It’s all well and good to say you eat locally in August, when the bounty of the harvest is just falling out of the garden, but when the cool winds blow through the months of spring, and nary a sprout is available at your local farmers market, if it is even open, what do you eat then? Daffodils? Grass? Here I’ll give you some examples of what truly is available that fits the bill for Local, Seasonal, Sustainable, and you can feel good about what you put on the table.
Spring is the season for cod fishing, and if you live on the Atlantic shore, or anywhere in the North East, fish caught off the Connecticut Rhode Island and Massachusetts coasts are considered local, especially if you catch it yourself! “What?!” You ask? Relax. It’s easier than you think. Many charter boats go out regularly for cod, and provide you with the bait, tackle and knowledge to fish on your own. A Google search will help you find one nearest you and the times and dates they fish. The best part is you might come home with many pounds of cod for the freezer or dehydrator, and with luck you’ll have enough for many suppers to come. Cod freezes remarkable well, and as it is a firm fish, holds its texture and flavor even through vigorous cooking techniques such as stews and casseroles. Try fresh sauteed cod with saffron risotto, or perhaps baked cod with cream, leeks (you might find leeks overwintered) and new spring green onions. If you look for cod in the supermarket, ask if it is caught locally, and with rod and reel (line caught).
It’s also turkey season in Connecticut, and many a hunter is anxiously awaiting opening day. This year my husband has to miss the beginning of the season, and my son, an avid pre-hunter, has asked me to take him out. Having never turkey hunted before, this is somewhat of a daunting request. We’ll see how it actually goes. It would be a miracle if I actually got a spring turkey. Other good protein sources would be chicken, venison, grass fed local beef and rabbit. The chickens are starting to lay again with the warmer and longer days, so eggs are always a good choice. A nice quiche is a perfect light spring meal, especially with sauteed garlic scapes. Scrambled eggs with local goat cheese, roasted garlic and baby spinach would be delicious.
As for dry goods and staples, this morning I had polenta made from cornmeal purchased from Young Farm in East Granby Ct. It is called Canada yellow flint cornmeal, and it is stone ground the traditional way. The corn it comes from is New England open pollinated heirloom variety flint, an “antique” corn that has much higher nutritional value than corn harvested with conventional methods as per agri-business in the Midwest. Young farm is an exceptional company that produces delicious and nutritious, not to mention sustainable and morally acceptable corn and wheat products, as well as vegetables. Lean more about Young Farm here. http://www.farmfresh.org/food/farm.php?farm=2752#profile. The polenta, with a spot of honey and some of last year’s frozen blueberries, was a fabulous start to the day. We eat it with salt, pepper and butter and a sprinkle of Parmesan when we want something savory instead of sweet.
“Vegetables?”, you ask. Not many, to be sure, but some. I have started a variety of lettuce in my bathtub, so I can add some micro-greens to whatever organic lettuce I buy at the market. I have had basil growing in pots since January and that always adds a bright spring flavor to any dish. Kale seems to be always available, as it lasts throughout the winter. Cabbage and sweet potatoes, carrots and onions are also over-winterers in the root cellar. Garlic scapes are coming out of the ground now and it’s almost time for the luscious asparagus shoots, the star of spring. I have frozen peas and spinach and tomatoes from last year’s harvest and even some acorn and butternut squash. A lovely squash, kale or spinach soup with some flat bread makes a lovely spring meal.
As for fruit, we have our trusty freezer with its dwindling supplies of frozen blueberries, peaches and strawberries. Not fresh, but still great for smoothies and the occasional pie. I can’t say enough about investing in a good chest freezer. The simplest way to store meat, vegetable, and fruits is to freeze them as soon as possible after picking or harvesting. It maintains the vitamins and nutrients far more than canning or other methods, and in most cases keeps the food safe for months or even years. It is the easiest and fastest way to put up a harvest at its freshest, and to store produce for the winter months. I have a deep chest freezer that I bought new from Sears for about 350.00, and I store thousands of dollars’ worth of fresh meat and vegetables in it every fall to last through the winter and spring months. If you don’t have one, or can’t afford a new one, there are several on-line sites where you might shop for a used one for much less. So much of the excess produce from my kitchen garden goes into the freezer right after picking, and it is such a delight to browse the shelves for a cooking idea knowing that my choices are ripe, delicious, healthful, and clean.
Last night we had grilled marinated venison with sauteed onions. It was simple, and simply delicious. I used a shoulder roast and just sliced it into half inch steaks, mixed it with salt, pepper, olive oil and good balsamic vinegar, left it in the fridge of a few hours and grilled it over high heat. Quick and easy.
Contrary to popular myth, venison, if well treated and well prepared, is neither gamy nor tough. While it has an unmistakable rich flavor altogether different than beef, it is a succulent and delicious addition to our menu. Miss-treated it can be an awful chore to eat, and I am reluctant to eat venison unless I personally know the hunter and the manner in which it was killed and dressed. More about venison in particular and hunting in general later. Happy spring!