Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dark Days Challenge - Bangers & Mash

Our version of Bangers & Mash.

I decided to try the Dark Days Eat Local Challenge this winter. I tried the One Local Summer Challenge, but quickly dropped out when I couldn't regularly find enough local ingredients. I was obsessing over getting everything just right, and meticulously calculating mileage for each ingredient.

But now, I have had a summer and fall of gardening, cooking, canning, drying, storing, freezing, and root cellaring. And I'm going to be more relaxed about it. It's the effort that matters, and the things I learn from it, not whether I get it exactly right every time.

Fresh pork sausage from Jack Leininger Meats - $2.99/lb.

What do I consider local? Certainly, everything I grew myself, or foraged. And everything I bought directly from a Berks County grower at a farmstand, auction, or market stall. Anything I know came from a local producer, like a butcher, dairy, or bakery, even if every input was not locally sourced. We don't produce bread flour in this region, for instance, but if the bakery is local, or I made the bread, I am going to consider it local. The counties that surround Berks - Lancaster, Chester, Lebanon, Schuylkill, Montgomery - they are all less than an hour away by car. I'll think of them as local, and some of their farmers have market stalls closer to me than their farms.

Potatoes from Burkholder's and cabbage from my own garden.

As the Challenge progresses, I will give more thought to what "local" means, and post an evolving list of my local foodshed sources. I've actually drawn a map the divides the county into quarters, and I have sources grouped by quarter, so I can make my shopping trips as fuel efficient as possible.

Cooking cabbage in the sausage drippings with a little water to deglaze.

My first Challenge meal was a dinner of Bangers & Mash, a simple sausage and mashed potato meal often served in British pubs. The sausage was made by a local butcher at the Fairgrounds market, fresh pork sausage that I had in the freezer. The potatoes were from the Burkholder farmstand near Fleetwood. The gravy was the peppery milk gravy that DD15 makes. We used local Clover Farms milk.

My vintage potato ricer.

With it, I made Sauteed Cabbage and Apples, which gave the meal a more German motif. I used a small head of cabbage I grew in our garden, and threw in a handful of apple slices from a #10 apple from the Stoudt's Orchard stand at the West Reading market. DH is made happy with cabbage, but suggested a little onion for next time, and slightly less apple.

I like those #10 apples from Stoudt's. Never had 'em before.

What wasn't local? Maybe the little bit of bacon fat I added when the cabbage started to stick. Not sure if that particular blob of fat came from local bacon. In the gravy, the butter was local, but not the superfine flour for the roux, nor the salt and pepper.

I'm happy with this first Challenge effort. I had everything on hand in the pantry or freezer.


fullfreezer said...

Certain sources (I think the Leopold Center) define local as a 100 mile radius. But there are always considerations given to foods that aren't produced in your foodshed such as pepper, coffee, citrus, etc. I haven't signed up for any challenges but we try to eat locally as much as possible. We even had a local foods dinner party complete with a quite respectable bottle of locally produced wine.

Stephany said...

I am not going to try that challenge during the Winter because I just don't have the resources. We are a one income family in a town whose one natural foods store is a tad on the overpriced side.
I will use what I put away over the summer and buy locally when I can find it. Like you, next year I will have more stuff put away. The gardening season was kind of weird here in Iowa because of all the rain in the Spring.