Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Homemade Grassfed Pork Sausage

Turn your sausage into patties or meatballs or any form you wish!  It's versatile.
We are blessed with an abundance of grassfed meat producers in our local area.
Baron Farms is a special favorite of mine because of the quality of their products, their philosophy of food and farming, and their extraordinary friendliness and helpfulness.  We're also enjoying products from Pure Country Pork, although just the occasional bit of bacon or ham ... while they don't add synthetic preservatives, Pure Country Pork grain feeds their hogs, whereas Baron Farms grazes their pigs on grass.

Pre-made sausage is, of course, available.  But for many years I experimented with various sausage recipes and at last came up with the perfect recipe.  It will meet all your high expectations, and even has optional ingredients you can vary to suit your mood or the season. 

Tuck a couple of Baron Farms' pastured eggs alongside these sausage patties, and you'll know you've come home at last.

Place in a medium bowl:

2 pounds grassfed pork, ground

Mix in a small bowl and sprinkle over the pork, working it in thoroughly with your hands.

1/4 cup crumbled dried sage, or 1/2 cup chopped fresh sage
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons crushed fennel seed
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Add any of the following optional ingredients if you wish.  They will change the whole personality of your sausage in wonderful ways.  Use all or only some of them.  You can't go wrong.

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 apple, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

When the spices (and any optional ingredients) are mixed in really well, form the sausage into patties or meatballs, and fry in a large skillet 'til cooked through, turning occasionally to brown evenly.  No pink should be left. 

You can freeze the cooked sausage patties or meatballs, and reheat them gently in a small covered skillet with a little water.  The uncooked sausage can also be frozen, but I like to cook it all up at once so I can reheat it quickly with no pre-thawing.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Local is Getting Healthier: Finnegan Frost

Berries from Aichele Farms, a local grower that provides berries to Finnegan Frost.
Once you stop eating packaged food, and highly processed food, and shipped-in Monsanto food, and modified-for-profit Frankenfoods, you really start to notice what is left:  Wholesome, authentic food.  If you pay attention even further, you will note which of those foods nourish you and which damage you. 

And you will begin to notice businesses like Finnegan Frost.  These folks are attempting to walk it back ... to get us back to a healthier paradigm for what a "treat" should really be.  A treat is delicious.  It is something we don't eat every day, but when we do, it is the highest quality possible, as local as possible, and as untreated/modified as possible.

Not an easy thing to do in our hyperpalatability-crazed, profit-motivated, convenience-driven food culture.  But when was much of anything worthwhile ever easy?  It's more effort to brave the hot sun, and the jostling elbows of the other shoppers at the farmers' markets, than to stroll unimpeded around an air-conditioned store.  But oh, the reward of that locally-grown produce!

Now, I know that frozen yogurt, even frozen yogurt with Finnegan's wonderfully quality ingredients, is a processed food.  But what a step in the right direction they are making.  They use fresh fruits and nuts, as locally-sourced as possible, and emphatically state in one ad I saw, "No Candy!"  These people are on the ball.  On their "Why it Matters" page, they say:

Consider these facts:
  • 25.8 million people in the U.S. are affected with Diabetes
  • Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States
  • Diabetes is costing our country over $200 billion dollars a year.
  • 35.7% of U.S. adults and 17% (or 12.5 million) adolescents are obese
  • 300,000 people die annually from weight-related complications.
So, what's at the heart of these staggering health trends?  Nutrition.  While the fast food industry generates over $110 billion a year, Americans continue to get sicker. We must change our mentality toward food, or continue to face the consequences. Finnegan Frost aims to be a catalyst for change.

I will add:  Type 2 diabetes and obesity are in most cases preventable, and in many cases reversible, which makes them even more tragic as a cause of death, needless suffering, and out-of-control health care spending.

Finnegan Frost is located next to the Starbucks at Gage and Keene in Richland, behind Albertson's grocery store.

Considering Finnegan Frost's desire to use and promote local, fresh, real foods, I felt it was important to bring them to your attention so that their hard work and quality-oriented philosophy will be rewarded.  We need more businesses with these values.  I hope to find more, and when I do, I'll let you know here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Local Food Producers: Schreiber and Sons Farm

Schreiber & Sons booth at Richland Farmers' Market, June 2012

The friendly folks at Schreiber and Sons Farm work hard to make fresh, mostly organic produce available to you and me all year long.  They offer summer and winter CSA (community supported agriculture) boxes delivered at drop points around the Tri-Cities.   Click here for photos of the last three years' winter CSA boxes I received.  These boxes are heaven-sent when the cold months set in.  Alan keeps in touch splendidly with e-mails about what is or is not in our bi-weekly boxes, and what is going on at the farm.

We first met Alan Schreiber at Slow Food Southeast Washington's kickoff dinner in 2007.  The dinner was held at his farm near Eltopia.  It was an otherworldly experience to enjoy a meal of locally-produced food with other folks who believe in the concept as well.  All the farmers and artisans who supplied the food for the meal were present.  Like Alan, these producers were enthusiastic about and dedicated to producing high-quality food for the local market.

That night, Alan conducted a melon tasting of about 20 different melon varieties he had grown.  The Melon Tasting has become a legendary story in our family.  It's not often that you encounter someone who can wax enthusiastically for an hour and a half about the nuances of taste and texture, and the history and propagation of melon varieties ... and hold you in rapt attention all the while.

Alan Schreiber, if you can catch him at an event or at a farmers' market booth, will happily tell you all about his ideas for food production, new varieties of vegetables and melons, the pros and cons of organic farming, and events and organizations and potential markets and means he is musing about for getting locally produced food to local people.  Don't even get him started on the problem of fresh vegetables going to waste because of transportation issues. 

Alan is the only vendor I've found at any of the local farmers' markets who consistently offers cabbages, kale, bok choy, mustard greens, arugula, and collards.  These vegetables are a big part of our diet now, and it's blissful to be able to find them grown right here, organically.

Finally, and most importantly, Alan grows his fruits and vegetables either all organically or with as few artificial means as possible.  He doesn't sell food that he himself wouldn't eat.  For me, that's worth a lot.  It's not something I could expect from megafarms in California or Frankenfarm giants like Monsanto.

Do stop by the Schreiber and Sons booth.  Alan is starting a pre-order pickup service (new this year) so that you can select produce online and pick up your custom box at the local farmers' markets.  Visit his website and click on "Web Store" to order your fresh, local produce.

Schreiber and Sons Farm:  A gift to the mid-Columbia!