My grandmother, Elizabeth Flower, lived through two world wars and the Great Depression, cooking every meal at home. She stocked her pantry with preserves from her Victory Garden and she packed her root cellar with carrots stored in sawdust, potatoes and sweet potatoes in baskets, and apples wrapped in newspaper.
These days, the news is frightful, the future uncertain, and having the foods we like at hand gives us a sense of control. Our shelves are full of whole grains (especially local barley and wild rice), dried beans, pasta and canned fish, plus the wonderful local ingredients sourced from nearby. All are available at the local co-ops and at many supermarkets, too.
The list of local foods that follows is by no means extensive, and of course, if the local product is not available simply substitute the same food from a different source and use up whatever you have on hand. Once you are stocked, it’s easier to mix and match and come up with a range of dishes.
Cured meats: Cured meats keep for weeks in the refrigerator. A chunk of smoked ham (Lorentz), smoked turkey (Ferndale Turkey) or salami (Red Table Meat) goes a long way in seasoning beans, grains, soups and stews.
Cheeses: Aged cheeses such as Redhead Creamery Cheddar; Shepherd’s Way sheep’s milk Friesago, Eichten’s Gouda and Parmesan cheese; Caves of Faribault’s blue cheese, and for a special treat, Alemar Cheese’s Bent River Camembert (Note: Enjoy the latter within two weeks).
Eggs: You can do a lot with good fresh eggs — scrambles, quiches, savory bread pudding, poached eggs over fried sweet potatoes! Fresh eggs from Locally Laid or Larry Schultz Organic Farm will keep for at least three weeks in the refrigerator.
Root vegetables: Food co-ops stock local potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, turnips, radishes, beets, parsnips, even cabbage that will keep for a couple of weeks in a paper bag in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
Frozen fruit and vegetables: Sno Pac organic frozen fruits and veggies, from local growers, are a better choice than the fresh produce shipped in from afar. Try Sno Pac corn chowders; green beans and peas to brighten grain pilafs and pastas. The frozen berry blend is a must for smoothies, muffins and pies.
Oils: Local, cold-pressed sunflower oils add a nutty flavor to vinaigrettes, sautés and stir-fries. They have a higher smoke point and are more versatile than olive oil. Keep local Smude’s and Driftless Organics sunflower oils in a cool, dark cupboard. American Hazelnut Company’s oil is deliciously nutty and Hay River Pumpkin Seed Oil is a rich dark green. Try these drizzled over whole-grain pilafs, pasta and for dipping crackers and bread stored in the refrigerator.
Butter: Local brands such as Hope or Rochdale butter taste of fresh, sweet cream.
Nut butters: Keep Humble Nut Butter on hand (along with peanut butter and tahini). Try the Sundried Basil Cashew on toasted rye bread and a dab of Spiced Maple Pecan on baked sweet potatoes.
Beans and grains: Kuner’s canned Southwest Black Beans are perfect with cooked barley and a hit of a local salsa or hot sauce.
Mixes: Pancake and waffle mixes from Baker’s Field Flour & Bread, Whole Grain Milling, and Sunrise Flour make fabulous biscuits and scones.
Vinaigrette: Salad Girl organic dressings go beyond salads and make terrific basting sauces for smoked turkey and ham, and roasted root vegetables.
Granola: Many local options, including from Birchwood Cafe, Seven Sundays, Gustola Granola, Bliss and more. For some extra deliciousness, stir the granola into oatmeal.
Sweets: Honey from Ames Farm, Beez Kneez, Bolton Bees; Blanton’s bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup.
Condiments: Here are a few local favorites:
• Double Take Salsa — Stir into canned or boxed cream of tomato soup.
• Triple Crown Organic BBQ Sauce — Drizzle over mac and cheese.
• Freak Flag Foods Kickin’ Curry Mole — Toss with cooked vegetables and serve over rice.
• Local Foods Enchilada Sauce — Stir into Kuner’s Southwest Black Beans and serve over barley.
• K-Mama Korean Hot Sauce — Season scrambled eggs with this.
• Caldo Harissa Gourmet Pepper Blend Smoked — Mix with egg or tuna salad.
• Beez Kneez Düsseldorf Hot Mustard — Whisk with honey and drizzle over baked ham.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.
PDQ Black Bean Chili
Note: This comes together in about 3 minutes flat. Here it’s shown on polenta, but you can serve it on rice, pasta, corn chips or mashed sweet potatoes. If you’re making polenta from scratch, choose coarse-ground cornmeal. If you’re in a hurry, try packaged instant polenta. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 (15-oz.) canned black beans
• 1/2 c. prepared corn salsa or tomato salsa
• 2 c. cooked polenta (see recipe)
• Fresh thyme or cilantro for garnish, optional
Put the beans and salsa into a medium saucepan and heat through. Serve over the polenta. Garnish with thyme or cilantro. Serve warm.
Nutrition information per serving without polenta:
Fat 1 g
Sodium 530 mg
Carbohydrates 22 g
Saturated fat 0 g
Added sugars 0 g
Protein 7 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Dietary fiber 8 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 ½ carb, 1 lean protein.
Note: Double the recipe to have extra polenta on hand. It’s delicious to later pat it into cakes and sizzle it in a little oil or butter then topped with cheese. From Beth Dooley.
• Generous pinch salt
• 1/2 c. coarse ground cornmeal
In a medium saucepan set over high heat, bring 3 to 4 cups of lightly salted water to a boil and gradually stir in the polenta with a whisk or wooden spoon.
Reduce the heat and continue stirring about every 15 minutes until the cornmeal is swollen and tastes cooked (not raw), about 35 to 45 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving:
Fat 1 g
Sodium 70 mg
Carbohydrates 12 g
Saturated fat 0 g
Added sugars 0 g
Protein 1 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Dietary fiber 1 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 carb.