Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Local and Seasonal Cooking for a Christmas Party

pupu table Christmas party appetizers

For this month’s 24, 24, 24 event I proposed preparing food for a big party using ingredients that were locally produced, grown, and made.  Some ingredients I used were ones that I canned or froze over the summer months.  But most of the ingredients were ones that I bought this week, and in season.  It was a lot of fun talking with farmers and vendors about what’s in season during the cold month of December, and what’s available locally.  Eric and I were getting pretty excited about being locavores, and are considering trying a month of only eating local because of the bounty of local food in Washington.  Here’s a video of the local producers and the party.

Local and Seasonal Cooking for a Christmas Party from Diana Johnson on Vimeo.

Now local can mean a lot of things.  Some people consider 100 miles local, some people consider the whole west coast, or U.S. local.  For this meal we went with the state of Washington.  It was a lot easier to communicate that to shop keepers.  You can kind of talk yourself into a bunch of circles with the local food discussion.  For instance, I decided to use a locally produced soup mix, even though I’m not sure all the ingredients they used (like rice) were from Washington.

Rill foods soup

But I didn’t use the elk sausage from our nearby butcher, because I knew the elk was hunted in South Dakota even though the sausage was packed and made in Washington.  My crackers were made by a Washington cheese company, but I’m not sure the flour they used was made in Washington.  Basically, my goal was to support Washington purveyors, and so that’s what I tried to stick to.

dan sausageman

The reason I wanted to do this is that for the longest time I didn’t even think about what food was seasonal or where it came from.  In fact I kind of assumed that people in a wintry place like Washington must have to get food from Florida or something like that during the cold months.  But living here and immersing myself in the food culture, I’m realizing we can eat really well during the winter with local food.  Especially when it comes to meat and cheese!

made in washington store sign

Although there are several winter farmer’s markets in Seattle, they’re all on the weekends and I needed to shop on a Wednesday.  So I headed to Pike Place Market, about 45 minutes away from me (or an hour and a half when my car tries to explode!).  My first stop was the Made in Washington store.  I figured if anyone would know where I should go, they would.  The owner was so nice, and said that really I just need to ask each vendor, which is what I was planning.  While I was there I got a pre-packaged soup mix by Rill Foods of Kittitas County, and a beef summer sausage by Dan the Sausageman of Burien.

beecher's sign pike place

My next stop was Beecher’s cheese.  I’ve had their cheese before and know it’s delicious. Plus you can watch cheese being made right there!  The girl who helped me was SO sweet and worked really hard to help me put together a great cheese plate with all Washington cheese.  I loved spending 20 minutes talking cheese!

Beechers cheese display

After that I headed to the produce stands.  I found the key to finding the local produce is to talk to who’s in charge.  Sometimes an employee would say there is no local produce because nothing grows in Washington in the winter (not true!).  Other times they would say it’s all local because it’s from the US, or west coast!  But when I’d talk to the owner, manager, farmer, or whoever ran the stand, they’d get really excited that I was specifically looking for local, seasonal produce.

cutting cheese

So often people don’t care where their food comes from.  I understand, I’ve been there too.  Sometimes I just want some pineapple.  But I’m learning to eat locally and seasonally, and realizing that the quality of what we’re eating is actually better.  I think farmers are excited that people are starting to care more.

chanterelle mushrooms

The two stands I went to were Corner Produce, and Sosio’s Produce (which I couldn’t find websites for).   I got some wild foraged chanterelle mushrooms, two dried onions, and a bunch of kale at Sosio’s.  The man who helped me asked me drop some names of my favorite food bloggers.  You know who you are!  For fruit I got deliciously tart jazz apples, and soft and sweet Christmas pears at Corner Produce.  I will definitely be back to both places.   At Corner Produce I was told they rotate their produce regularly for variety, and everything is specially chosen based on taste, not sturdiness for travel or anything like that which could compromise high quality.

kale

Seafood and meat are in abundance year round in Washington.  I had a lot of choices for seafood, but went with oysters because I just can’t get enough and usually have trouble justifying the cost since I can eat them so fast!  The guys at Pure Food Fish Market were really helpful and so proud to tell me how many locally sourced items they had.  He even threw in a couple extra oysters for free.  We served them grilled for our guests, but Eric and I ate a couple raw once I got the hang of shucking them.

grilled kumamoto oysters

For meat we had sausages from Green Valley Meats in Auburn (a FANTASTIC butcher just 10 minutes from us with tons of local and all natural meat) and beef from our 1/4 cow we have frozen.  If you watched the video you saw how many coolers it takes to hold 1/4 a cow!

green valley sausage

I didn’t see any local drinks that weren’t alcoholic at Pike Place.  My brother is epileptic so I didn’t want to have any alcohol there knowing he can’t have it (wouldn’t be fair!) so I thought we’d just have water and milk (from a local dairy of course).  Then Eric and I stopped at a local produce market for their specialty candy canes, and found these sparkling juice drinks!  Hooray!  They really tasted like fresh fruit and were perfect for the party.

skagit juice

I also had several pickled, canned, and frozen fruits and vegetables that I preserved myself during the summer and fall.  I had pickled cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, and green beans.  My mom went crazy for them so I let her take some home :)  I also had sliced plums that I picked myself from someone’s yard (with permission!) and froze in a light syrup.

plums frozen

So, that’s basically how I came about with my ingredients, ready for the menu?

Pupus (or appetizers):
-Washington made cheese and crackers
-Sausage from Burien and Auburn
-Home pickled vegetables from Auburn
-Apples and Pears grown in Washington

Main Dishes:
-Stuffed Pepper Soup from Washington producer with Auburn beef
-Pasta Dish with Washington made pasta, Auburn grown sirloin, chanterelle mushrooms foraged in Washington, homemade chicken stock from chickens in Auburn, and cream and butter from a Washington dairy farm
-Casserole with seasonal Kale, Auburn made sausage, and parmesan and cream from a local dairy farm
-Fresh kumamoto oysters from Washington

Dessert:
-Plum pudding with hand picked plums frozen after harvesting

chanterelle sirloin pasta

This has been a LONG post (which always happens with 24, 24, 24 because I get so excited) so I’ll have recipes for the chanterelle sirloin pasta, kale casserole, and grilled oysters in upcoming posts.  For now, here’s a super simple dessert recipe.  I call it a plum pudding, maybe technically it’s more of a cobbler, but the texture was kind of a mix between the two.  Any way, it took only 5 minutes of prep time and everyone went crazy for it.  You can also use canned sliced fruit like peaches, or fresh fruit.  If you don’t have the fruit in syrup, simply heat 1/4 cup sugar and 1 cup water and use that.

plum cobbler or pudding

Plum Pudding with Cream

serves 10

Ingredients

2 cups sliced plums in light syrup (defrost if frozen)
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
4 TBS sugar
8 TBS butter softened
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 TBS sugar

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour plums into a baking dish (I used a bread pan but a casserole dish would be great).

Use a ladle to remove enough syrup so it only comes halfway up the layers of plums.  In a small bowl mix 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg, 1 tsp ground ginger, and 4 TBS sugar.  Dump into plums and mix well.

In the same bowl mix 8 TBS butter softened, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/4 cup brown sugar with a fork.  Drop in clumps onto top of plums.

Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove and mix cream with sugar beating to consistancy you prefer.  Pour over individual servings of plum pudding.

Approximate cost/serving: Buying what’s in season is a great way to save money, and so is preserving fresh foods through canning and freezing while they’re in season.  I set myself a budget of $100, and didn’t go over!  It was more than enough food for 10 of us, in fact I could have easily fed 2 more people.  I thought eating locally in winter would be expensive, but it came out to only $8.33 a person for a 9 course meal that rocked! You won’t get that in a restaurant!

Vegetarian/gluten free: The plum recipe is vegetarian and can be altered with gluten free flour.


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8 Responses to “Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Local and Seasonal Cooking for a Christmas Party”

  1. Megan
    December 21, 2009 at 6:00 am #

    Yum! I’m looking forward to your recipes. I love that you included how much it ended up costing – my husband is always complaining about how much we spend at the farmer’s market, but you just can’t compare local shopping with the big stores!

  2. jenn
    December 21, 2009 at 11:20 am #

    Those oysters look tempting right now. Yum!! Good use of local produce and products.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

  3. Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite
    December 21, 2009 at 3:05 pm #

    GREAT meal Diana – I love that you proved we CAN eat locally in the winter and it can be amazing tasting too! Well done!

  4. Sarah
    December 21, 2009 at 4:50 pm #

    Great 24 24 24 post. Love the video and the yummy menu! Happy Holidays!

  5. Lindzee @ Cordon Pink
    December 21, 2009 at 7:31 pm #

    I am from Washington originally and love your post! Looking forward to the recipe for the kale casserole!

  6. Catalina
    December 25, 2009 at 3:50 pm #

    Mmmm yum!
    You did a great job! I love all your local food choices and all the work you put into it.
    That plum dessert looks amazing!
    Although, I did laugh when you called Washington a wintery place – We went on vacation there in Jan. and thought it was warm and (some parts) almost tropical(!) compared to Minnesota.

  7. Nate @ House of Annie
    December 29, 2009 at 3:39 am #

    Great job, Diana! Well done. I am amazed by the quantity and variety of local produce you can get in the dead of Winter in Washington. I have to remember that seasonal sometimes means picked at its seasonal peak and preserved for later.

    Congratulations on another wonderful 24 post!

  8. Lele
    January 6, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    That pasta makes me weak at the knees. And that cheese store- can I go there please?! Thank you for showing that even in the colder states, you can get great local stuff any time of year.

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