Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dark Days Challenge - experimentation, partially successful

week 4 of 20
Whilst cleaning out the fridge, I came across the very last little red bell pepper from my trip to the farmers market, still mostly good, though a little soft. This inspired me to make stir-fry, using some of the bok choy remaining from that same trip and a bit of boneless pork rib from Pacific Village Pork, and I decided to do some experimenting...

I have been reading "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes" written by Jennifer McLagan and a very fascinating read it is indeed. For most of the centuries that humans have been around, we have cooked with animal fats of various kinds, and they actually contain compounds that are very healthy for us, as well as being far more stable than the easily-oxidised manufactured plant oils that most of us grew up using. I had carefully saved the nice clean white lamb fat that had risen to the top of the broth, so I decided bravely to try using it instead of oil. Much to my surprise, the finished dish did not taste like mutton.

The other experimentation was that I decided to try and give it a sweet and sour flavor. At the end of the cooking, I added a half teaspoon of local honey (from Hillsboro, just over the hills from Portland) and about a tablespoon of very strongly overdone homegrown kombucha, which was far too tart for me to drink. The results were pleasant, but not really at all like what I would call sweet-n-sour, being very subtle, and with a definite honey flavor.

I intend to continue to save the fat from my various cooking projects, and to clarify them and store them in the freezer. After all, I am paying premium prices for the animals to live good lives, and be fed healthy foods; it seems to me to be respectful to use as much of them as is realistically possible.

The kombucha didn't add as much of a tart taste as I'd have expected; I'd like to try it in a salad dressing, but that would require olive oil, which is certainly not local. (it would be another interesting experiment though) And perhaps some local fruit juice or puree would have been a better choice than honey, which has a very distinctive flavor (that wasn't realy one I will try again in this context)

bok choi - Winter Green Farm - 135 mi
was lamb riblets, then broth, then cooking fat - SuDan Farm - 26 mi
free range eggs - Stiebrs Farms - 118 mi
red bell peppers - Gathering Together Farm - 89 mi
kombucha - my kitchen counter - 0 mi
green onion - frontyard herb garden - 0 mi
honey - Wessels Family Honey - 18 mi
pork - Pacific Village Pork - either 25 mi or 280 mi...

The Pacific Village Pork that I buy at New Seasons come from one of two farms that they have contracted with, that meet their standards. One is close by, the other is almost 300 miles away. You can read more about it here in an article form Oregon Public Broadcasting, or watch a short film about the folks from New Season going out to help raise a new pig barn here. I feel that while it would be great to be able to have the time to shop at the farmers market, or to hopefully get the resources to buy a half lamb, or a share in a pig, for right now it is not a bad thing to walk a mile to the market and have such a good option available.


  1. Local Pork is much wanted here from what I have heard from folks around town.Let's hope New Seasons gets to do that for us.
    I have also read that our bodies know how to process natural fats better than processed ones.I read this concerning butter vs margarine but I would think it carries over to other types of fats as well.
    And I know that meat cooked with the bones still in are better for us too.The bones hold some much need nutrients that help with absorption of other vitamins and minerals.What is actually in the bones that is so good has left my mind thought.And personally I think meat with bones tastes better.
    Good POsting!

  2. PS I need to better organize my links,yours are so well done.