Thursday, December 27, 2007

Local Meal (week 11): New Discoveries

This is the last week of the Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge (unless, of course, somebody decides to continue it!). Can't believe I made it and I've still got a ton of local food in the fridge and freezer! I have a little less in the (laundry room) pantry, but you'll just have to keep reading to learn about that...

This week's local meal was one of our standby favorites: beef stroganoff. It turned out very tasty served over mashed potatoes (even though I actually prefer it over rice) and we also had cut up raw veggies. The local ingredients were: grass-fed beef, potatoes, leeks (a great substitute for green onions!), sour cream, butter and carrots. Non-local were the mushrooms (Someday I'll get brave and try the local ones, I promise!), spices (allowed), and the celery, which was a goof. I thought it was local, but when I bit into it I remembered that I had purchased some at the store as well. I noticed because it wasn't half as good!

One of my own challenge "rules" was to source a new local ingredient each month. For December, I chose flour, the ingredient that seems to challenge everybody. I've done some research trying to find Oregon wheat flour and was puzzled for a while as to why I could find an Oregon Wheat Growers League, but no local flour. It turns out Oregon farmers grow soft white wheat, which is good for making pasta, and and they ship most of it to Asia. You need hard red wheat flour to make bread, but it grows no closer than Montana. Even local companies like Bob's Red Mill get their wheat for bread flour from outside the state. (Some of Bob's Red Mill soft white flour does come from Oregon.)

Then I learned about a company called Azure Standard. They serve as a distributor for many other companies (mostly organic), but they also have their own farm called Azure Farm where they grow small amounts of wheats and grains, which they mill into flours. Not everything sold under the Azure Farm label is grown at their farm, so I inquired about the source of the wheat. The flour sold by the pound (5 lb. up to 50 lb.) is from Utah, but the flour (including whole wheat and white flour) sold by the ounce (eg. 27 oz. package) is from their farm. Wa-la! Oregon flour!

Azure has a unique distribution method since to send their food by normal shipping would be prohibitively expensive. They have truck routes throughout the pacific northwest and there are drop sites on each route. You figure out what route you are on and then call them for the name of the person organizing the drop site. If the group order comes to $400 or more, shipping is free. An individual gets free shipping for an order of at least $40 that is part of an at least $400 order to the drop site. The truck comes once a month or more for some routes. Make sense? I had to call them to get it all explained. So anyway, I ordered a catalog and got the name of the person with the closest drop site. I'm planning on placing an order sometime soon. I'm not sure it really matters (except to an "Eat Local" challenge) if I buy Oregon or Utah organic wheat. What is nice is knowing that if I use the flour to bake my own bread, I don't have to be concerned about whether the bread contains weird products added to wheat gluten that came from China. (I admit I'll probably keep buying bread a lot of the time for convenience, but at least I finally found Oregon flour!)

One final note: There has been a lot of ideas proposed among the challenge blog writers about how to use butternut squash. I found a use that no one has mentioned, yet. You store the squash in a paper bag in your laundry room, which is sort of heated since it's in your house, and then one day you pick up the paper bag. The squash falls out the bottom of the bag, rotted. It lands right on your shoe. Clean the goopy glop off your shoe and then clean the floor which hasn't been mopped in months. Butternut squash can inspire housecleaning!

Thanks, Laura at Urban Hennery, for the fun!

1 comment:

mamadotis said...

Thank you so much for the info on Oregon flour. I am trying to go as local as possible (a bit of a challenge in Bend - but not impossible). Even though I buy bread from my local bakery and when I buy packaged it's from Eugene (Dave's Killer Bread is awesome) I want to start baking myself and want to buy local! Thanks again!