Laura brought along some homemade mozzarella cheese to share. It was delicious, but she discovered a typo in her cheese making kit. You only need 1 teaspoon of salt, not 1 tablespoon!
On our agenda for the day was to discuss Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a wonderful book about eating locally not just organically. From here, our discussion jumped around all over the place as we talked about the disconnect from where our food comes from and more. This was clearly a topic of great interest and discussion. Below are some of the resources and ideas we discussed.
3 vanilla beans
1 cup vodka
glass jar with tight fitting lid
Cut lengthwise down each vanilla bean, splitting them in half, leaving about an inch at the end connected. Put vanilla beans in a glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid (mason jars work well). Cover completely with the vodka. Give the bottle a good shake every once in a while. Store in a dark, cool place for 2 months or longer. You can keep topping it off with vodka once in a while as you use it, just remember to give it a good shake and replace your beans once a year or so.
A great place to find decorative jars? BET-MAR Liquid Hobby Shop, 736-F Saint Andrews Road, Columbia, South Carolina, 29210.
Food Inc. and the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle are life changing. Here's a snippet about the movie from the Web site if you haven't seen it yet:
"In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults."
Chickens seem to be a hot topic these days, especially since Columbia now allows backyard chickens! A terrific book for those getting started is Ashley English's Homemade Living: Keeping Chickens with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock. If you're looking for your own brood, be sure to check out CraigsList.org for potentially free chickens!
Canning & Preserving
Canning and preserving is certainly a great way to eat locally year round, and it helps the household budget, too. For those looking to learn more, there are two books members discussed as the best of the best -- Ashley English's Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More and Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.
Also, we will be looking into a potential canning class/session with Heritage Fields Farm in Irmo, South Carolina and maybe even a canning swap!
Make Your Own
A recurring theme during our meeting was making and doing for yourself and your family rather than relying solely on convenience. We quickly realized our members have a host of skills -- canning, preserving, cheese making, tortilla making, bread baking and more. We will be looking into hosting some special classes at members' homes in the coming months!
Where It's At
How do you go about finding locally grown and/or produced foods? Be sure to visit PalmettoVore.org and CertifiedSCGrown.com for resources, including a list of what's currently in season in South Carolina. There is also the Locavore Network, which may return some different search results.
Drive down just about any country road in South Carolina this time of year and you'll spot plenty of greens growing -- they are definitely in season! We learned at a recent meeting about raw food, they really are quite tasty uncooked and have much more nutritional value. Here is a recipe for marinated collard greens and another for raw thai spring rolls with "peanut" sauce.
One question that arose (pardon the pun) was where to find local flour. On the CertifiedSCGrown.com site, there was only one local flour mill -- Allen Brothers Milling Co./Adluh Flour Mills, 804 Gervais Street, Columbia, South Carolina 29201. However, it is not clear where their wheat comes from. Carrissa pointed out Anson Mills, 1922-C Gervais Street, Columbia, South Carolina, 29201. She said they're local, but nationally known and most of their products come from the south east. We also talked about grinding our own flour, but the cost of the mills is prohibitive.
With all this talk about food, we couldn't leave out the local farmers! Two places we all thought of (and may plan trips for with our play group) are City Roots and Caw Caw Creek. Toni also brought along brochures from her family's CSA, Big Moon Farm. We talked about CSAs, local farmers' markets and more. There is a lot of information on the South Carolina Department of Agriculture Web site, including lists of markets.
It wasn't surprising to learn a number of us are trying our hand at gardening, and are interested in heirloom seeds. Two potential places to find them are Seed Savers Exchange and Heavenly Seed, the latter of which is a South Carolina business. For heirloom seed-saving tips, click here. And for additional information on heirloom plants, click here.
There has also been talk about the HMN starting a community garden, and we hope to get this started soon!
If you like flavored butters, it's very easy to toss your seasonings in at the beginning and make a great butter. One of Toni's favorite butter recipes is to add about 2 1/2 tablespoons of white or yellow miso paste, 1 tablespoon of finely minced fresh chives and 2 cloves of finely minced garlic to her homemade butter -- terrific served over grass-fed steaks!
We talked a little about how it sometimes feels weird to ask so many questions and question so many habits. However, we all agreed it is in the best interest of our families, community and world if we step up and do just that.