Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Adventures in local eating's been a long, long time since I blogged. Shame on me. It's not because I haven't been cooking or thinking about food. In fact, that's taken up more time than ever. Since Charlie and I decided to take the locavore challenge this upcoming spring we've put a lot of time and effort into reworking our food habits and preparing for the big change. So many foods that we take for granted are difficult, if not impossible, to find locally. Of course, that's taking a negative view of our little project. The fresh fruits and vegetables, locally-sourced grass-fed beef, local Berkshire pork (oh my!), grits and polenta, local honey, and countless other goodies we've found have been amazing. Eating local foods in season has refreshed my palate for sure, and I believe the same is true for Charlie. However, a few problems/challenges keep popping up:

1. Local free-range poultry -- It seems that this would be an easy find. After all, Georgia is the number one producer of chicken in the country. Unfortunately, this fact seems to pertain only to factory-farmed chicken. Yuck. This problem deserves a post of its own.

2. Flour/Grain -- Although this lovely area is quite capable of producing grain, oats, barley, and the like, it seems there is no real market for it. The few local mills I have been able to locate make their flour from Kansas grain. How about that?! (I have heard a rumor that a mill exists in Helen, GA that makes flour out of locally-produced wheat. Is this true? I have no idea. An upcoming weekend trip should settle the question. If that doesn't pan out I don't know what to do. I welcome suggestions.)

3. Dairy -- Oh wait! I think I solved this problem today! Hooray!!!

Okay, so here's the deal. In the State of Georgia it is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption. Read that again. Human consumption. So, I found a farm that sells raw, grass-fed cow milk for pets. Now, I don't believe for a moment that people are buying this $7/gallon milk for pets. Of course, it doesn't really matter. The label reads "Raw Cows Milk for Pets". After that the consumer is free to do what he or she wishes with the milk. I am going to make yogurt, mozzarella, ricotta, cream cheese, buttermilk, and sour cream out of mine. If that all goes well then perhaps I'll try a few other projects. Just the same, I did hesitate for a moment before drinking a glass of the raw milk. Before gulping it down I hopped on the internet and began googling. The FDA definitely hates raw milk, but I don't trust them anyway. They claim that since 1998 raw milk has sickened 800 Americans. While this is meant to be a deterrent, I took it as an endorsement. Only 800 people have been sickened since 1998? Really?! Please note, that's not deaths. That's an astonishingly low number of Americans. Consider that since its appearance last spring 10,000 Americans have died of Swine Flu.
So, I finished my reading, poured myself half a glass of raw milk (for pets), and happily drank it down. It was absolutely delicious, and I feel just fine. Of course, it's only been an hour so we'll see how this goes.
All I want is a safe, reliable source of local milk from grass-fed cows (with no hormones, antibiotics, etc. added), and I think I've found that. I was also able to purchase a dozen beautiful farm eggs (from free-range hens), raw garlic Colby cheese, and raw mild cheddar. The cheeses are delicious, by the way.

Since I've been discussing dairy, I will leave you with my Mother's fabulous homemade eggnog recipe. This stuff is so good! She made a pitcher over Christmas, and I drank so much I made myself sick. was not because of the store-bought, pasturized milk. It was because of my gluttony!

Mom's Eggnog

4 eggs, separated
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1 pint milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 oz brandy
1 tsp nutmeg

Beat egg yolks until pale. Add 1/3 cup sugar, and beat until incorporated. In a separate bowl combine milk, cream, nutmeg, and brandy. Add milk mixture to egg yolks, and stir to combine.
Using a mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1 Tbsp sugar, and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Spoon egg whites on top of eggnog, and serve.

By the way, If you have an opinion on raw milk I would love to hear it!