Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Some Musings on Local Food and Maple Ice Cream

The recent buzz about the importance of eating locally has grown to a roar, with at least four articles in local papers on the subject today. Here’s a link to a good resource on the topic: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/wol/challenge/Newsletter/Seven.asp, which addresses the dilemma: which is better, organic or local? (The answer? Organic and local is best, but if you have to choose, pick local.)

The impulse that draws me to the idea is equal parts gourmand and do-gooder. There’s something satisfying about the ability to provide familiar, comforting food where none existed. It’s the same impulse that drives my baking, taken one step further. While I’m aware that it’s the farmers who do the greater portion of the heavy lifting in this scenario, it feels survivalist and safe to be able to go directly to the earth where the food is grown to procure it. It feels like I deserve extra credit (and maybe a second helping) for making the effort.

Also, there are no more mysteries in the food chain. I know my produce wasn’t sprayed with something to make it green, or picked when unripe and chemically prodded to fruition. I can see where it grew, or talk to the farmer who raised it and picked it. There’s more trust because nothing is concealed.

The more research I do, the more thrilled I am with the possibilities that exist locally. Southern Ontario has such a wide variety of produce available year-round, and most of the staples I couldn’t do without grow here. I was worried for a while that we had no local salt since I thought it required a body of salt water but actually, the world’s largest salt mine is located here in Ontario. (Hey, I learned something new – I’m glad I got up today!). It’s a little further than 100 miles away, (134 to be exact) but better than I thought.

I’m excited to head out to the farm when rhubarb and asparagus season starts in May, but in the meantime I plan on visiting some local markets and seeing what year-round products I can get my hands on. The Dufferin Park organic market is on tomorrow and I think I’ll make a pilgrimage.

Yesterday’s maple ice cream turned out well. It was more substantial than the blueberry which had a good flavour, but a texture more like frozen whipped cream. I made the maple without any nuts since I really want to perfect the bases before expanding into add-ins. It still needs a little tweaking. It tastes richer that the blueberry, but maybe a little too rich. Now it feels like the egg is overwhelming the added flavour. Today’s batch will be salted caramel, and one of the egg yolks will be replaced with an egg white. I actually made the batter yesterday and it’s chilling in my fridge. Tonight I’ll be making a mocha-almond recipe by special request. After that, I’ll have to slow down as I’m running out of freezer space.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I scream for ice cream!

Yesterday, I felt suddenly compelled to buy an ice cream maker. I went to Williams Sonoma just to look, but I think they knew I was coming. Not one thing in that store was on sale, except for a Krups GVS 1 ice cream maker. Of course it followed me home and I’ve been preoccupied with it ever since.

The Krups is the old fashioned kind of ice cream maker where you have to refrigerate the bowl for 24 hours before you can use it, as I learned when I unpacked it. 24 hours!?! But I wanted to make ice cream today! I haven’t been this impatient waiting for food since I was a young child waiting for the light bulb in my Easy-Bake oven to cook brownies!

But tonight the 24 hours was up and I put in my blueberry ice cream mix. It was a Philadelphia-style ice cream with no eggs and while March may not be the right season for blueberries, in all modesty, I must say, it was delicious! I memorized the recipe in Williams Sonoma and improvised with what I had at home – cream, sugar, frozen blueberries and a dash of lemon juice. I only had whipping cream, which might explain why it is a fairly soft ice cream, and the cream might slightly overwhelm the blueberry taste, but it still leaves store-bought ice cream in the dust.

I was so excited, I immediately moved on to my next batch, an egg-custard-based maple ice cream. (Maple has been my obsession lately—more on that later). It’s cooked and cooling in my fridge and will go into the Krups when I get home from work tomorrow. I plan on adding some crumbled maple cookies I have hanging around and some of the maple toffee sauce I made yesterday for some baked apples. I know, it’s kind of a busy recipe, but my sweet tooth knows no bounds. I’ll let you know how it turns out tomorrow!

New direction!

Note: As of today this blog will go in a new direction. Or less of a direction. I’ll be blogging about general food-related topics. I find I’m not eating at restaurants as often, and when I do, it’s the same ones over and over. However, I have been baking up a storm, so I’ll be writing about more of my culinary adventures at home. I’ve also become very interested in the environmental implications of the distance our food travels and the possibilities available close to home, so I’ll be making more visits to local farms to pick up my own seasonal produce to experiment with here in the home lab.