Raindrops on fruit trees and crisp apple pancakes...I'll stop while I'm ahead, but since I sound better when I sing in print, I couldn't resist the opportunity for the lame joke. Anyway, I've had several people ask me recently about canning, local food, and baking bread, so I thought I'd create a post addressing these issues.
Canning and Local Fruit Farms:
I could sit here and type out directions for canning, but pickyourown.org has already done it. True, it's helpful to have someone with canning experience help you the first time, and Byron's aunt was gracious enough to help me get started, but if you can't track down someone who was born prior to 1940 or someone like me, CLICK HERE for their direct link to everything canning. Scroll down for links to directions, recipes, etc. On their main page, you can navigate to find local orchards and so forth. Plan a family outing, seriously! Some of my best childhood memories are from going fruit picking with my parents and brother. And it's usually cheaper than paying for whatever was shipped from California or Guatemala "fresh" to your local grocery store.
Recently, I heard Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm speak at a homeschool convention. He rightly likened the local food movement to where the homeschool movement was twenty or thirty years ago. Not totally popular yet and not necessarily accessible to everyone...be it financially or otherwise. Local meats that are not riddled with hormones and antibiotics are going to cost you more than the meats at the grocery store. But I believe there's a hidden cost, as a lot of the industrial food is subsidized by your tax dollars (so you are paying more for it already) and it has led to widespread outbreaks of food-borne illness. When you feed a cow grain instead of grass, it's going to get sick. Likewise, if I ate grass for a week, I'd probably get sick, too.
I digress. For local meats, eggs, etc., try eatwild.com or localharvest. org. If we, as consumers, start demanding that our food is produced humanely and without artificial and unnatural feeds, fertilizers, etc. the big guys will eventually have to follow suit or go out of business.
A couple years ago I began researching grain mills and the benefits of eating bread made from freshly milled flour. Besides the fact that the whole kernel of the wheat berry contains almost all the nutrients your body needs, the insoluble fiber becomes food for the good bacteria in your intestines, which promotes the growth of your body's own immune system. And if you happen to have constipation problems, I can almost guarantee that they will go away in no time!
The most popular grain mills are the Nutrimill, which I have, and the Wonder Mill. You can google these and find the vendors with the best prices. I used to ride horses in high school and sold my saddle so I could buy mine. A bittersweet day it was.
To get started in milling your own grains, Bread Beckers is a good place to start. Their cookbook is pretty foolproof and they also have co-ops and may deliver grains, oils, honey, etc. to an area close to you. I also use The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, which is trickier but offers a great variety of whole wheat baking advice and recipes. Baking with freshly milled whole wheat is a bit of an art; don't be discouraged if you have loaves that don't turn out light and fluffy at first. I've made plenty of bricks myself.
Other options for local food are food co-ops (you pay a flat fee and go to a pick-up station every week for your share of what's in season) and farmer's markets.
CLICK HERE for some whole wheat FAQs...
Food Inc. is a documentary on the food industry and something every American should watch. Seriously. Put it on your Netflix cue, like, now. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan is a must-read which addresses some of the same issues in greater detail. I'm more of a fiction reader, but I motored through this book in no time. Pollan is a gifted writer and it's worth finding the time to read this book. If you're thrifty like me, you could probably pick it up at the library.