The Search for Local


We just got word that our olive oil is in. To back up a little in the story, we’ve been peeling back the layers of our cheese production, and attempting to source everything locally. The two especially difficult products to source have been olive oil (no olives in Maine, and not a lot of domestic olive oil) and interestingly, peeled garlic.
A happy meeting at a cheese class last year resulted in the discovery that one of our local caterers, a long-time friend and supporter of AC, Swan’s Way, imports her olive oil from friends in Italy. A couple of emails later, and we were in business! This year we doubled our order, and are eagerly anticipating our delivery of olive oil with a Story!
Stacey writes: “Lily Zanetti has been a friend of my family for 45 years. She began bottling her own olive oil about 17 years ago, made from the olives of 100 year-old trees on her property. Originally, she had the oil, which is processed in Lucignano, made for the enjoyment of her family and friends. But as she started getting more requests for the extra virgin olive oil, her oldest son Alex began to increase production and bottle the oil under the Villa la Piertraia label (Zanetti’s family villa in Lucignano). The villas and olive groves are situated on Zanetti’s family estate, just outside the 12th century town of Lucignano. Best known for its churches, art and Thursday food market, Lucignano is home to just 2,000 people. Located in Valdichiana region of Tuscany, Lucignano is nestled in rolling hills and is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Less than a half hour from the better-known towns of Siena, Arezzo and Montepulciano,  Lucignano is a  medieval walled city laid out in concentric rings radiating from the town square — the only town in Italy laid out in such a way.
I get a shipment once a year. I use the cans, with a milder but still fruity flavor, for all our basic cooking and some of our dressings. I use her bottled oil , which has a stronger flavor, for the oil I serve on the tables and certain other dressings that like having the olive oil have a dominant presence. And I use the oil  pressed directly from the olives in her front yard for the final finish on certain dishes. It has an intense fruit flavor with a strong bitter olive finish.
I have been in Lucignano and watched the olive harvest and the pressing. The bottled oils are still pressed under blankets and not with machines. After the pressing we went back to the contadina’s house (their resident farmer) and had homemade bread toasted in the fire, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with the just-pressed olive oil.”

Garlic remains another challenge. Apparently all the food service peeled garlic in this country is from China! How odd is that? Even the bulk garlic at the grocery store (if I had time to peel it) is from China. It comes with quaint brand names, like Hometown Garlic, but still…! This time of year, we go through probably 10 pounds of peeled garlic a week — not sure what that translates into for unpeeled garlic, but it’s a boatload. Sure would like to find local garlic. Hate the idea of lead in my cheese..

We are rich


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and we’re busy planning the menu. Of course, we’re taking the local food challenge, which isn’t too difficult for us in Maine. We can find all that we need, right here in Maine. We are so lucky and so rich!
Turkey – Mainely Poultry, Warren
Vegetables – our garden, or
Peacemeal Farm, Dixmont, or
Freedom Farm, Freedom
Fail Better Farm, Unity
Shrimp – locally caught in Penobscot Bay, gifted to us by a local fisherman
Butter – I’m making it from organic cream from White’s Orchard Dairy
Bread for stuffing — Borealis Aroostook Wheat
Sausage for stuffing — Cornerstone Farm, Palmyra
Mushrooms – Oyster Creek Mushroom Co, Damariscotta
Cranberries – wildgathered and bartered for
Cranberry chutney and cranberry butter — Half Moon Farm, Montville
Herbs – our garden
Spices – gifted to my brother from a friend who got them in Spain, then sailed home
Coffee – gifted to us by Louella, and picked by her in Mexico last winter
Honey – Gardiner’s Honey, Swanville
Maple Syrup – either Brad’s or Freyenhagen Family Farm, Union
Eggs – ours
Cheese – ours
Milk – ours (but all milk available here is Maine grown and produced)
Salt – maine sea salt
cider – our apples, picked by Brad, pressed at Sewall’s Orchard
apples for the pie – ours
fruit wine – Winterport Winery, or Brad’s

The last and final nut to crack: nuts. We’re looking for Maine walnuts or hazelnuts. We know they’re out there!

Butter Trials

My apprentice Jessie and I have been talking all week about the components that would go into a truly local Thanksgiving. I’ve realized that butter is one area that I need to Get Real Get Maine in… so we’ve been conducting butter trials all week. We found some at the Coop that’s made in Brooks, not too far away, as well as Kate’s butter from Old Orchard Beach. But our biggest triumph of the week is that we made butter on Friday! It was so easy — we bought two quarts of cream, put it in a gallon jar to ripen at room temp for the day, added a touch of MM starter at the beginning. When we got home from market, we took turns shaking the jar, wondering how long it would take, and all of a sudden, there was butter!!! We got 5 8-oz tubs out of two quarts of cream when we were all done. I don’t think it was exactly a pound, as it felt lighter than that, and the butter seemed slightly whipped. But the bottom line is that we did it, it was fun, it was delicious, and now we can wow our families with butter at Thanksgiving!

Now I just need to find those Maine nuts to replace the pecan pie….. I need a recipe for a nut pie with either sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds?

Thoughts on being a lifelong Localvore


I have to admit that I am a little puzzled at the new excitement surrounding eating locally. This is what I have done all my adult life. This is my family legacy modelled to me by my grandmother, who raised a large family during the depression and wartime, and continued by my uncle on the farm in NH. I can’t remember the last Thanksgiving we ate a turkey purchased other than from the local turkey farm or grown on ours. One of my greatest pleasures in life is to sit down to a meal grown totally by us or by our friends and family. I got into a huge argument last summer with a man at farmers’ market who insisted that I must go to the grocery store for something, and all I could come up with was detergent, olive oil and salt. And even salt I could get locally.
Worried about food contamination? Eat local.
Worried about disruption to the food supply caused by weather extremes? Eat local.
Worried about real flavor in your food? Eat local.
Worried about your carbon footprint? Eat local.
Duh.