Market Musings Blog

Extreme Local – Wild Foraging

Before I start: wild foraging can be very dangerous. The amount of mushrooms that are fatally poisonous are relatively small, but there are a great many that will make you wish you were dead and cause serious illness. You should never eat a mushroom unless you are 100% confident in identifying it. There are a great many resources if you would like to get into wild foraging, but it should be approached with a healthy respect and only after much study. DO NOT EAT WILD MUSHROOMS ON A WHIM.

Chicken of the woods on tree

Chicken of the Woods, too old, but still pretty cool.

I am an outdoors person. I love hunting and camping, and when morel season hits in spring I am in the woods nearly every weekend. This year, I have decided to enjoy some of the local foraging that can be had in mid-summer months.

Ok, morel season is easy: little undergrowth, very distinctive mushrooms, little to no mosquitos and hardly any ticks. All of these things have made it a trendy thing to do, amateurs beating down trails to every dead elm tree in state parks around Minnesota. And with good reason, morels are delicious.

Mid-summer mushroom hunting has been about as far from that as possible. Minnesota mixed hardwood forests are hot, full of bugs, poison ivy, buckthorn, wild berries, stinging nettle, and a fair amount of other hidden pitfalls. I have found mushrooms that I have picked, learned to do a spore print, and identified them with some confidence. Only then to throw them out because doubt about my knowledge crept in (this is normal and a healthy thing). I have worn poison ivy rashes with pride for a good portion of the summer. I have invested in what I call a hippie basket, a bandaloo (which I have already lost), spent a small fortune on gas driving to state parks, and shirked some responsibilities.

Chicken gnocci with chicken of the woods

Chicken gnocci without the kale, subbing thyme in its place, and with whole wheat gnocci

Despite this, the exhilaration that I felt when I saw my first mass of orange Chicken of the Woods* was just as exciting as any morel patch I have found. Finding lobster mushrooms buried in leaves was worth the mosquito bites (technically my lovely wife found our first lobster). And wild mushroom gnocchi shared with friends and family? Good grief.

*Mississippi Market carries wild, foraged mushrooms from time to time, so it is possible to cook with them without foraging. Call ahead before making a special trip.

Here is the recipe:
Wild Mushroom Gnocchi, serves 2-3

ingredients
1 med onion, diced ½ inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
A large mass of wild mushroom, your choice on variety, all have been excellent – usually around .5 lbs, or you could use button, but the earthy flavor of the wild mushroom is what makes this dish. Tear/cut/break the mushroom into bite size pieces. Be sure to clean the mushroom, ideally using a brush of some kind, not in water. Mushrooms really soak up liquid and it is ok to wash them in water, but it will alter how this dish cooks and you may need to cut the rest of the water out of the recipe entirely.
2T Olive oil – you may need a little more if you are frying a large amount of mushroom, they tend to soak up liquids
1 package of Cucina Viva gnocchi
1 half of a bunch of dino kale, or a sautéing green of your choice, rough shred/julienne
1 table spoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Stock
1.5 cups water

Equipment:
1 14” sauce pan, with 1.5 inch sides, or some equivalent
1 stock pot to boil gnocchi
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Fry the onion, garlic, mushroom together stirring often on medium high heat until your onion just starts to become translucent. Dissolve the Better Than in 1.5 cups of water and pour that mixture into your sauce pan. Cook until reduced, but not dry. There should be some liquid left in pan to provide a ‘sauce’ for the dish.

At this time add the gnocchi to the water. The gnocchi will sink to the bottom. When it rises to the top it is done. Add your kale to your frying pan and stir it in. The gnocchi will cook quickly in a rolling boil (4-5 minutes tops) and will overcook just as fast. Scoop out the gnocchi leaving as much water as possible behind and put it right into your mushroom mix. Stir and serve.

At this time I like to shred a little Pecorino Romano on top, but that is completely optional. There are gluten free gnocchi’s in some grocery stores, so it is possible to make this dish gluten free as well.
Eat and enjoy.

Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods

James Talbot is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. As the grocery manager at Selby, you’ll find him in the ailes stocking the shelves, answering questions and figuring out how to make space for more awesome products. 

From the Bread Nook – New French Bakery

In my first year on the job as the Frozen and Bread Buyer for the Selby store, which I just wrapped up, my main focus for the bread department was to really get to know the products we carry, feel how bread sales trend season to season, learn what was available from each vendor, and try new things out here and there.  Going into year two, my next major goal for the remainder of the calendar year (yikes, is it really mid-August already?) is to finally get around to visiting the local bakeries we stock on the shelves, see the process, and talk with some of the people who work there.  Yesterday, I started this venture off with a visit to New French Bakery.

New French Bakery was started about 19 years ago by Peter Kelsey in Minneapolis.

New French Bakery was started about 19 years ago by Peter Kelsey in Minneapolis.

New French was first started up about 19 years ago by Peter Kelsey, and as the company has grown from a small start-up to a large operation that has national contracts, there have been some employees who have stuck around since the earliest days.  There are now two facilities, one of which works solely with product that gets frozen and shipped elsewhere in the U.S. and serves as the primary warehouse for raw ingredients.  I toured the other location, which does both frozen products for shipment and fresh breads for a surprisingly large number of local restaurant and retail deliveries.

I’d never been on a tour of a bakery before, so this was a pretty crazy experience.  It was simply amazing to me the type of engineering mindset that goes into laying our conveyors, mixers, ovens, cooling rooms, packaging machines in such a streamlined layout.  Giant mixers (think Kitchenaid stand mixer that you could sit in and *maybe* see over the edge) prep all the dough with the flour getting pumped up from giant storage tanks in the basement—the volume of these just astounded me!  Machines size out dough for the product in production—rolls, buns, baguettes, loaves, etc—and into trays, molds, or baking pans the dough goes.

Before it hits the oven, all the dough hits the proofing room for a few hours to rise—the humidity here was high, and the smell of active yeast was amazingly strong.  If anything needs special attention (like the small slices that give the tops of artisan breads their special look or things need to be rolled in seeds or grain), the human touch comes into play—machines are not to be trusted with these delicate accents!  Finished products are then cooled, sliced if need-be, and packaged to ship out to their destinations.  And then the process continues for the next item, around the clock, all year!

Of all the little details I learned during my visit, this is the one I really want to pass on: while New French is focused on large-scale production, they still get almost all of their flour from wheat grown and milled within 150 miles of the bakery—keepin’ it local!

At Mississippi Market, we carry only a tiny fraction of the 700+ varieties and variations in their available production catalog.  Some of the more artisan loaves that have been on the shelves for a while include the French baguette (perfect for sandwiches and bruschetta), traditional and whole wheat sourdough rounds, stirato loaves and smaller rolls made of the New French baguettessame dough (a customer favorite to accompany soup for lunch), the ever-so-soft honey whole grain batard (also carried in baguette form), and my favorite, the Italian peasant loaf (this only needs some olive oil, Italian herbs, and a bit of feta to become a meal in itself!).  Since becoming the buyer for the Selby store, a number of new items have made appearances: potato dinner rolls, a sesame semolina batard, pretzel buns for both burgers and hoagies, and a weekend-only double raisin rye.  Due to customer request, a while back we also started carrying their large sandwich loaves, the same bread our Deli uses.

Interested in trying something we don’t carry?  I’ve seen a variety of both sweet and savory baguettes and artisan loafs, buns, and sandwich breads we simply don’t have room to add to our own shelves.  Stop in at the 26th Ave. location sometime (the address and hours below), where they offer a wide range of fresh items, a daily soup special, and a small selection of salads and sandwiches.  And if you do visit, give a (polite!) shout-out to the second floor, where the excellent Customer Service team sits, answering my questions and getting my orders in the system; say Ben from Mississippi Market sent you, and you might see a hand waving at you from over the balcony!

New French Bakery
2609 26th Ave S.
Minneapolis, MN 55406
612.455.7507
www.newfrenchbakery.com
Retail hours: 8:30-6 M-F, 8:30-3 on the weekends

Ben Zamora-Weiss is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. As mentioned above, you’ll also find him at the Selby store keeping the shelves stocked with the best locally baked breads we can find.

Hey, cat lovers – Eat Local Month’s not just for humans

It’s not at all uncommon for people to pamper their pets, sometimes by way of treats, toys, special grooming, or young children (oh, I already said toys). Among these other ways, our cats are also pampered in their everyday food.   When we adopted a pair of sibling kittens just about a year ago, we did some research into what the healthiest and most natural food out there was (and one that would still fit into our budget).  It seemed clear to us that the way to go was to simply make our own raw meat cat food at home.

Cats are, by design, hunters—pull out a feather toy or laser pointer or watch them around a bug and you’re sure to see the instincts kick in—but their teeth and digestive tract are set up to process raw meat, and little else.  We read over and over that dry-only diets are the worst for cats, and are the leading cause of obesity and other health issues…because they simply didn’t evolve to eat such stuff.  Canned wet food is a step up, no doubt, but even the varieties we sell at Mississippi Market have filler and are bound to utilize meat scraps and some form of preservatives, and this highly processed mush doesn’t give a cat’s teeth the same cleaning that chewing into fresh meat does. We discovered that it’s really not difficult to make a simple, chicken-based chow that our kittens really enjoy.  And when I say ‘really’, I mean they complain quite vocally if we run out and substitute canned food instead.

Most ingredients for making your own cat food can be found at Mississippi Market.

Most ingredients for making your own cat food can be found at Mississippi Market.

The recipe we work from we found online at Cat Nutrition and it’s pretty simple, almost everything is available at Mississippi Market, and all of the meat and eggs are locally produced!

-Raw muscle, bone-in meat:  We usually use Kadejan or Schultz whole chickens.  We’ve also made a batch using a rabbit from LTD Farms, but that was some costly meat.  Dark meat is more nutritious than white meat, so adding in some leg quarters is wise.  Essential nutrients are found in bones, and if you don’t grind these in, additional dry supplements will be necessary.

-Organ meat: cats will usually eat their entire kill, and vital vitamins, minerals, and proteins are only found in certain organs.  US food laws only allow sale of whole animals after certain organs have been removed, so you’ll need to get some chicken hearts and livers to supplement; Kadajan also offers these, and can be found in the meat freezers or special ordered.  Our cat Porter really enjoys a plain heart as a treat, too!

-Egg yolks: we almost always buy Schultz eggs in bulk.

-Water: while cats will drink water from a bowl, much of their hydration should come from food (one reason the dry-only diet isn’t ideal).

Cat food #2

A meat grinder is necessary. We found one online for about $120, it works great & has uses for human food, too.

-A variety of vitamin and mineral supplements: since skin, hair, and many organs have been removed from the meat we grind, essential oils and other nutrients won’t be present in the above ingredients alone.  Of what the website lists, almost everything is either readily available in the Wellness section of our stores or can be special ordered.  I think the only part of this recipe we couldn’t buy at Mississippi Market was the glandular supplement, but this is relatively inexpensive to order online.

-Lastly, a meat grinder is necessary.  We bought a simple stand-alone unit (as in not a Kitchenaid attachment) for about $120 online, and it has worked flawlessly for us, bones and all, for the past year.

The recipe calls for mixing the yolks, water, and supplements into a slurry, which is then mixed in with all the ground up meat (we use a medium-size grind head).  When using whole birds, we remove the skin to cut excess fat out of the recipe when there’s white meat included….and this helps the grinder from getting clogged up.  I’ve had friends around during the process who’ve asked what I was making because it looked quite good.

Cat food #3

Need a reason to buy Talenti gelato? Their containers work great for reusable storage!

If you’re busy or don’t want to walk through the entire process multiple times a month, it’s simple stuff to store and freeze. We usually make a double batch of this recipe, and that’ll last us right about a month for our two still-young cats. And, what better reason to buy Talenti gelato? The sturdy plastic containers are excellent for re-using for storage (Heads-up – Talenti will be on sale for part of September! Perfect!) Each of these containers is about two days-worth of food for two cats, at two-servings a day.

After our first batch, we cost it out to see if it would be a cost-effective venture to keep up with. Not counting the grinder (which can be used for a plethora of other human-food tasks!) or Talenti, buying all the raw food and supplements works out to be about the same as buying a similar quantity of any of the cans of cat food we sell when they are on sale. And if you snag meat or supplements when they are on sale or otherwise discounted, all the better. The whole process (cutting apart the chicken through the final cleaning) for a batch the size we make is usually a two hour process at most, but we only need to do it about once a month.

Finding the benefits of raw cat food isn’t hard, from helping avoid kidney and weight issues, a healthier coat, a more active personality, to just knowing what’s going into the food this extension of your family is eating. Oh, and they won’t be able to get enough.

Cat food #4

We discovered that it’s really not difficult to make a simple, chicken-based chow that our kittens really enjoy. And when I say ‘really’, I mean they complain quite vocally if we run out and substitute canned food instead.

*Disclaimers: While cats’ systems are tuned to digest raw food, all precautions should be taken with making sure what they eat is as fresh as possible. Only thaw what they will eat within 2-3 days, and be sure to clean all hands, surfaces, containers, and implements that come in contact with raw meat immediately. Transitioning a cat from a dry-only or canned food diet should be done gradually. There is always the risk of injury from a bone fragment being too big or sharp, but this is nothing that a cat wouldn’t also risk hunting on their own outdoors.

Co-written by Ben & Jess Zamora-Weiss, staff members and bloggers for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. You’ll also find Ben at the Selby store keeping the shelves stocked with the best locally baked breads we can find and Jess at the Selby store’s juice bar, making things run smoothly and taste amazing!

Easy salads complement summer meals

We love the versatility of beans and grains, especially for making summer salads. They work great as a side dish or an entrée; they’re great for a crowd (make one for the next barbeque you’re invited to); and, they make great leftovers (make a salad at the start of the week and you’ll have lunches for the following days).

We’ve borrowed this handy chart from Mark Bittman – it breaks down just how easy it is to make your own salads and dressings. Plus, it suggests various additions so that you can mix & match.  The Basic Bean & Grain Salad is a good place to start. The Pinto Bean & Quinoa salad is an example of what you can come up with when you combine the ingredients in the chart. You’re bound to a nave a new salad each week of the summer!

Mix & Match - Make your own salads

Basic Bean & Grain Salad
ingredients
Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
1⁄4 cup olive oil, or to taste
1⁄4 cup chopped red onion or shallot
Salt and black pepper
4 cups cooked or canned beans, drained, or cooked grains, or a combination
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preparation: Combine lemon juice, oil, onion, and salt and pepper in a large bowl and whisk. If you’ve just cooked the beans or grains, add them to the dressing while they are still hot. Toss gently until the beans or grains are coated, adding more oil or lemon juice if you like.
Let cool to room temperature (or refrigerate), stirring every now and then to redistribute the dressing. Stir in the parsley just before serving, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Simple Pinto Bean & Quinoa Salad
Ingredients
Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
1⁄4 cup olive oil, or to taste
1-2 tsp Dijon mustard
1⁄4 cup chopped shallot
Salt and black pepper
2 cups cooked pinto beans
2 cups cooked quinoa
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preparation: Combine the lemon juice, oil, shallot, and salt and pepper in a large bowl and whisk. Add cooked beans and grains to the dressing while they are still hot. Toss gently until the beans and grains are coated, adding more oil or lemon juice if you like.
Let cool to room temperature (or refrigerate), stirring every now and then to redistribute the dressing. Stir in the parsley just before serving, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Add fresh veggies, or serve with greens or crusty bread.
Adapted from Mark Bittman.

 

Low-Tech Kitchen Cleansers: If It Ain’t Broke . . .

BonAmi_1886_formulaOne hundred fifty years ago, if you needed to clean out an especially grimy kitchen pot, you’d add water and ashes from your wood-burning stove to the offending pot and allow the potent alkaline mixture (lye) to scour the pot for you. This caustic kitchen brew was replaced in the post-Civil War period by one of the first commercially made cleansers: Bon Ami (feldspar-tallow soap). Bon Ami is still available today, and is superior to more popular big-box cleansers like Comet and Ajax.

Bon Ami solved a problem that nineteenth-century cooks faced when using homemade wood ash or brick dust as scouring agents: both scratched delicate surfaces like the newly popular and prized porcelain sinks and enameled steel and aluminum cookware. Bon Ami’s inventor, J. T. Robertson, recognized this and chose feldspar, a soft mineral often found in association with quartz, as a scouring agent. At the time, quartz was powdered for use in laundry soaps and the feldspar discarded. Robertson realized that the much softer feldspar could also be used for cleaning without harming delicate surfaces. His cleanser combined tallow (the fatty by-product of animal processing, which has been the historical basis for most soaps) and feldspar, and Bon Ami was marketed with the logo of a tiny chick and the slogan, “Hasn’t scratched yet.” (You chicken keepers out there know that chicks don’t start scratching until they’re about four days old, and Bon Ami’s logo assumed this knowledge on buyers’ parts.)

BonAmi VintageBon Ami remained a popular cleanser through the 1940s, but thereafter it steadily lost market share to the aggressive, chlorine- and abrasive-laden cleansers that came on the market in the 1950s. Happily, the environmental movement that swelled in the wake of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) recognized the value of Bon Ami’s old-fashioned, fragrance-free formula, and sales began to climb again. Mississippi Market carries the original-formula Bon Ami (feldspar and tallow only), as well as a more recent Bon Ami cleanser. Both are free of dyes, fragrances, and other industrial additives. I’ve used Bon Ami all of my life, and it’s a wonderful cleanser—hasn’t scratched yet!

This old-fashioned cleanser can handle just about any kitchen cleaning job you ask, and does so in transparent, low-impact ways. No kitchen should be without it.

Once in a while, though, everyone has a stovetop accident, and a thick layer of char coats the bottom of a beloved pan. In such cases, the most effective remedy is simple, old-fashioned baking soda. Make up a very thick paste of baking soda and cold water in the charred pot or pan and leave it to sit overnight. Most of the char should lift off easily after such treatment when you add hot water. Once most of the char has floated off the surface, you can scour out the remainder with Bon Ami.

For more simple, homemade, green cleaning tips: register for our Make Your Own Eco-Friendly Cleaning Kit class on Saturday, April 20th. The class will cover harmful chemicals in household cleaning products and their adverse effects. Then learn how easy, economical, and fast it is to make your own cleaners with common ingredients. Make an eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner and a scrubbing cleaner for you to take home, too!

Make it, quick! – Grilled cheese & soup

Sometimes we just need something quick & easy for mealtime. In winter, something warm is usually preferred.  Well, one of the most comforting and quickest meals around is grilled cheese & soup. Now through February 26th, you’ll find all you need to make this quick meal on sale:

  • Amy’s organic soups – 2 for $5 (choose from chunky tomato bisque, split pea, lentil and more
  • Local, Milton’s Creamery Prairie Breeze cheddar – 20% off
  • Rudi’s organic sliced bread – $3.29 per loaf

Ask around in our aisles and you’ll find that almost everyone has their favorite way to spruce up their grilled cheese sandwich. Here’s a no-fail recipe from James, our grocery manager at Selby, for a grilled cheese sandwich that brings it up a notch:

Garlic Grilled cheese recipe

Farewell, International Year of Cooperatives!

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives, highlighting the contribution of cooperatives to socio-economic development.

In this pronouncement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated, “Cooperatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility.” In the midst of so much global economic turmoil, cooperatives offer a different way of doing business – by creating and distributing wealth in a democratic, socially equitable way.

The CEPIBO banana co-op in Northern Peru prepares fair-trade bananas to be packed and shipped to the United States.

For example, if you have ever seen organic, fair trade bananas at a Twin Cities food co-op, chances are that they were grown by farmers belonging CIPEBO, the banana-grower co-op in northern Peru. In 2001 the farmers began working together cooperatively, to negotiate a better price for their product, more importantly, control the conditions of their labor and their product. Where they used to receive only $1.90 per box, the banana farmers now receive a fair trade premium of $1.00 per box above the minimum price. with $4.00 per box going directly to the farmer. The farmers, each member-owners of the co-op, vote on how the fair trade premium is spent – to improve the working conditions of the banana workers, purchase educational material for community schools, invest in business opportunities for the local youth, sponsor community events and help families in financial need.

Bringing the cooperative story closer to home, did you know that Minnesota is home to four of the top ten cooperatives in the country? According to Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, “Our state’s co-ops generate more than $34 billion in revenue and provide goods jobs for 46,000 Minnesota residents. Large or small, urban or rural, the key concept of a cooperative business is friends, neighbors and fellow members delivering value for each other and their communities.”

In the Twin Cities people often think of co-ops as the place to buy natural foods. That’s not surprising – for nearly 40 years we have had many excellent natural foods co-ops from which to choose. Today, in addition to serving countless shoppers who haven’t yet invested, the 12 Twin Cities area food co-ops have nearly 70,000 active member-owners. A recent study commissioned by the National Co-op Grocer’s Association showed that the average food co-op purchases from 51 local farms and 106 local producers and that for every $1 they spend at the co-op, $1.60 is generated in the local economy. Co-op member-owners know that their co-op focuses  on building healthy lifestyles and healthy communities – not only do we circulate more dollars in our community, 83% of food co-ops offer healthy eating and nutrition classes and give three times more of profits to charity then conventional grocery stores.

50¢ from each purchase of these limited edition chocolate bars goes to further support cooperative cocoa farmers in Ecuador and Peru.

The Sweet Taste of Cooperation
Even though the International Year of Cooperatives is officially over, you can still celebrate the cooperative spirit! Food co-ops across the country have partnered with Theo Chocolate to create two decadent, limited-edition chocolate bars: a smooth and rich 85% ultimate dark chocolate and a rich and creamy 45% milk chocolate.

These scrumptious confections are organic, fair trade certified. Buying one of these chocolate bar helps support cocoa farmers by ensuring living wages, promotes the health of our planet through organic growing practices, and creates artisan food manufacturing jobs in the U.S. - 50¢ of your purchase goes directly to support the cooperatives that provide the cacao for our bars: Fortaleza del Valle in Ecuador, and Cepicafe in Peru. It’s just another way that food co-ops and our shoppers and owners are helping to build a better world!

 

The Story of my Dinner, or why I ate blackberry jam on beer bread

Tonight’s meal of homemade blackberry jam, Rustica beer bread, Bent River Camembert and Michigan blueberries began with just blackberries, a big bowl of them sitting on my countertop.  I already had another bowl’s worth of them freezing on a baking sheet in my chest freezer.  And there were more ready to be picked, giant blackberries and more than I’ve ever had in years past.  It was time to make jam.

So I headed off to work at the co-op the next morning with my empty jar for sugar.  All I needed to get for the night’s project was lemons (for extra pectin in
the jam), sugar and jar lids.

But along the way that day, my list started growing. I get some insider information by working for the co-op: like knowing the exact moment the Michigan blueberries arrive, or that Rustica bakery has beer bread every Wednesday.  So after work, my shopping cart was filled with Bent River Camembert, made with grass fed organic milk from Cedar Summit Dairy [Which may or may not be going on sale in August for Eat Local Month, hint, hint], the first Michigan blueberries that arrived minutes before, and a loaf of dark and crusty Rustica beer bread.  How could I resist?  I didn’t know I was going to eat these together until I started making the jam.

Making jam isn’t always pretty.  There’s fruit splashing everywhere, towels stacked up and lots of testing spoons.  Not to mention the heat.

So in the moment of jamming, and the mess, sometimes I lose track of dinnertime and have to make a meal of jam.  This is how beer bread with blackberry jam was born. Partly because it was the only bread in the house and partly because blackberries and beer sound fantastic together, I started my meal with dipping beer bread in the jammy-foam that was skimmed off the top of the simmering jam.

Then I started thinking about that Camembert in the fridge.  It has a grassy flavor this time of year, from the cows grazing on fresh pasture.  It’s just the flavor to insert between the malty, rich beer bread with the bright, sweet-tart jam.  Perfect.

I was just starting to feel guilty about eating mostly sugar and cheese for dinner when I remembered those Michigan blueberries.  Adding fruit rounded everything out and made me feel a lot better about my dinner choices. Nothing like a handful of antioxidants to brighten up a meal.

The blackberry jam is cooling now and my pieced-together dinner is long gone.  The kitchen’s still a mess, but that’s okay.  It’s summer.

_______________________________

Your kitchen should get messy this Saturday- It’s Can It Forward Day!

Driftless Organics Sunflower Oil: Bringing you one step closer to a truly local diet

A guest blog post by Feliciana Puig, Sunflower Oil Specialist – Twin Cities Metro Area for Driftless Organics.

 

Our culture is being reacquainted with an old wisdom: local is better.  Fortunately, the vast majority of the fresh food we need to sustain ourselves is available locally as a direct result of the diligent work of our own farming community.  But what about the supporting cast?  The spices, salts, sugars, and oils?  In creating a local diet, these ingredients are often overlooked, because local options aren’t readily available.   It was precisely this dilemma that inspired Josh Engel of Driftless Organics to begin experimenting with growing and pressing organic sunflower seeds several years ago.

Rich and nutty in flavor, Driftless Organics’ sunflower oil is delicious in salad dressings, drizzled fresh over bread, and mixed into fresh hummus.  It is equally delicious in low-heat stir-fries and sautés, soups, sweet or savory baked goods, and popcorn. This versatile, virgin oil boasts higher nutritional value than most cooking oils, and it’s local and organic!

The sunflower seeds, grown in Soldiers Grove, WI, are harvested and cleaned in mid-October and cold expeller pressed in northern Wisconsin.  This simple, temperature-controlled (not exceeding 120 °F) mechanical extraction method produces a pure, full-flavored oil, uncompromised in its structure and nutritional integrity.  Sunflower oil is extremely low in saturated fats and contains almost no trans fats (8.41% and 0.03% respectively).  It is also high in oleic acid, meaning that its fat content is over 80% monounsaturated (its only close competitor is olive oil, at 70%).

Monounsaturated fats are heart-healthy by definition, supporting increased “good” HDL cholesterol, and lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol in the body.  Driftless Organics’ sunflower oil is high in Vitamin E, making it a powerful antioxidant, and high in omega 9 fatty acids that can help eliminate plaque build-up in the arteries.

Driftless Organics is a small, organic vegetable operation nestled in the rolling hills of Southwestern Wisconsin’s Driftless Region.  Started on just ¼ acre of family farmland in 1993, brothers Josh and Noah Engel and co-owner Mike Lind now cultivate 130 acres of vegetables, potatoes, small grains, and cover crops.  An additional 50 acres is planted in glorious, gold-pedaled sunflowers, truly a sight to behold.

The farm serves over 700 families through their Community Supported Agriculture program and supplies food co-ops and grocery stores throughout Southwestern Wisconsin and the Twin Cities Metro Area. In addition to sunflower oil, Josh is also experimenting with soybean, canola, grapeseed, and a seasonal pumpkin seed oil.

The sunflower oil is generally available in two sizes:  8.5oz, 17oz, however ½ gallon, 1 gallon, and bulk may also be available: ask about it at Mississippi Market or visit: www.driftlessorganics.com.

Meet Feliciana and sample Driftless Organics Sunflower Oil on Friday, December 2nd 11-2pm at the Selby Dale location, and Friday, December 9th 11-2pm at the West 7th location.

Adoption Complete… Meet our Maple!

Our Maple tree in the Anderson Family sugarbush.

I’m in awe these days, watching nature come back to life. And, when I stop and pay attention, when I witness the changes that take place through the evolving seasons, I can’t help but feel a strong connection to the earth.

At the co-op we honor this connection in many ways, one of which is to buy from and support our local growers that we know are stewards of the environment, working to keep their land healthy and sustainable. Local growers like the Anderson family in Cumberland, Wis. who produce Anderson’s Maple Syrup, a family run business for over 80 years.

The Anderson’s participate in the Forest Cropland Program and Conservation Reserve Programs, both voluntary efforts to protect natural habitats and preserve them for future generations. They also created the Adopt-A-Maple tree program. For every adoption, a donation goes to plant a tree in America’s forests which will help restore areas damaged by wildfire, where critical wildlife habitat has been lost, and to clean our air and water.

Our adoption certificate! Our tree is #25 out of a approximately 2,500 sugar maples in the Anderson Family Sugarbush. It stands 35 feet 4 inches high and has a diameter of 42.5 inches.

With bottles of Anderson’s Grade A syrup on our shelves and Anderson’s Grade A and Grade B available in bulk, we knew we just had to adopt one of their maple trees! By adopting a maple tree we strengthen our connection to the tree’s natural cycle – we can tour the sugarbush and visit our tree We also get email updates for fall color change and spring harvest as well as a chance to get to know your tree using GoogleEarth.

Our maple tree’s sap run was between March 7-31, 2011 and produced about 18.5 gallons of sap. I’m not sure what that boils down to in terms of syrup, but I like to think that some of it made its way into some of the the bottles on our shelves.

If you’ve never tried maple syrup, there’s no better time! This weekend we’ll have samples out:

West 7th store: April 8, 3-6pm
Selby store: April 9, 3-6pm

Also, for the month of April, we have Anderson’s Maple Syrup on sale:
Anderson’s Grade A Maple syrup, 16 oz - sale $9.99 (reg. $10.99)
Anderson’s Grade A Maple Syrup, 32 oz - sale $21.99 (reg. $21.99)
Anderson’s Grade A Maple Syrup, 64oz - sale $37.99 (reg. 43.99)

 

The Anderson Family. Left to right: Alison, Steve, Norman and Janice Anderson. Norman was inducted into International Maple Syrup Hall of Fame in 2009.