Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Maggie Montgomery's Local Food Update 3/5/08

I’m looking forward to next week’s KAXE book club discussion of Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal Vegetable Miracle. I read the book last summer and passed it around to several friends and family. The book was both serious and humorous, and contains some good recipes and lots of great stories. KAXE’s book club meets next Tuesday March 11th at 4 p.m. at KAXE’s studios, 260 NE 2nd St, Grand Rapids MN. The meetings are open to everyone!

Today on KAXE’s Morning Show, Scott Hall and I talked to Merle Roberts, owner (with his wife Roxie) of Merle’s Farm Fresh Meats. Merle and Roxie and their family have supplied many people in our area with locally grown pork and beef for the last 10 years. Their truck has been a fixture at area farmers’ markets, and many people say that Merle and Roxie’s meats are some of the best available in these parts.

Merle told us he is strongly considering quitting business this year. He said that two years ago corn cost $1.80/bushel. Now it’s $6/bushel. Soybean meal was $180/ton. Now it’s $400/ton. He said he uses 20,000 bushels of corn each year to feed his 100 sows, 60 head of cows, and 4,000 chickens. “I’m looking at working 16-hour days and losing $75,000-$100,000 this year,” he said. Merle blamed ethanol plants and the world market for the high cost of grain.

He said he and Roxie might move to Wyoming to find work this summer. Merle will re-evaluate the decision next fall. “I don’t want to raise prices that much, or just a few people will be able to afford the meat…People are going to get their eyes opened at the prices in the grocery store this year!”

Meanwhile, on the home front, Dennis inventoried the freezer last weekend. Here’s his comprehensive food report:

Contents of the freezer 3/1/08
Strawberries 18 qt
Raspberries 9 qt
Rhubarb sauce 1 qt
Plums 1 qt
Grape juice 1 qt
Apple cider 1 gal
Tomato sauce 7 pts
Corn 6 qt and 4 ears
Chopped green peppers 1 qt
Green beans 7 qt
Snow peas 3 qt
Peas 2 qt
Broccoli 9 qt
Cauliflower 5 qt
Beet greens 3 pt
Mustard greens 1 pt
Bok Choy 1 qt
Kale 6 qt
Some pesto and basil/olive oil from 2006
Basil butter (2007) 1½ qt
Bread (sourdough) 4 loaves
Eggs (frozen) 3 dozen approx.
Goat 3 roasts (from Fultz family farm)
Chicken 2 whole (Bemidji farmers’ market)
Fish fillets 2 pts (caught locally)
Beef 1 roast (from Paul Meyer)
Venison steaks and ground (from Cori Kindamo)
Lamb 1½ lambs approx. (from Erling Lofthus)
Really old stuff (frozen)
Edamame 1 bag
Organic soybeans 1 bag
Boca brats 3 brats
Spring roll wrappers 2 pkgs
1 pkg. frozen macaroni and cheese (left by visitors)
1 box of chicken tenders (left by visitors)

Canned (he didn’t count this): green beans, sauerkraut, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, applesauce, and some canned hot peppers from Karen Ryan.
Stored in the cellar: carrots and cabbages from Joel Rosen, parsnips, beets, apples, potatoes
Stored upstairs: some pitiful-looking acorn squash, shallots, onions, garlic
Growing: 3 basil plants and 2 pots of cilantro
Based on the inventory, here are some of our plans: There is pretty much fruit left (27 quarts of strawberries and raspberries), in spite of the fact that Dennis started 11 gallons of wine in the last week or so (chokecherry, raspberry/rhubarb, and honey grape). He may start some strawberry/rhubarb wine in the spring when the new rhubarb comes up, if we have enough strawberries left.

There are 42 quarts of various frozen vegetables, not including the tomato sauce. We’re saving the frozen and canned veggies somewhat, and concentrating more on eating the stored veggies first, before they decay—carrots, cabbage, potatoes, squash, beets, apples.

The squash and apples are going downhill fast.

We’ve started making plain yogurt by the quart, and making fruit smoothies.
Blackstar Dairy has stopped making yogurt! That’s why we started doing it ourselves. It isn’t too hard, although I broke a quart jar of milk when I immersed it in boiling water this weekend. Note to self: Start with cool water for each quart.

We’re looking forward to spring! By late May we should be getting some fresh asparagus, and wild greens like lamb’s quarters and nettles—plus some morels if we’re lucky and some lettuce or other cultivated greens if we’re on the ball! Looks like we won’t run out of food!

Last weekend:
Dennis started 1 gallon of honey grape wine
He also started 5 gallons raspberry/rhubarb wine
I baked 8 loaves bread (this is a lot—4 are to give away)
Made 1 pt sour cream
Made 2 qt yogurt
2 pumpkin (squash) pies
Weekend dinners were: potato wild rice soup with pickled beets and sourdough bread on Saturday and pot roast (goat and venison), mashed potatoes and cabbage Sunday.

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