I’m quaking in my boots after listening to a couple of weeks’ worth of NPR’s Planet Money. Maybe we aren’t headed for a new Great Depression, but we are very likely to have a year or more of deep recession. I have been saving a lot of money by cooking at home and basing meals around the produce from my CSA subscription and farmers markets. It is a whole new lifestyle where I’m not stopping at the grocery store or restaurant every night to pick up something for dinner. While the items I buy at the farmers market cost more than similar items in a discount grocery, the overall savings have been huge.
But what to do about the turkey? I priced locally grown, organically fed turkey at Fred Meyer. It was over $3 a pound, so my bird would have been $45. For that, you basically get the same turkey that has been genetically engineered for decades, but fed stuff that might be more ethically acceptable. These are not true wild, free-range turkeys. Barbara Kingsolver covered that well in “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” Today’s turkeys have even forgotten how to breed or hatch their own eggs. I suppose the right answer would be to have something different for Thanksgiving, like a true free-grazing local chicken.
Here is an actual pastured turkey grazing at Maysara Winery. Photo © Wendy Bumgardner.
But once a year, I want our own turkey and stuffing. I went to Winco, a local discount grocery store chain, to stock up on basics. It had been at least two months since I had driven there, mostly I’ve been walking the mile there and back and just buying a couple of carryable items. The fresh robo-turkeys were 98 cents a pound. But the big deal was with the frozen turkeys – they were only 22 cents a pound if you bought $50 or more. A 20-pound turkey would be under $5. My decision was made. $45 or $5. Unless I truly believed that non-organic feed was going to kill me, it’s not a contest. I think a 20-pound tofurkey would cost a lot more than $5.
I left Winco with a cart load of basic items that will allow me to cook for the next two months. Chicken broth, frozen and canned vegetables, etc. The total cost was under $100. Yesterday, I spent $32 on handmade pasta at the farmers market that will last 5 meals but could have cost me $5 or less. I pick and choose my local food expenses. I really believe the handmade pasta tastes better, and that is the big difference.
I stopped by the Beaverton Farmers Market for its special pre-Thanksgiving opening. It was half the size it usually is, which still made it a large farmers market. There was an abundance of various types of squash and apples and a number of booths selling locally gathered mushrooms. I was focused on potatoes, and brought home a bag of Yukon Golds for mashed potatoes and some red potatoes and russet potatoes. I also stocked up at the homemade pasta booth.
I should be able to visit the Eastbank Thanksgiving Reunion Market: “On Tuesday, November 25, just two days before the big feast, Portland Farmers Market will host a Thanksgiving Reunion Market, at the Eastbank Farmers Market site, at the corner of SE 20th Ave & Salmon St., from 1pm to 5pm. The Reunion Market provides one more chance to source ingredients as locally as possible for a country-style Thanksgiving and the tastiest of leftovers!”
Rich and I browsed through Fred Meyer last night and looked at the turkey prices. It appears I can buy a locally grown organic turkey for around $45, twice the price of a standard robo-bird. Should I bite the bullet and try the local, organic bird? Or should I espouse the new thriftiness?
Beaverton Farmers Market is huge and getting huger. I stopped by on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago and could barely struggle out with all of my booty. Luckily I had remembered to bring an ice chest along to save my goodies from the summer heat while I went walking. Both Rogue Creamery and Willamette Valley Cheese Company had booths, so I stocked up on Smokey Blue and Farmstead Gouda. There were booths from farms in the Forest Grove and Cornelius area that are owned by cousins of mine (such as Duyck’s Peachy Pig Farm). I bought potatoes, corn, lettuce, carrots, onions and cauliflower. I bought a couple of beef tenderloin steaks from Lonely Lane Farm, which produces naturally raised meat.
Beaverton Farmers Market opens at 8 am on Saturday, and I suggest being there bright and early if you want to park within a few blocks. They also operate on Wednesday late afternoon.
My walking buddy Lana lives in NE Portland and we decided to meet for a walk from Providence Hospital. Our first destination was the Hollywood Farmers Market at 44th and Hancock. This wasn’t the best logistics for buying any amount of produce, but it was an excellent stop. The market opens at 8 am, and Lana says she often tries to get there even before that to score the best produce. We arrived around 9:30 and the place was hopping. It had an excellent variety of produce vendors, and I discovered the bread vendor who had been missing from the Vancouver market last weekend!
But I was enticed to the Sweet Briar Farms farm fresh pork booth first. The proprietor was very enthused to discuss his pork, even without asking any specific questions, as I gave an interested eye to the packages of sausage. They raise the pork on a small farm near Eugene, Oregon. The hogs have no antibiotics, chemicals or hormones. They mix their own feed.
I love pork loin chops, ham, sausage, bacon. We didn’t get that often when I was growing up, as we had beef from Grandpa as our staple. My husband and I are always searching for German delis that have fresh sausages. I bought a package of four German bratwurst from Sweet Briar Farms and he packaged it with ice for our mile-long trek back to the car. I also received a ticket for a drawing, which encourages a return next week. The winner gets some free product next week at the farmer’s market.
My next stop was the Deck Family Farm booth. They produce grass-fed meat and have a meat CSA. I picked up their literature and I am intrigued enough to join. For $300 you get credit towards your choice of meat, which you can order for delivery in the Eugene area or delivery to the farmers market. Online, you can order meet for UPS delivery as well. They have beef, pork, chicken, lamb, turkey and goats. Their pasturing methods look to be idyllic.
I didn’t arrive home till noon, but the ice kept the sausages chilled. The Sweet Briar Farms guy even provided me cooking instructions. These are not pre-cooked, but he said that they cook fast and are done when the casing splits. I popped them on the grill and they were indeed nicely done in just a few minutes. Now for the taste test. Fantastic! These bratwurst were mild yet tasty. They were meaty and not greasy. The texture was excellent, with no chunks of gristle. I would definitely buy them again and try his other varieties.
On Sunday, I discovered myself heading back from the Livestrong Challenge with lots of morning to spare. I had made up a list of all of the local farmers markets and color coded them by day of the week to keep in the car for just this chance. I was interested in the Hillsdale Farmers Market, held at Wilson High School, as there is a pasture-fed chicken outfit, Kookoolan Farms, that sells at that market. I arrived just before their 10 am opening time, which would appear to be none too early. The market soon filled up with eager shoppers.
I was impressed with the number of produce booths and a couple of cheese booths. I would have bought a lot more but I only had a limited amount of cash. I started at the Kookoolan Farms booth and selected a small broiler hen from the ice chest. They also had medium sized hens and some breast-only portions and neck-only portions good for making chicken stock. I have rarely roasted a whole bird. Mom was raised on a chicken farm and did not enjoy cooking or eating chicken. But she usually would buy a whole fryer chicken and cut it into pieces herself. I was happy enough that the bird was fully prepared and basically ready to roast. I also bought a dozen eggs. Kookoolan Farms raises and hand-processes its own poultry, one of only four farms in Oregon licensed and inspected to do their own processing. In the summer, the poultry feed outside. This was exactly the sort of humanely raised poultry I was interested in. The farm is located in Yamhill, Oregon, just a hop skip and jump from my family’s stomping grounds. I finished my trip with a tamale from Salvador Molly’s booth and headed home to cook the bird.
I started by brining the bird in 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar for four hours. My roasting didn’t go as well as I hoped. The grill thermometer doesn’t work well, so I think I was cooking it on an even lower temperature than I wanted to. It took about two hours to cook but finally the meat thermometer said it was at the safe temperature. I also roasted the beets I bought on Saturday and we had a nice salad. Altogether, it was the most completely local meal I’ve ever made. My husband thought the chicken tasted as good as European rotisserie chicken. I thought it was good, but I don’t think my roasting job was as good as it could have been. Mostly, my husband prefers cut-up chicken pieces, preferably boneless. Next time I’ll pay extra for the breast portions and then also get the bag of necks to use for making chicken stock.
The leftovers went into the crockpot to make chicken stock. This will be perfect as I plan to make spaetzle this weekend, which I boil in chicken broth.
Laura Dolson explains the difference between cage-free, free-range, and pasture-fed chicken. My grandfather’s chicken barn was cage-free. The chickens had roosts for egg laying, but they mostly milled around in a large barn. We grandkids didn’t go into the main part of the barn as the flying and pecking chickens were pretty intimidating.