Canning at Emily’s!

Last Wednesday, Emily (100 Mile Thanksgiving-coordinator-extraordinaire!) invited us over to learn how to can applesauce and apple butter. Check out our photos all the way from chopping to canned!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Heritage Harvest Festival

This Saturday, we visited the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello. First, we checked out the Virginia Food Heritage Project tent, where some of our colleagues working at the Institute for Environmental Negotiation were collecting stories about heritage foods in central Virginia. After that, we visited every tent that had free tastings! Heirloom tomatoes and peppers, Caramont cheese, Relay Foods apples, lavender-infused lemonade, Oakencroft Farm grape juice… the list goes on! What a deliciously amazing day ūüôā

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Polyface Farm

Saturday we went out to Swoope, VA to visit Joel Salatin‘s Polyface Farm and pick up our turkeys for Thanksgiving (this Thursday!). Yes, the level of excitement in the group was akin to Bieber Fever. Formal tours can be arranged, but we decided to show ourselves around, discovering on our own all of the inventions large and small we’ve all been reading about the farm. The fact that you’re allowed to just show up and walk around by yourself let’s you know things are run very differently at Polyface, as opposed to your typical farm. We saw the mobile chicken coops that allow the chickens to clean up after the cows, the portable fencing that allows the cows to move from field to field, and the evidence that it really happens – there was a cow-made line in the grass where they had been previously, the grass in the previous field eaten down. The pictures really speak for themselves, though – so let’s cut right to those!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Canning at the Haven

After weeks of sitting on the sidelines of the local food system, a big group of us rolled up our sleeves, tied back our hair, and learned first-hand how to preserve food by canning. Our host was The Haven, a safe place for the homeless and poor in Central Virginia to spend the day. The Haven offers a number of essential physical amenities, but also connects people in need with local social services available.

Lena was an amazing teacher, having us don aprons and pick up a knife as soon as we walked into the kitchen. Soon 20 of us were peeling, coring, and chopping apples, preparing apple sauce and apples in syrup, while others sanitized jars, monitored the apples cooking on the stovetop, and manned the food mill. By the end of the day, we had dozens of jars of food and a valuable skill to take home with us.

Jealous? There’s still time to join in the fun! We’ll be going back to The Haven on Nov. 16 and Dec. 7. Leave a comment if you’d like to come.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

True & Essential Meats, Harrisonburg VA

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A few weeks ago a small group of us spent a sunny afternoon at True & Essential Meats in Harrisonburg. A slaughterhouse. (A small, local one.) On a kill day. Really.

Owner Joe Cloud spent two very generous hours showing us his operation, answering umpteenthousand questions, and teaching us about what goes into putting food on America’s table each and every day. Some of the surprising things we learned:

  • Cows are huge!
  • Cow tongues are huge!
  • In the springtime when all the cows are eating grass, the meat processing room smells a little like freshly cut grass. Crazy!
  • One of the biggest challenges for small-scale meat processors is operating within an industry that is extremely vertically integrated. Even equipment suppliers and rendering companies are now mostly controlled by the biggest processing companies.
  • Finding skilled labor is another major challenge for small-scale operators. Local training programs for highly-skilled meat cutters are really rare.
  • New USDA regulations treat small and very small meat processing businesses much like the big guys. Joe explained that new regulations issued in March 2010 will require onerous constant testing for small processors, even those with spotless records of operation, and will cost small processors tens of thousands each year.

Joe, thanks for an educational and inspiring afternoon. We are so grateful that there are dedicated people like you and your team, working long hours every day to produce good food, serve local farmers, and support a vibrant local economy.

We’re looking forward to thanking you and all the local hands that feed us at our 100-mile Thanksgiving potluck celebration in just a few weeks!

Friday, November 19th. Mark your calendars, friends!

Graves Mountain Harvest Festival

Saturday was a beautiful autumn day in Central Virginia. What better way to enjoy these last warm, sunny days than in the foothills of Shenandoah National Park at an apple harvest festival?

Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, VA, was our host for the day. This apple harvest is a true local gem because it takes extra care to ensure that local culture and traditions are displayed prominently. On hand were local photographers, musicians, and crafters. What stood out most, however, was all of the delicious food. In the barns were big bowls of brunswick stew, apple butter donuts, and cornbread. Throughout the grounds were demonstrations.

Apple butter is a thicker, more concentrated cousin to apple sauce. It is made by slow cooking apples until the sugars caramelize, which accounts for the dark color. It was traditionally a family affair to produce as it is very time and labor intensive (keeping the fire going, stirring the apple butter, preparing the apples to go into the pot). It has a longer shelf-life than apple sauce when it comes to storage, which is the main benefit of it – oh yeah, and it’s delicious!

Pork rinds are fried pig skin. The skin is rendered, dried, and then fried until it puffs up. It is amazing to watch these hard chips of pork skin go into a cauldron of hot oil and then come out just a minute later this light, airy crisp.

There was also an old ice cream machine – but we’re all familiar with what that is!

All the apples onsite made us anxious for our next big trip – canning!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Food Collaborative Public Forum

The Food Collaborative is sponsoring a a public forum on October 7th from 4-6pm.

Panelists include: Marian Burros, a  writer with the New York Times; Tom Philpott a food editor from Grist.org and James McWilliams, author of Just Food. The forum will be moderated by Benjamin Cohen a UVa Food Collaborative coordinator.

The event will be held in the Jefferson Scholars Foundation Building (112 Clarke Ct, off Maury Ave). A local-food reception will follow. For more information, visit http://www.virginia.edu/foodcollaborative.

See you there!