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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dark Days of Winter Challenge dinner #1

This evening we had our first Dark Days of Winter Dinner and we went all out and feasted well.We also learned some interesting things at the store today which I will get to as I go along here.
Many weeks ago Chance had read about a cured meat made from Pork Jowls called Guanciale. Guanciale is dry cured meaning it hangs in a cool dry place for weeks on end to do it's curing.It has a mild garlic- herb flavor and reminds me of Bacon a bit,just less salty. There is a blog we follow,One Hungry Chef and that is where Chance found our dinner idea. We started the curing of the meat 8 weeks ago and when we signed up for the Dark Days Challenge we just knew this would be our first dinner.
So here is the run down of what we made and what we discovered.

We made for Dinner- Carbonara the way the Romans did.

Chance made the pasta from scratch. We found today a flour company Stone Buhr that is kind of like a co-op of wheat farmers that all live in either Eastern Washington State or Eastern Oregon. We cheated a bit with this one and this is why.On the bag of flour it said we could go online, enter the date stamped on the bag and they would tell us all about which farm our bag of wheat came from. We figured that maybe we'd be lucky and get the farm in The Dalles Oregon since that's within our radius or maybe there would be a farm in Washington within our circle. Well, we ended up with a bag of flour from Eastern Washington,the farm is 20 miles out side of the radius on my map. We tried, and like I said in my last posting grains will be our biggest challenge here in Western Oregon.
The eggs came from the neighbors since I forgot eggs at the store. 2 came from one neighbors coop and the others were store eggs from Vancouver Washington.
We also needed Parmesan Cheese now that was interesting to learn about.There is not a local Cheese Maker who makes Parmesan,Wisconsin was the closest we could get. The guy at the cheese counter showed us some local cheeses and we picked a semi hard cheese called La Mariposa 5 Esquinas from Sweet Home Oregon, 96 miles south of home.Good cheese and a fine substitute for the Parm.
The original Pork Jowl we bought to cure came from Carlton Meats about an hour west of here.
Chance wanted to add his own twist to the challenge and opted not to use any oils in the cooking of dinner.We had a pint of heavy cream from a local dairy that needed to be used so Chance made his own unsalted butter to use. Chance's other twist was he did not use any salt in making dinner since we did not see any local salt today at the store.
With the Pasta we had a plate of fruit.Today we went to a bike race at one of the local farms we go to often so I was able to buy right from one of our favorite local farmers.Kruger's farm is on Sauvie Island which is within the city limits so it's really local.I sliced two kinds of Apples and one type of Pear.
Last night Chance and I were actually watching TV and came across a show about a 100 mile food challenge this town did.It was interesting to hear what the people missed,how they made do,and seeing the film footage of the families cupboards being emptied at the start of the challenge.One family did get to keep their jar of honey since it was local.Seeing that opened our eyes,wow there's so much we just take for granted!
Today during our shopping trip we read labels,many labels and they can be misleading.Yeah sure we are used to some of the misleading information on products but today we were looking for a different kind of information.
For example I was thinking partly that we may be able to find local wheat from Bob's Redmill flour company,they are based here in our area and well known.None of their packaging tells you where the grain comes from.Then we were wondering about something in the bulk isle.Most items were marked with point of origin but we found one that said to ask the department manager for the information.The bulk foods manager was very helpful and told us that we were not going to find much grain to buy within our radius.He also told us Bob's Redmill is just based here and they bring in all of their product.
We toured the store today just to see what we could find.Dairy,meat and eggs where no problem but veggies were a different story.Most of the vegs were from either Mexico or California yet they were labeled Organic.Where dose one draw the line here? Organic but from far away or Local but not certified Organic.Which one is "greener"? The veggies for this challenge is most likely going to be the challenge for us. We shall see. We saw plenty of local apples and pears at the store.
One of the other things we learned today is, there is a difference between where a company is based and where the product comes from.If I buy from a local company that uses product from out of state is that supporting a local company or is the carbon foot print not worth it even if the product is sustainable, organic or whatever? Lots of the labels gave us no clue as to where the food its self came from.Luckily many of these were on the packaged food isles where I don't really shop much.
I am still thinking about all of this,it certainly is big yet it makes sense in some ways and ties into what we are trying to accomplish here. Now to start thinking of the next meal......


  1. Hi - I've talked to Bob's before. All the wheat is from WA or Montana HOWEVER you should check out www.AzureStandard.com. It's a farm in Durham, OR and they grow their own grains. If you email them with SKU #s they will tell you where everything was grown and they make their own pasta there as well. They also deliver other items, including Rumiano parmeson from CA which is closer than WI.

    I've been researching all this stuff since 1/1 when I started my challenge. It does get easier once you get it all figured out.

    Good luck and nice work! I have pork jowels in the freezer waiting for that same treatment...

  2. In years past, I've made my own salt from seawater gathered at the Oregon coast. Hmm..is the coast within your radius? Three gallons of seawater will give you about a pint of salt. I let it evaporate from cake pans sitting around the wood stove. I'm sure it would work in a low oven, as well. The trick is to stir it often as it is nearing completion. Otherwise, you could end up with a rock-hard salt coating on your pan!

  3. I've used Azure Standard also, with great results. Some grain products are from Oregon or Montana -- it depends which size package you order. You can call the company and they can explain how their system works, but the local grains are grown right at Azure farms.

  4. Yes we did think of trying that esp since it would be fun to try with our boys. And yes,the coast is within our radius.45 minutes from home and my toes are in the sand another reason to love Oregon.