Channelling My Inner Ant

Posted: September 30, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Photograph Courtesy of Artisan Events

When the lonely autumn winds begin to wail, I am gripped with a sense of such urgency. For weeks, the markets have been so full with summer’s bounty that it is easy to forget that the growing season will end. The arrival of first real fall day never fails to take me by surprise. The lengthening shadows are a rude reminder that fruits need to be frozen, peppers preserved and marmalade made. Fall is a serious time for serious cooks. Farewell grasshopper, I need to channel my inner ant. The following is an account of this year’s preserving period.

Day 1: Friday

I collect my recipes, check the pantry for staples that need replacing and make my shopping list, checking it twice.

Day 2: Saturday

At the beginning of a busy day, I stop at Green City Market to pick up my orders: 7 pounds of yellow tomatoes and 10 pounds red bell peppers from Genesis, a flat of golden raspberries from Ellis, 10 pounds of roma tomatoes and 5 pounds black plum tomatoes from Green Acres. Although I intend to start my recipes today, it doesn’t quite happen.

Day 3: After the final Sox home game, I take a trip to Whole Foods to pick up the remaining ingredients. While listening to Thor’s bass lesson, I blanch and peel the yellow tomatoes, halve and salt the black plums set on racks in half sheet pans for oven-drying, thinly slice 4 oranges and 2 lemons for the tomato marmalade. As dinner is cooking, I start the tomato marmalade in my massive unlined copper jamming pot. After an hour and a half, I cover the mixture with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature overnight. I also slice up a pound and half of rhubarb, mix it with sugar, and cover the two with the juice and zest of two grapefruit. This gets covered with plastic wrap and set aside on my kitchen counter to macerate overnight.

Day 4: I fire the oven to 200° F and put both trays of salted tomatoes into it. Pulling out the golden raspberries from my extra refrigerator, I inspect them for mold. Out of 12 pints, I lose one. Half is spread onto two half sheet pans lined with Silpat. The first pan goes into the freezer. The remaining half will be made into jam. I fill the canning pot that I inherited from my grandmother with cold water and submerge 5 quilted jam jars in it. Setting on two burners, I bring the water to a boil. I scrape the macerated rhubarb into my small canning pot. Over medium high heat, I bring it to a simmer. Once the sugar is fully dissolved, I turn the heat to high boiling it until the temperature of the rhubarb is 200° F. When the jars have been in the boiling water for 10 minutes, I remove them with my jar lifter to my towel lined counter setting them upside down to drain. When the rhubarb is ready, I return the jars to their right side and fill them with the assistance of a ladle and a wide-mouthed funnel. With hot lids and rings, I seal them. Right afterwards, I set the tomato marmalade back onto the stove, remove the plastic wrap and bring it to a simmer. I add twelve more Ball jars to the water inside my canning pot. Despite the outside 63º temperature, it’s boiling in my kitchen. Once the marmalade is hot, I remove the 12 jars and fill them. Damn, there’s enough for two more jars. Add those to the canning pot, process for 10 minutes, while leaving the marmalade on a low simmer. I fill those and seal. Out of the freezer comes pan number one of the raspberries. In my foodsaver, I vacuum seal them into three packages bringing them to my downstairs freezer. The second pan goes into the freezer. The remaining raspberries are poured into the cleaned jam pot, sugar dumped on top then mashed. I bring these to a boil over medium heat. When the raspberries come to full boil, they start giving off a ton of foam the color over-cooked salmon and so the next half hour is spent skimming. Finally, the mixture turns clear. Testing it on a plate from the freezer, it has the right consistency, just slightly runny. I reduce the heat to low and add another dozen jars to my canning pot. After 10 minutes in the bath, I remove and drain these filling them with the jam. The heat is slowing. My fan shuts down. I check the oven to see how the tomatoes are doing. They need a few more hours. Time to clean and shower before I pick up Thor from school. Mike, Thor and I have a lovely dinner at West Town Tavern. We come home. I check the peppers that will become catsup tomorrow. Ugh, they got a little crushed. Remove them from the bag and spread them out on a sheet pan. Roma tomatoes, are fine. I head downstairs to watch a little tv and promptly fall asleep. 10:30pm I wake up and remove the dried black plums from the oven. The ones on the end are a little crispy. Oh well.

Day 5: Time to package up the remaining raspberries. Boy, the freezer’s getting full. I pack the tomatoes in 3 jam jars, covering them with oil. I reread the recipe for the catsup. Of course, I forgot onions. I make a shopping list. Having been in the kitchen all of yesterday, I had computer work to do today so it wasn’t until late afternoon until I could turn my attention towards cutting up what seems like an enormous amount of peppers and onions in my small kitchen. In olive oil, I cooked them down with garlic and ginger. I spice them, simmer them, puree them and simmer them again. During that last simmer, I sterilize another dozen jars. Late afternoon turns into evening, afterschool snack into dinner, the drive home to bedtime. Another dozen jars are sterilized and filled. Finally, all are processed and drained, set row by row on a clean dish towel. As I stand back and admire the jars of brick red puree and my hard work. Then I notice a lone pepper seed through the glass. Oh well. Preserving never was an exact art for me.

I head downstairs, exhausted again. While watching Ken Burns’ Baseball (Chicago baseball doesn’t have much appeal this late September), I hear the ping, ping, ping of cooling jars – the happiest sound for an avid canner.

I was recently featured in First Magazine for Women for the making the following recipe, which I’ll be teaching at Cassie Green’s Green Grocer this Saturday. Check back with my blog for the recipe for Golden Raspberry Jam, an encapulation of summer itself.

Tomato Marmalade
A Bakers Dozen of ½ Pint Jars

6 pounds yellow heirloom tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
5 cups granulated sugar
4 navel oranges, quartered, seeded and thinly sliced
2 lemons, quartered, seeded and thinly sliced
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Add all the ingredients to a large pot. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to high and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture has softened and thickened. Turn off the heat and cover the marmalade. Let it sit at room temperature overnight. Sterilize 13 half-pint canning jars, lids and screw bands in boiling water for 10 minutes. Heat the marmalade over medium heat while the jars are sterilizing. Fill the drained jars with marmalade, seal and process for 10 minutes. Drain on a clean towel.

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Yes, We Pickle! (Pickling and Relish Class Next Week)

Posted: September 30, 2009 at 9:50 pm

The Talking Farm has been offering an outstanding series on food preservation classes that we’ve been derelict in mentioning.  There is one class yet to come, and they need a few more people to sign up by next Monday, 10/5/09  to make sure it happens. 

Yes, We Pickle! (pickling and relish techniques)
Wednesday, October 7, 7-9 p.m.  Evanston Friends Meeting House
Go to to register or to our website

Toni Camphouse is planning on demonstrating  some Quickles/Quick Pickles (cucumbers, peppers and ginger), a Corn Relish, some sort of fruit chutney (she’s waiting  to see what’s at the farmer’s market) and then make some vinegar infusions–tarragon, raspberry.

Toni attended Kendall College in their Culinary Arts program in 2004. After her time there, she worked with Chef Paul Bertolli  (he worked with Chef Alice Waters in creating Chez Panisse) at his wonderful Italian restaurant, Oliveto, in Oakland, CA. Eventually, while in San Francisco, Toni worked and was the sous chef at the Hyde Park Bistro with Chef Andre Tripier. Her experience varied from sausage making to classic French bistro dishes. She has worked with a variety of chefs and taught classes at the Chopping Block in Lincoln Square and at the Sur La Table in the Gold Coast.

The Talking Farm First Annual Benefit

Posted: September 30, 2009 at 5:29 pm

I really like what they are doing in Evanston with the Talking Farm.  If you can,  please support them at their Annual Benefit.

WHEN: Monday, October 19, 2009, 6:30-9:30 p.m .

WHERE: Va Pensiero, 1566 Oak Avenue, Evanston, IL

 Join us to celebrate and support The Talking Farm’s mission and local achievements.

 The Talking Farm’s mission calls on us to face the issues of improved food security, better nutritional health and environmental sustainability. We are working to address all three needs by helping our community cultivate and enjoy more locally produced fresh foods.

Your generous support will help fund our proposed three-acre working urban farm as well as new and existing collaborative and educational programs.

Please join us for a scrumptious tasting menu featuring the freshest local and seasonal ingredients, created by Va Pensiero’s award-winning chef Jeff Muldrow. (Soft drinks included. Cash bar.) Then bid on delightful auction items donated by our community, mingle with other supporters of The Talking Farm, and learn about our current and future projects. You’ll be inspired by our vision!

 Cost of ticket $80
For more information and to register go to

If you have any questions, please contact



The Talking Farm is a nonprofit tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Happy Anniversary Downtown Farmstand

Posted: September 30, 2009 at 9:36 am

Tomorrow, October 1, Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand celebrates its one year anniversary.  The Local Beet’s Sustainable Cook, Melissa Graham, will be there from twelve to two sharing ideas on healthy and fun ideas for in season fruits and vegetables. 

The Downtown Farmstand has been a great addition to our eat local scene.  They offer a place to get good food six days a week.  They also offer a place downtown to pick up a CSA box.  They offer tastes from the neighborhoods, having featured Polish, Greek, Vietnamese, and Middle Eastern treats in the past, and are currently featuring Mexican baked goods.  Finally, it’s not just the frequent appearances by Melissa Graham, the Farmstand offers an array of educational experiences to enhance your locavore lifestyle.

Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand
66 East Randolph Street (between Michigan and Wabash)
Chicago, IL 60601

Phone: 312-742-8419

Monday-Friday: 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Saturday: 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM


Please note that we will be closed Monday, October 12, 2009.

We will also be closed for our annual winter break on Wednesday, December 23, 2009. We will reopen on Monday, January 11, 2010 

Monday-Friday: 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Saturday: 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM


Please note that they will be closed Monday, October 12, 2009.

They will also be closed for an annual winter break on Wednesday, December 23, 2009, reopening on Monday, January 11, 2010.

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Locavore Updates Linky Wednesday

Posted: September 30, 2009 at 8:02 am

The Green City Market’s Locavore Challenge ended last week.   Let’s check in with some would-be locavores as well as our already there friends around the World Wide Web.

No wrap up from Supriya.  Wonder how she did.

On the other hand, Making Chicago Home makes it to the end.

Chef Stegner’s still posting menu ideas.

Once again, here’s the list of official participants at Green City Market.  Seek them out and find out how they did.

Rob Smart’s wrapped it up with some smart suggestions.

In New England, she’s just getting going.  She’s been going along just fine for a while.

It’s not just a Northern Hemisphere thing.

If you missed it in the comments, this locavore, Heather, showed us even more, that cost does not have to be the challenge in the Locavore Challenge.

Of course Pleasant House gets a weekly link, especially with posts like this.

Here’s an excellent recent story about people in Illinois making it possible to have eat local challenges.

Progress in Illinois getting more widely known too.

Know any good locavores.  Let us know so we can be part of our Linky Wednesdays.

Reward Good Behaivor

Posted: September 29, 2009 at 10:47 am

I just ran across this bit of restaurant PR from the Gage that spoke to me.

The Gage New Spirits/Beers

New spirits and beers recently added to the menu at The Gage demonstrate the restaurant’s commitment to sourcing from Midwestern producers.

The gin and white whiskey now on the beverage menu come from Death’s Door Distillery in Door County, Wisconsin. “These are both produced from grains grown in family farms on Washington Island, just off the tip of Door County,” says General Manager Patrick Doyle.

Then there’s Boyd & Blair, a distillery on the Western edge of Pennsylvania that uses only locally grown potatoes in its single-distilled vodka. As Doyle explains, Boyd & Blair’s master distiller is a reliable guest of and provider for The Gage.

On the beer list, two 22-oz bottles from nearby sources have been added. Goose Island Sophie is the second in the “brewed for food” series from the Chicago brewery. “We will be adding their third of the series, Juliet, when it becomes available later this month,” says Doyle. “It will only be offered in a handful of restaurants in the city.”

The second beer is the Shipwreck porter from Arcadia Brewing Company in Battle Creek, Michigan. It’s a beer that is aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels for six months.

Stuffed Vegetables on the Menu: Menu Tuesday

Posted: September 29, 2009 at 10:28 am

While some of you were planning your menus for the week on Monday, I was forsaking food, even local food, for the day.  Oddly, for once, my Yom Kippur thoughts did not center entirely on what I would eat come sunset.  Instead, I dwelled on the much fun I had in the year past.  Sharing my eat local experiences here on the Local Beet was one of those happy thoughts.  I hope these Menu Monday posts, whatever day, helps inspire you to include much local foods each week.  You can do no worse this week, than put on your menu what will probably be on our menu this week: stuffed vegetables.

I love stuffed vegetables, and I love the excuse to eat stuffed vegetables.  You know Jew have something similar to the extended party period from Halloween to New Year’s Day.  From the night of Slichot a few weeks ago, which is like our Midnight Mass with a big sweet table, to the forthcoming dance in the streets Simchah Torah, this is our holiday season.  So, we are going from the “High Holidays” to Friday’s commencement of Sukhot, the holiday of harvest and bounty, and no foods symbolize more, the harvest and the bounty than stuffed vegetables.  Friday, we most likely will stuff.  European or Askhenazik Jews stuffed cabbages.  Sephardic Jews stuffed about anything they could get their hands on.  We follow the latter, not the least because as much work as it is to stuff vegetables, I believe that stuffing cabbage is even more work, all that careful peeling of leaves, blanching and then rolling.  Stuffing peppers, zukes, hard squash, onions,  eggplants, is not so difficult but does demand a lot of time for gorging processes.   Our CSA included eggplants and peppers, getting us part of the way, but we will need to pick up summer squashes before starting our stuffings.  We stuff with rice and local hamburger, bake with home-canned tomatoes and garnish with local egg-distant lemon sauce. 

Stuffing peppers will hardly get us through the surplus of CSA peppers.  Many need to be roasted still, and my wife challenged my pepper laziness the other day.  Still, instead of manning up to my peppers, I said, “go ahead.”  We need roasted peppers for Zuni Chicken salad foll0w-up.  Any recipe that covers eight or so pages in a cookbook needs to be set aside for special days, and my birthday the other day was the excuse for the first Zuni salad.  Not only did my wife make a great eight page salad, she localized it with local romaine, Illinois walnuts replacing pinenuts and Michigan dried cherries replacing the dried currants.  Of the three chickens she roasted, the next will go with roasted peppers.

Zuni salads will not do any dent in the many apples still around from apple picking and also from the CSA box, nor will Zuni salads do any dent in the $20 bag of peaches we got to celebrate the last of the local peaches.  My wife promises a pie.  I’m angling for a little cooked up peach butter. 

Those peaches were the only thing we picked up at farmer’s market this week.  We can draw instead on the beets, the broccoli, the cauliflowers, the acorn squash that have arrived in recent CSA boxes.  We still have tomatoes and cucumbers and Wisconsin feta and I feel several more Greek salads until hard frost hits.  And more than anything, I have to remember to use the purslane I always have to buy but too often ignore once it’s in house.  I imagine next year when I fast, I will also be happy about locally sourced menus.

What will you be putting on your menus?

Fall/Winter CSAs for 2009/2010

Posted: September 28, 2009 at 9:22 am

As Summer rolls out and Fall starts to rev up, our CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) subscriptions are approaching the end of their cycle and we’re starting to see the end of the road for the outdoor farmers markets.

Don’t despair!

There are plenty of farms nearby that are able to continue their growing into the winter and offer CSAs to extend the season. (Not to mention the fact that this winter will have a vibrant indoor market season–more to come).

CSAs allow you to pre-pay for regular deliveries of a farm’s harvest, directly from the grower.

So how do I choose which CSA is right for me?

It’s important to decide what features are most important to you. Price, delivery location, delivery/pick-up hours, size of delivery (half-shares?) variety of produce, organic produce, access to the farm/farmers are all things you should think about when evaluating a CSA. Every CSA has a coordinator who will be happy to answer your questions.

Also, don’t be afraid to sign up if you are part of a small (or even single-person) household. Split a share with a friend or neighbor!

Last Fall, I was a customer of Homegrown Wisconsin’s Fall/Winter CSA (now “Simply Wisconsin”). I received three deliveries that kept me pretty well stocked. For photos of those deliveries, visit my photo set.

Below are a number of fall and winter CSAs and similar programs that represent a good cross-section of different ways to get food to your home as the colder months approach.

Genesis Growers

20 acres in fertile north-central Illinois using natural methods: no pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizer.
Length of season/ # of deliveries: Fall share starts in November and lasts six weeks plus one storage box. Medium and Large shares available.
What you can expect to get: Seasonal vegetables rounded out with in-season fruits and herbs. Egg shares are available for separate purchase.
Pickup locations: Several locations on Chicago’s north side as well as Hyde Park. Suburban locations include Forest Park, Highland Park, Mokena, Oak Lawn, Oak Park, Park Forest, Arlington Heights, Skokie and Wheaton.
How to sign up or get more information: or email

King’s Hill Farm

Certified organic farm in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, focused on CSA membership.
Length of season/ # of deliveries: Four bi-weekly deliveries starting in November.
What you can expect to get: A variety of seasonal organic vegetables.
Pickup locations: Locations on Chicago’s north side and Oak Park.
How to sign up or get more information: has complete information.

Broad Branch Farm

An 8-acre organic (not certified) farm located in central Illinois. No chemical fertilizers, soil amendments, herbicides or pesticides are used.
Length of season/ # of deliveries: Two deliveries. Choice of vegetable, egg and meat shares.
Pickup locations: Central Illinois locations plus Naperville.
How to sign up or get more information: Or email

Simply Wisconsin

(formerly Homegrown Wisconsin)
A cooperative of 20+ family farms in Southeastern and South-Central Wisconsin. Certified organic.
Length of season/# of deliveries: 5 boxes (egg shares, cheese shares, meat shares, and preserve shares) between the first week of November and the last week of December.
What you can expect to get: A wide variety of produce options that could include sweet potatoes, leeks, jerusalem artichokes, winter squashes and cranberries. Cheese shares include seasonal raw cheddar, mozzarella, butterkaese, and more.
Pickup locations: Several pickup locations on Chicago’s north side, plus locations in Evanston, Prospect Heights, Highland Park, and Western Springs.
How to sign up or get more information: or call Katrina Pine at 608-333-1227.

Cedar Valley Farm

(meat only)
Ottawa, IL farm raising animals without drugs or hormones, in a healthy and sustainable environment.
Length of season/# of deliveries: You sign up anytime for 3 month, 6 month, or full year shares. Deliveries are monthly.
What you can expect to get: Various cuts of beef, pork, and chicken, plus two dozen eggs per month.
Pickup locations: Several north side Chicago neighborhoods, plus Naperville, Oak Park, and Oak Lawn.
How to sign up or get more information: Or email

Growing Power

A community-based urban farm that started in Milwaukee and is now a cooperative including other urban farms in the region.
Length of season/ # of deliveries: This “Market Basket” program works a little differently than a CSA. You place an order by Monday at 5:00p.m. for a Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday pickup. You can do this any time you like, with no seasonal commitment.
What you can expect to get: Late season produce including greens, root vegetables, and seasonal fruit. In the colder months, not all items will come from the coop’s local farms, and your bag may be supplemented with non-local products from small business wholesalers such as Goodness Greenness.
Pickup locations: Delivering to neighborhood sites in Beverly, Bronzeville, Englewood, Humboldt Park, West Garfield Park, Lakeview, Logan Square, Oak Park, and Wicker Park. You can also coordinate your own pickup by recruiting at least ten orders.
How to sign up or get more information: or call 773.347.1374 to leave a message on the hot-line. You can also email the market basket coordinator at

Additional CSAs and fresh produce delivery options

Harvest Moon Farms: Harvest Moon is a 20-acre certified organic farm in west central Wisconsin’s driftless region on the South fork of the Bad Axe River.  Accepting late applications for its winter CSAs, both a vegetable CSA and a meat CSA:

Scotch Hill Farm: Southern Wisconsin farm offering two deliveries in early and late November.

Creme de la Crop: Offering two sizes of shares for both winter vegetables and fruit. Four weeks, November through December.

Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks: Year-round home delivery of local and organic produce, meat, dairy and eggs. No subscription required.

New Leaf Natural Grocery: Produce boxes available year-round for delivery.

Farmers, did we miss you? If you offer a winter CSA and want to be included in our guide, contact us.


What’s Eating America – Events

Posted: September 25, 2009 at 5:18 pm

In an interesting series of eat local events forthcoming in Oak Park:

What’s Eating America? Food is a central part of our social, cultural and even spiritual lives! It’s the “elephant in the room” in our health care debate, it’s integral to many of our ecological concerns, and it’s the most basic sign of inequality among the various peoples of the world.

Join us this fall for one or all of a series of conversations focused on FOOD and the challenge of creating a joyful, sustainable food system.

Movie & Conversation Fresh: New Thinking About What We Are Eating Movie Showing: Sunday ▪ Oct 4th ▪ 3:30‐5:30pm Location: Oak Park Library,

834 Lake Street, Oak Park Study & Dialogue Series Menu for the Future from the Northwest Earth Institute Book of background articles available for purchase or loan Location: Euclid Ave UMC, 405 S Euclid Ave, Oak Park

Session 1: What’s Eating America? Tuesday ▪ Oct 6 ▪ 7:30 – 9:00pm

Session 2: Anonymous Food Tuesday ▪ Oct 20 ▪ 7:30 – 9:00pm

Session 3: Farming for the Future Tuesday ▪ Oct 27 ▪ 7:30 – 9:00pm

Session 4: You are What You Eat Tuesday ▪ Nov 3 ▪ 7:30 – 9:00pm

Session 5: Towards a Just Food System Tuesday ▪ Nov 17 ▪ 7:30 – 9:00pm

Session 6: Choices for Change Tuesday ▪ Nov 24 ▪ 7:30 – 9:00pm

Pot Luck Supper Pot Luck Supper & Recipe Sharing Saturday ▪ Dec 5 ▪ 6:00‐8:00pm Sponsored by the Green Action Group at Euclid Ave UMC, the Interfaith Green Network, and the Power of 10. For more details and to let us know you are coming: email

What Should and Should Not Be on Your Local Calender

Posted: September 25, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Yesterday I walked through the Daley Plaza Farmer’s Market on a lettuce buying mission.  Of course, I could never buy just lettuce and came home with rocket, jalepeno’s and softball sized “20 ounce” apples.  And I espied the one thing that should not be on your agenda this week. 

While picking a favorite farmer’s market is a bit like picking a favorite child, I hold no such conniptions when in comes to local produce.  I do not feel guilty in the least telling you that those pretty, bright red Nigerian eggplants you may see at your market, avoid.  Avoid.  Stay away.  They have all the bitterness of a raw eggplant without any of the ability to soften up with cooking.  I have no patience to fiddle more with this vegetable (really a fruit), but I can tell you after a couple of tries, a couple of methods last year, that there is no easy way to make this item edible.  I’m not saying that there is not a tasty recipe for this small eggplant.  There may be a special Nigerian way of cooking them.  It’s just my serious guess that it is not really worth the effort.  Instead, you can fill your to-do lists with much good stuff.

My friend Oriana the Papple Lady is now selling her papples, and perhaps by this weekend, her paw-paws and black walnuts, at Green City Market.  Make a note.

This may, likely will, be the last week for local peaches.  We’ve given you more than forty ways to use your local peaches.  Make a note.

You may have heard your foodie friends talk about the Chicago Gourmet Festival in Millenium Park.  Tell them real foodies spend their time finding markets, using the Local Beet’s Market Locator.  Put it in your book.

If you send an email and pay a decent fee, you can find one of Rick Bayless’s secret gardens and then eat with him afterwards.  Something to consider.

Something else you can do if you send an email; you can tour the new Logan Square Kitchen, a source for many local food purveyors.  Open house there Saturday and Sunday, with food supplied by Lula’s and City Provisions.

What else is filling up the pages of your local calender?

Wanted: One Permanent Indoor Farmers Market

Posted: September 25, 2009 at 10:08 am

Wanted: one year-round permanent indoor farmers market in Chicago.

How close are we to that goal?

Green City Market came rather close last winter, hosting a bimonthly version in the Peggy Notebart Museum during the winter months (which will continue this year). But Chicago deserves a fully functioning, permanent structure that features locally made goods all 12 months out of the year.

The ideal situation would mirror the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. A beautiful older building on the east side of downtown, the St. Lawrence Market is open five days a week, year-round (closed Sunday and Monday, typical days of closure in Ontario). The two floors are filled with nooks and crannies of businesses selling anything from meat and baked goods to mustard.

Or we could even have a structure similar to a downtown market a little closer to home, in Milwaukee. Nestled in the downtown area, the Milwaukee Public Market has two floors where they sell everything from spices, baked goods, ready-to-heat treats, and once again, mustard.

Farmers markets don’t have to be limited to fruits and vegetables in the summertime. There is year-round supply and demand for locally grown food. If you visited the Green City Market during those winter months, you saw a high demand.

In a city where we celebrate flowers, even the ones in the middle of our streets, we need to be a city that celebrates other growing things that we can eat.

On a recent trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia, I admired their indoor farmers market, a year-round event on Saturday mornings. People told me that if I was impressed with the current setup, I should come back and visit the new facility that were renovating, so that the city could have a daily, year-round farmers market. The new location is on the waterfront, and looked like it could hold a lot of vendors and patrons. And it would be good to know that regardless of weather, farmers and consumers could meet up for locally grown food.

For Chicago, the soon-to-be-open Metra Market in the Ogilvie Transportation Center building (formerly known as Northwest Station) could be part of that solution, or a nice supplement to a year-round market.

The fantasy structure for a year-round farmers market building in Chicago would be the old Post Office for its sheer size. But there are better locations that could provide a more appropriately sized facility. Somewhere near the Chicago River would make a nice aesthetic. We could even debate about whether a structure should be located in the downtown area.

There is even the possibility of using the bottom floor of a building, where condos or other businesses would be located above it. Imagine living in a condo where the major farmers market building would be right downstairs. You could even shop for locally grown food in your pajamas.

Realistically, given the models in Toronto and Milwaukee, you do want two floors. One nice treat in the Milwaukee is a space available for cooking classes and demonstrations, a nice feature to have in a farmers market. You also would likely want places for patrons to sit and enjoy their wares, scenarios where they would shop for meats, fruits, and vegetables, but they also got a pastry and coffee or a nice crepe for breakfast, and want to enjoy them on-site.

A year-round indoor farmers market would not endanger the neighborhood farmers markets. Not everyone would want to come downtown or to another central location. And most neighborhood farmers markets run from June to October, leaving plenty of time for a year-round market to reign alone.

The details might be lengthy: which organization would run it (likely Green City Market), where it would be located, and how it would work. But Chicago needs to start the process. If Toronto, Halifax, Milwaukee, and countless other cities can pull off a year-round indoor market, Chicago can do it. How close are we to making that happen?

Chad Rubel is a Chicago-based writer who covers food and nutrition on his blog, which can be found at

One Comment

Is the Challenge of the Locavore Challenge Cost?

Posted: September 24, 2009 at 9:09 am

Last night I had the privilege of moderating and participating in the panel for the Green City Market’s Locavore Challenge Town Hall.  In preparation for the event, I drew up a list of thirty-two or so questions.  Pretty soon after starting the discussion, I went to question sixteen.  The question I hear asked all the time.  What do you think about the costs of eating local.  The answers may have surprised you (unless you were there and already know what was said). 

Rick Gresh from David Burke’s Primehouse said it first.  He runs a big, big operation, with weddings and banquets and blow-out steak dinners.  His commitment to local foods lowered his food costs.  Local Beet contributor Pat Sheerin, of the Signature Room, echoed Gresh.  Repeating something he’s said on the the Local Beet: going local has lowered his costs too.  Finally Sarah Stegner from Prairie Grass Cafe chimed in, and said that at last year’s Town Hall, a participant mentioned that her food costs went down after she took the locavore plunge.  How could this be when it the most accepted truism of local food is that it costs more. 

How do we get our arms around these assertions when we see five dollar pints of blueberries at the market.  It has to be that they buy in bulk right.  Right next to that five dollar sign is usually another sign: two for nine.  We imagine we’d get three for twelve or something like that.  And we would.  Farmers will eagerly sell you a bushel of berries for a fraction of what that pint cost.  Still, bulk savings cannot account for chef savings.  I mean they buy a lot.  They would buy a lot if it came from local farms or if it came from Sysco.  Volume pricing applies in either circumstance.  Something else must apply.

Like I said above, I had thirty-two questions or so to cover, not to mention time for the thirty-two or so questions the audience had.  We never really got far on the whys of lower costs.  In my position of moderator, I did offer the idea that buying in season contributed.  If one went shopping for asparagus about now, he or she would find it much more expensive than the vegetables in season.    Focusing on what is in season does get you to cheaper items, but it still does make that in-season pint of blueberries cheaper.  Still, the kernel of cost controls does lie here, I believe.

Anyone know the woman who came forward last year to say her food costs went down when she took the Challenge?  I’d love to have her post something for the Local Beet.  We could get to the bottom of this.  How did she lower her costs.  Waiting her testimony, I’ll offer my idea.  You get lower costs when you turn yourself over completely to local foods.  You do not have to be a 100-mile zombie, but when you go local you find yourself without many of the narcotics of modern eating.  You have carrot sticks and tiny tomatoes instead of other junk food.  That five dollar pint of blueberries, it seems, goes a hell of a lot further than a bag of kettle chips.  More, you pay $6/lb for hamburger, but then you eat it only once or twice a week, dropping your meat budget line item.  That hunk of Brunkow cheese may have seemed pricey until you made it the centerpiece of your ploughman’s lunch.  We have to see the difference between the costs of local foods and the cost of eating local.

We have heard the testimony.  The costs of local foods may appear higher, yet the costs of eating local are not.  Let’s not fool ourselves that the Locavore Challenge contains no challenges, even certain cost challenges.  It still takes work to fill your pantries, fridge and freezer with a diet of local food.  It will always take more work to process and prepare local foods.  You may only eat meat once a week, but it does not mean you don’t want more steak.  You have to get what is actually the cheapest even if it means you have yet to acquire a taste for rutabagas.  There are gives and takes, compromises and tasks we accept.  In return, as pretty much all will acknowledge, it tastes better.  And it supports the areas around us, the land and the people.  Go local.  The costs will not be your challenge.


Local Beet Beer Finale

Posted: September 24, 2009 at 8:39 am

You never really know.


I rolled out The Local Beet Beer at The Local Beet Farm Dinner last Sunday, September 20. According to the label, it’s “An English-style Bitter completely screwed up by the addition of beets in the mash, and beet juice in the secondary fermentation.” Since beets are naturally sweet, I made it as a fairly sweet beer. People said nice things about it.

But, have you ever been to a dinner party where the chicken breast was about as juicy as the Anza-Borrego Desert? And upon leaving, have you said something like “Everything was soooo good!”?

When I offer a taste of my homebrew to friends, I try to encourage them to be brutally honest. And some are. But still, with many of them, they’ll take a sip and say “Gee, that’s nice.” Even though I clearly saw them wince as the brew passed into their gullet. And they didn’t take a second sip.

I recorded a few reactions to the Local Beet Beer.

Michael Morowitz, The Local Beet’s Grand Poo-Bah: “I like the sweetness. It’s very smooth. I don’t think I could drink a lot of this, though.”

Random taster: “It’s interesting … is it beer beer? Does it have alcohol?” [Yes, it does, but not a lot.]

Local Beet Backyard Columnist Brad Moldofsky: “It’s got the beet flavor. I think it’s the sweetness… it was surprising at first.”

Another random taster: “The Magic Hat [Wacko – the only commercially-made beet beer distributed in the Chicago area] tasted like something that was recycled through my dog. I normally like Magic Hat beers. But your beet beer is far superior.”

I blushed and mumbled at that comment.

Perhaps the most forthright assessment of Local Beet Beer came from the very young son of a prominent Chicago food writer. No, he didn’t sample it. It was just intuition that made him go up to the serving table, grab an open bottle, and dump it out on the ground.

You’ve gotta love an honest opinion.

But you never really know.


As a recap, the idea for a local beet beer came from an evening spent sampling beers at the Hopleaf.

It became the beginnings of reality.

Pressure was applied.

With gunk.

And then it went into bottles.


No one has yet identified the beet beer’s secret ingredient, despite the fact that subtle hints are sprinkled within some of the updates linked above. So, I am now offering to award a thoroughly inconsequential prize to the first person to accurately identify the secret ingredient in a comment on this article. (I could even make it a consequential prize, since I’m reasonably sure no one will get it. But I’m a cheap bastard, so I’ll leave it at inconsequential.)


Note to all of those who took a bottle of the beet beer home. It has a fairly high carbonation level. Be sure it’s very well-chilled before opening, unless you’d like a pinkish-red version of Old Faithful all over your pants.


Locavore Challenge Linky Wednesday

Posted: September 23, 2009 at 9:18 am

See who’s taking the Challenge:

Supriya Doshi has a hard time in week two.

Making Chicago Home is making it local.

Chef Sarah Stegner gives her take and tips.

Big Jones is also up for the Challenge.

Re-nest is not so much up for the Challenge but wants to know if others are.

Know any of these people?  Ask them how it went.

Outside of Chicago, others are challenging themselves to eat more local.

Rob Smart’s going for it.

A bunch of others will too, keep an eye here.

In Toronto, they’re on week three!

It’s an Ivy League kinda thing.

Can’t be hard to do in Northern California or Vermont.

And it’s not an eat local challenge blog, but I am always impressed by the challenge of finding wild foods.

Let us know about any Locavore Challenge blogs we missed.

Where Will You Be on Your Locavore Challenge, 9/23/09?

Posted: September 22, 2009 at 9:05 am

Let’s cut to the chase.  I’ll tell you exactly where I will be on September 23, 2009 at around 530 PM.  I’ll be at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, talking locavore challenge.  Some of you at the Town Hall Meeting this Wednesday will be concluding your Locavore Challenge.  We will be there to hear how you managed going local.  How much of your food consumed in the last two weeks came from local sources?  How did you manage.

You could get your fruits and vegetable from Green City Market and all the other markets in the area.  Did you stop there?  You surely ate some local cheese, from market vendors like Joe at Brunkow or maybe just some famous Pleasant Ridge Reserve found at your gourmet store.  Your milk and cream came from Blue Marble or maybe the new Illinois Jersey cow dairy, Kilgus, available at Marion Street Cheese in Oak Park.  You found eggs from Emily and Dennis Wettstein, lamb from Henry’s Mint Creek.  Crystal of C&D Pastured Pork explained how to slow cook your way to a perfect local ham.  You realized your bacon could be Nueske; your sugar from Michigan beets.  When you tasted Melissa’s wheat-berry salad, you put Ackerman on your list for local grains.  You can come talk all about these finds, and the finds you found that no one else found.  How did you manage?

Let’s cut to the chase.  I’ll tell you where I will be on September 23, 2009.  I will not be winding down my Locavore Challenge.  I believe it important and worthwhile to challenge yourself to eat local.  I believe that by dedicating yourself and committing yourself for a few weeks, you get a flavor of living local.  You learn what can happen.  You see possibilities.  I also believe that after enjoying these tastes, you will want to come back for more.  On September 23, at the Locavore Town Hall Meeting, we will discuss not just how you managed, but how you will manage.

Great and exciting things have been happening in the local food world here in the Chicago area.  On the horizon are more winter markets.  There are plans in the works for permanent markets too.  Local fish gets talked about more.  I even know (and am damn stoked) about a plan to open a sustainable butcher shop.  The Local Beet has been putting content on the Internet for over a year, and we are just getting warmed up.  All around us, our community is coming together to meet our challenges.  We also, sometimes, do not realize how good we got it.  Last week, I heard raves about Green City Market from a Boston foodie and San Francisco chef.  Our Green City?  Yes, it’s that good.  We will all manage quite well in our ongoing locavore challenge.

Please come discuss the Locavore Challenge with us on September 23, 2009 at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago) from 530 – 730 PM.  We’re going to feed you well with snacks dished up by great chefs like Paul Virant of Vie, Mark Mendez of Carnivale and Local Beet Contributor Pat Sheerin.  Where will you be.

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