Thursday, November 27, 2008

Preserving the Seasons: November, Week 4

At this point in the season, now that you've put up a nice little stash of local food for winter, what can you do to celebrate?

Eat a little of it, of course!

As promised, I'm featuring our Thanksgiving feast as this month's local meal. My Wonderful Parents and I agreed to make our holiday feast with as many local ingredients as possible, and I think we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

I noted earlier that I would bring the cornbread dressing, so I pulled out a friend's recipe for a Southwestern version of the dish. The cornbread itself -- a three-layer cornbread from the Tassajara Bread Book -- included local cornmeal and wheat flour from the grist mill, local eggs from the co-op, and local butter and milk from the dairy. I baked it last night, then cut it up and toasted it before mixing it with sauteed onions and garlic from my CSA and celery from the farmers' market, more local eggs and milk, and a smidgen of homemade vegetable stock. It turned out perfectly!

Along with my dressing, My Wonderful Parents pulled out some green and wax beans from the freezer (more CSA goodies), steamed them, and tossed them with buttery toasted almonds -- one of my longtime favorite vegetable dishes.

More CSA produce showed up in the form of sweet sweet potatoes, dabbed with a bit of butter and brown sugar. And we splurged a little and enjoyed a superb cherry wine from the local winery.

I had decided to treat my folks to a local turkey this year and was able to buy a large half-turkey from the Cheerful Lady and Handyman Joe. Though I'm uncertain of the breed, I do know that the bird was more meaty than fat, and the dark meat looked so much more tempting than the white (unlike most commercial birds).

The Chef Mother made her mother's roll recipe, and My Dear Papa cranked out the usual cranberry-orange relish (which actually contained some local heartnuts!), making our plates colorful, incredibly nutritious, and all the more satisfying for being from farmers we know and trust. Blessings abounded!

After dinner (in which we all managed to stick to one modest plate full of food and NOT overeat), I pulled out dessert: a maple-hican pie with local whole wheat flour in the crust, local hicans (cross between hickory nuts and pecans), and a rich filling made from local maple syrup, local-to-a-friend maple sugar, local eggs, and local butter. It had a slightly different taste than regular pecan pie, of course, but I thought it was richer, with a deeper flavor, and all the more satisfying.

It looked almost exactly like traditional Thanksgiving meals of the past, but it meant so much more to us as we had a better sense of where all our food originated, and we could give thanks for all the hands that made the meal possible, from the sowers and the growers to the cooks. (Sharon has a wonderful post today about grace and giving thanks for just this thing; highly recommended!)

We still have plenty of food tucked away for winter, between all our freezing and canning and such, but this seemed the ideal way to kick off a season of simpler meals and stretching reserves: with full appreciation of all the good food we can find locally and of all the hard work that goes into bringing it from the farm to the table.

What better way to say "Thanks!" than to savor every bite?

Maple-Hican Pie

Based on a couple of maple pecan pie recipes found online, this is a nice local variation on the traditional pecan pie (which now generally contains corn syrup). If hicans are unknown to you or aren't locally available, try other nuts such as walnuts, heartnuts, pecans, or possibly hickory nuts (though I regret I can't vouch for that flavor). I've cut back on the sugar and syrup so that it won't be so sweet, but it's still plenty sweet for everyone!

1 9" pie crust (homemade, I hope!)
1 to 1 1/2 c chopped hicans (or other nuts)
3 eggs
3/4 c maple syrup
1/4 c maple sugar
2 T melted butter
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line pie dish with crust and sprinkle chopped nuts inside. Set aside.

Beat eggs until lemon colored. Add remaining ingredients and whisk until well combined. Pour over nuts in crust.

Set pie dish on baking sheet and slide into oven. Bake 40 minutes, until filling is set and crust is lightly browned. Cool slightly before serving.

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At 12/01/2008 5:34 PM, Blogger Tara said...

Oh, this sounds like such a wonderful meal! I'm glad you had a nice holiday and really enjoyed reading about it. Thanks for sharing.

At 12/02/2008 7:12 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Thanks, Tara! It was well planned and thoroughly enjoyable, especially as it gave us the chance to remember all the wonderful people we've met this year in the pursuit of local food. :-) Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, too!

At 12/02/2008 9:32 PM, Anonymous Janet said...

I didn't work nearly as hard as you this summer, so I don't have nearly your stock to draw from. Still, I've been enjoying pulling already diced peppers and already prepped apple slices from the freezer. Who knows? Maybe I'll be more industrious next summer, but I doubt I'll ever be in your league!

At 12/03/2008 6:51 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Hey, Janet, you've got plenty to show for your efforts this summer -- so enjoy it! :-) Besides, you're one up on me with the apples -- mine are still sitting in cold storage, slowly turning to mush. I really need to bake a pie soon.


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