course this is true about many aspects of life, not just people who are doing what we are doing. Whenever you make a significant life change there will be those people around you that will feel like they’ve been left behind. There will be those that will rally around you, and those that sulk in the corner. I believe this is how you know who your true friends are. Just like an apple tree needs pruned to produce the best fruit, often we need to prune some of the old decaying relationships in our lives away so we can truly blossom and produce good fruit. We also need to be mindful that we are not being those that are pushing back in other people’s like and need to accept it when others prune us back to acquaintance levels. (PS and I’d like to especially thank the other ladies that write here at Not Dabbling and all of you, our readers, for being encouraging and providing much needed motivation!)

Have you experienced any pushback from family and friends about your journey down the roads towards REAL food, cooking from scratch, simplifying or other decisions you’ve made?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, maple sugaring, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Your Day Magazine, you can follow me on Twitter and on Facebook.

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I was in Austin, Texas last week getting certified as a Square Foot Gardening instructor (I’ll put up a mini-course in a couple of weeks!)

And I have to tell you, if you’ve got to go somewhere while trying to eat unprocessed, Austin is the place to go.

First of all, it’s got the Whole Foods mother ship, and I do mean Mother Ship. That place is immense. I’m no fan of Whole Foods, much less of retail tourism, but this place was pretty cool.

It’s immense, easily three or four times the size of any Whole Foods I’ve ever been in. I loved the mix-it-yourself trail mix bar, and the bulk offerings:  heirloom beans, unusual grains, and different types of rice, as well as an enormous bulk herbs and spices section.  The flavored sugars alone took up as much room as the spice section in most stores. Since I don’t go into Whole Foods very often, I don’t know if these things are standard, but I’d be surprised if other outlets had so many of each of these things. (Yes, I thought I had pictures, but they don’t seem to be on the camera, so you’ll have to take my word for it.)

We pretty much ate our way through Austin, and because I was traveling with hard-core vegetable gardeners (Motto: don’t get between me and my eggplant) we sought out restaurants with a reputation for responsibly sourced food.

There is a huge market farming community around Austin, apparently–a staff member from the Sustainable Food Center told us that there are nearly 200 farmers within 50 miles of the city supplying their farmers markets. I believe in Chicago we’re drawing from a much much wider area, especially if you’re looking for meat and flour, so this was fairly impressive, especially considering it’s nearly a desert. (A real desert, not a food desert.)

One of the neat things about Austin eateries is that they all seem to have not just vegetarian but also vegan options. Here’s where we ate dinner, on various nights:

Foreign and Domestic: Loved the concept of an evolving menu based on seasonal, locally available ingredients, but the food was not quite there. I got the Summer Squash Tofu, which was essentially green clay on succotash. The succotash was good, but the “tofu” which I thought would have at least the texture of tofu, looked and tasted like that green stuff that you stick flowers in to make them stand up.  Other people had a lightly crusted fish. The fish was fine, but the crust was chewy. The appetizers fared better-I had an amazing brioche stuffed with caramelized onions with a side of peach butter. Unfortunately, it had apparently been baked in a drinking glass, so that the top had risen over a straight shaft. Yes, folks, it looked like a penis. VERY uncomfortable to eat this among people I didn’t know very well.

Tokaba had this amazing drink–a habanero margarita, but the food was apparently not very memorable, because even looking at the menu I can’t remember what I ate. Of course, I did have two of the margaritas, which may have had something to do with it.  What was really nice about this place was the huge outdoor seating. How novel to eat outdoors in October.

The Black Star Co-op is a member-owned pub featuring beer from local breweries. They don’t allow tipping because they say they pay their workers a living wage, so they don’t need to tip, but I think it might be more that no one would tip because the service is so terrible. The beer is fantastic though, varied and unusual, and I had a beet-and-spinach salad, again, locally-sourced, that was fabulous.

Guero’s is the Pizzeria Uno of Austin, as far as I could tell. Uno’s is the place that all the tourists go because the restaurant has managed to position itself as the place to get Chicago pizza. Consequently all the tourists go home complaining about how terrible Chicago pizza is.  Guero’s is loud and crowded, I’d say the food is poorly presented except that if they have the remotest concept of presenting food it’s news to me.  They have terrible beer. This supposed best Tex-Mex in Austin is not quite as good as the little family-owned taqueria down the block here in Chicago. Of course, we have a larger Mexican population in Chicago than they do in Austin, and here in Chicago they’re actually from Mexico, as opposed to fourth generation as seems to be the case with the Austinian Mexicans (also the owners of this place are named “Lipincott” which last I heard is not a very common hispanic surname).  The waiter did, however, look up factoids on armadillos for us.

We found all of the above ourselves, just researching Austin eateries. The last place we ate, Mother’s Cafe and Garden, was the suggestion of a native, and it was definitely the best place we ate at.  I had a stuffed poblano pepper that was just amazing.  The place is vegan and vegetarian, roomy and friendly and they were the only place we ate at all week that hadn’t run out of chocolate cake.

And yes, I went to Texas and did not have barbecue. Sue me.

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I figured since today is October 14th, National Dessert Day in the States (okay, this is probably made up, but come on… it’s a great excuse, right?), I would post about baking responsibly in Unprocessed October.

Sometimes a girl’s just gotta make a batch of buttercream frosting. Seriously.

This isn’t to say that I believe that all things sweet should be eaten without moderation. I’m a firm believer in less is more, especially when it comes to baked goods. When I bake, I find myself giving away most of the end results simply because I can’t bring myself to eat more than one or two servings myself. I’ve been taking all sorts of baked goods to the horse farm to hoist off into the arms (and mouths) of unsuspecting students and boarders. Did you know that some horses like yellow cake?

Anyway, today I wanted to share some of the ways I’ve been able to source responsible ingredients for the baked goods I’ve been pursuing. If you don’t follow my regular blog, you might not know that I’ve been working lately to develop a number of baked goods and confections (and skills!) to start a market-based bakery next spring. I’ve been baking several different things a week, from cakes to candies to traditional pastries, and more often than not the results end up tossed out for the chickens because I’m insanely picky about my sweets.

One of the easiest ways to find responsible ingredients in your area is to use a basic internet search engine (I prefer Google). For example, when I plug the words “Michigan Flour Company” into the search box and within the first ten results there are three local milling companies! It’s amazing how well the internet works these days.

Basically when I plan to make something that I don’t already have ingredients for, I spend a good hour or two doing internet research to find out what is available locally, what is organic, what is sustainable and what is all of the above. In Michigan we have this amazing small-scale miller called “Jennings Bros” and they sell primarily at markets. Archibald “Archie” Jennings is a fantastic man who loves to share stories of growing up on a dairy farm, and his flours are locally grown, organic and stone-ground in small batches. They grow their own grains and are just about as sustainable as you can get in our area for grain flours, specialty flours and even pastry flours.

Another great way to find ingredients (and I know I’ve mentioned this before) is to just talk to people. Farmers and Farmers’ Market goers alike often LOVE to talk. It’s amazing how many sources I have gleaned just from talking to people at my local market and co-ops.

If you live far enough out from the cities, it’s even possible to source eggs just by wandering the back country roads until you spot a sign for farm eggs for sale, and in many states it is legal to buy eggs directly from the farmers. Or you can go all out and raise chickens or ducks for eggs yourself! Our laying flock consists of various heritage chicken breeds, and next spring our seven Khaki Campbell ducks will be laying in full swing and should provide us with an egg each, daily! Duck eggs are fantastic for baking and if you’ve never tried it, I strongly suggest it.

If you have do to buy non-local and you don’t have a good mom-and-pop co-op or shop around, I’ve found a decent source for backup ingredients can be (dare I say it?) Whole Foods Market, where I’ve been able to find fairly local flours, non-gmo sugars and free trade natural cocoa, which is another difficult ingredient to source. In fact, in some cases I have actually allowed Whole Foods to do a lot of research for me. They pay their own people to go out and source local foods that they can carry in their stores. You can just walk around the stores with a notebook and write down the businesses and farms that are on the the “Made in ______!” stickers and go home to source them more directly! (This is not cheating, however it might be farm-stalking…)

This is how I found the best local butter and milk near us, Calder Dairy. I was having a hard time finding dairy in the area that was small-farm based. We have a number of dairies in Michigan, but none that I could find could boast that they actually knew their cows. They would all source their milk from a gazillion different farms (that might be an exaggeration) and then all of the milk from those gazillion cows would get smushed into a homogeneous sludge they called milk. Okay, I’m a purest – I get that – but in Michigan we aren’t allowed to purchase raw milk, or even pasteurized milk straight from the farms. We have to take what we can get.

Calder Dairy keeps all of their own cows on non-certified mostly-organic pasture (which they are very honest about), and they grow their own hay, and source local grain to supplement their lady-cows. The dairy is open for public visits so you can actually go see the operation and see that the cows are healthy and just about as happy as they can be in a commercial dairy. My favorite part? This 65 year old dairy also offers old fashioned delivery to our door! We get our milk in glass jars and every week we put the empties on the cooler out front and just after noon we hear the dairy truck come rumblin’ up the drive. They even offer “Cream-top” or “natural” unhomogenized milk. It comes with the thick layer of cream at the top of the bottle which can either be shaken into the bottle or used for baking. I love this – I love everything about it!

The biggest sticking (heh) point in sourcing responsible baking ingredients, at least for me, has been sugar. Michigan has been known for it’s beet sugar for a very long time, but in 2008 (I think?) the courts decided to allow genetically modified beets to be grown for sugar in Michigan. Ick. Blech. Ugh. &%#$. Arg. (Am I allowed to say &%#$ on this blog? Hmm.)

There have been a number of movements in Michigan to get gardeners to grow their own sugar, but holy cow that seems like a lot of work to me. Hmm. Then again, I do need another project in my life… maybe I’ll start researching that some more. (Please, somebody talk me out of this!)

Anyway, I have started buying organic cane sugar since it is nearly impossible to find local sugar that is guaranteed GMO free. The fact that it is local at least somewhat makes up for the fact that it is shipped in from far off exotic places and possibly harvested by people with some pretty poor living conditions. Like I said, it’s sticky.

An alternative that I have started exploring is using honey in place of sugar, but in things like buttercream and meringue it’s just not realistic to expect the two types of sugars to behave exactly the same. The honey doesn’t hold it’s stiff form when mixed into eggs and begins to break down quickly in meringues so it has to be served ASAP after finishing – in other words this is not something I can use in baking for market sales. Ah well. I still use it in cookies and cakes to substitute at least part of the sweetener, and because I live in a state with lots of honey farmers (for now) it is easy to get local honey.

So as I continue to experiment with my baked goods I will also continue to develop recipes that include responsible ingredients. It never even crossed my mind to buy conventional or lower quality ingredients. Despite the sometimes added cost of the “good” stuff, it seems logical to me that in order to produce the highest quality and most ecologically responsible baked goods, I often have to sacrifice economy. People who taste my finished goods can taste the difference, and so can I. I prefer to eat my baked goods with a glass of (Calder’s) milk, a smile on my face and a clear conscience.

Have you ever tried to source local ingredients? What has been most difficult for you to source?

Want to read more from Tanglewood Farm? Check out Emily’s blog over at A Pinch of Something Nice where she writes about her experiences with her gardens, her livestock and her leased historical home in SE Michigan.

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Indian Summer

Here in the Midwest we’ve had a late blast of summer weather bringing with it Indian summer. We should be thinking of a sweater to fight off the chill, and instead we’re spending days on the beach and keeping our windows wide open. It’s been absolutely gorgeous, in a bright yellow and warm orange kind of way.

What could be better than an autumnal ice cream as a cool treat?

I’m not talking pumpkins here. I mean a tasty and mildly spiced ice cream that hints at the cooler days that will be upon us soon. Something a bit mellow – like these warm days.

honey cinnamon frozen custard

Honey Cinnamon Frozen Custard

made in a 6 cup (liquid) capacity ice cream maker

  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup cream*
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup honey mixed with 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  1. In a large saucepan, heat milk, cream, 1/3 cup honey, cinnamon, and the optional cardamom. Bring to 160° F. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a medium size bowl.
  2. Add small amounts of heated milk mixture to eggs, whisking the entire time. Once you’ve added about 1/3 of the mixture to the eggs you can add the egg mixture to the heated milk. Cook over medium for about 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken.
  3. Put custard in the refrigerator to chill completely. Once this is as cold as it can get without freezing, it’s time to churn in the ice cream maker. In the last two minutes of churning, add the honey and cinnamon mixture so that it forms a swirl in the custard instead of combining. This last part may be easier to do after the custard has set up in the freezer for about an hour.
  4. Freeze for 2-3 hours before serving.

*I used my raw milk that I’d previously skimmed the cream from. If you’re using whole milk you can omit the cream for a lighter ice milk texture. Substitute 1 cup milk for the cream.

Honey Cinnamon Frozen Custard

Enjoy!

Jennifer can also be found at Unearthing this Life where she blargs about almost everything from raising chickens to homeschooling to opinions about food.

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