Vote Early and Vote Often… for Seeds!

Posted: March 31, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Tomorrow is the last day to vote.  No, I’m not talking about those contested aldermanic elections, I’m talking about the One Seed Chicago Contest.

The 2011 has three candidates.    The candidates are swiss chard, eggplant, and radish.  All of them are winners in my book.

It was very difficult to pick one.

What’s not to love about the gorgeous color and peppery finish of radish?  There’s something fantastic about treating this vegetable to a bite just picked from the vine, or roasted with carrots & a bit of maple syrup, or sliced on buttered bread for a sandwich right out of hand.

Then there’s swiss chard.  You can pick the leaves, the minute they appear and garnish a dish.  You can wait to the leaves are about the size of your palm and add to a salad or green smoothie.  Finally, you can wait until the leaves are broad and stir fry or braise.

Eggplant.  The colors are simply breathtaking.  It can be pickled and put up for winter.  It can be cubed and sauteed in a stirfry.  Then there’s roasting it.  Smashing it.  Adding olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and garlic for a spread or dip.

Seriously, what’s not to love about each of these versatile candidates?

Can you guess which candidate got my vote?

Here’s a hint:

Pretty Purple lower

Please let me know how you voted and why.

Win a Growing Home CSA

Posted: March 30, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Here at the Local Beet we are more than happy to help you choose a CSA, but we would never choose your CSA for you.  We love ‘em all.  Still, we admit, some we love a little bit more.  Not so much the CSAs we love more, but, well, we love some of the side shows around these guys.  For instance, we are happy to nibble away at the especially delicious rocket grown by Growing Home, but we know it tastes that much better because of the job training being done by the organization.  They are not just about producing local food but about producing trained persons who can better enter the workforce (and if they want to enter the workforce as urban ag’ers, more power to them).  So, that all said, we are very happy to tell you about Growing Home’s effort to give away a summer CSA share.

All you have to do is register for Growing Home’s email newsletter between April 1 and April 15, 2011.  Growing Home’s summer CSA shares are 18 weeks long, and can reasonably feed a family of 3-4 who eat a medium amount of vegetables.

Learn more about Growing Home and their CSA here.

Cheese-Making At The FamilyFarmed Expo

Posted: March 30, 2011 at 2:43 pm

[Editor’s Note: The Local Beet’s very own Keighty Alvarez moderated a panel at the recent FamilyFarmed Expo on “Home Cheese-Making.” You can read about Keighty’s cheese-making endeavors at The Local Beet, where she teaches people how to make cheese and recommends her favorite local cheeses. Most recently, she wrote about controlling spoilage in making homemade cottage cheese.]

First off, thanks to everyone who made it out to our cheese-making workshop at FamilyFarmed! And thank you to FamilyFarmed for giving us the opportunity to talk about cheese at their great Expo! I thought it went really well. There were a lot of great questions asked, and a lot of information discussed. Here is a brief recap, just in case you missed it.

Our panel discussion started with an educational discussion from Chef Michael Staver. He is a professor at Kendall College, where he teaches many classes, including those on fermentation, vegetarian cooking, and of course, cheese-making. He and his wife own an organic farm in Stockton, Illinois, where they grow flowers and produce. (Ed. Note: Chef Staver also holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Biological Science.) Chef Staver talked about the logistics of making cheese, from rennets, to the easiest cheese to start with, which, by the way, is ricotta. He suggested that the audience check out websites to find everything they need to make cheese at home.

Next up was an independent cheese and butter maker, Al Bekkum. Al is one of the founders of Nordic Creamery, the award winning artisanal cheese company in Westby, Wisconsin. With over 22 years experience in cheese-making, he was a great source of information for the amateur cheese-maker. He recounted how he got into the business of cheese-making, and gave us some tips about cheese presses—it turns out that you don’t need a fancy expensive model to press your cheese; a big piece of PVC pipe and a brick can work, too.

And the last, but not least, speaker was George Rasmussen, the owner of Swan Creek Farm, where he raises grass-fed animals. He is also very passionate about raw milk. He talked about the importance of good milk when making cheese. He talked extensively about where raw milk could be sourced legally. He also discussed the healthy properties of non-pasteurized dairy and, on a lighter note, the adorableness of his Jersey cows.

All in all, it was an awesome workshop, and I am so grateful for the people that were able to make it. If you’d like more information about cheese-making, don’t hesitate to post here, and I’ll do my best to help you out.

Become a Backyard Orchardist – Fruit Grafting Workshop – April 9

Posted: March 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Slow Food Chicago is offering a workshop on April 9 on growing fruit in the Chicago area.  The 4 hour class will cover:

  • Best choice of fruit trees and berries to grow organically
  • Container growing of fruit trees, inside and out
  • How to graft a fruit tree that you are unable to find at a commercial nursery
  • Introduction to basic fruit tree pruning

The cost is $35 ($25 for Slow Food members) and includes one rootstock and one scion of your choice.  In addition, pear, apple, quince AND paw paw rootstock will also be for sale.

Bring a knife that you can use, and leave your small children at home because of the knife use.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum – 1 – 5 PM

To register for workshop go to

Bud buying Goose? Maybe not so bad.

Posted: March 28, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Okay, Goose Island will be a Budweiser company now. Is that a good or a bad thing? Well, let’s take a look at what’s happened when big brewers have bought out other smaller guys.

Bud bought Widmer and Redhook, and the consensus of beer geeks on Beeradvocate is that both have declined a bit in quality. Looking at ratings on Ratebeer and Beeradvocate, though, it’s clear they’re both still excellent craft breweries, albeit not at the level of Goose. But whenever I visit my beer-challenged brother in Texas, and see his beer fridge stocked with Bud Light, at least I know I can go out and get a mixed 12-pack of Redhook to get me through a few days.

So it appears that Budweiser hasn’t especially hurt Widmer and Redhook. And Bud’s attempts to build its own “craft brewery” – Shock Top — have shown that they can’t do a credible craft brewery in-house. Which is why they need to buy others.

The story of Miller’s acquisitions is more divergent.

Miller bought Celis, an excellent brewery in Texas started by Pierre Celis — the guy who revived the Belgian wit style, by introducing Hoëgarden. After his brewery burned down (he was uninsured) he sold Hoëgarden to InBev to raise cash, and started a brewery in Austin Texas. In Texas, he turned out a number of well-respected beers — Celis White, a classic witbier in particular — and initially worked out a distribution deal with Miller. Later, in April 2000, Miller bought out Celis. By December of that year Miller had shut it down. saying it wasn’t making enough money. Michigan Brewing in Webberville purchased the Celis brand and some of the equipment, and the Celis White they’re turning out is, reportedly, an impressive replica of the Texas brew. Sadly, it’s not available in Illinois, Indiana or Wisconsin.

So being purchased by Miller was not good for Celis, although, ultimately, there was a semi-happy ending.

Miller also bought Leinenkugel in 1988. It’s a completely different story. Post-acquisition, Leinie used Miller’s R&D capabilities and financial and distribution resources to expand their line into a wide variety of specialty beers, including, reportedly, a soon-to-appear Russian Imperial Stout. The Leinenkugel family is still in control of the business, so I expect when they journey down to Milwaukee (or Wacker Drive in Chicago) for quarterly profitability meetings, the numbers are good enough that Miller essentially keeps hands off.

Miller has been good to Leinenkugel.

Along with the takeover, it was announced that Brett Porter, who has been brewing with Goose Island since May 2010, will replace Greg Hall as brewmaster. Porter has an impressive resume, although there’s been some speculation that he might become the “Budweiser guy” in charge. Based on his resumé, it’s unlikely, but we’ll see.

But you have to either respect or pity a guy with that name in the beer biz. To quote the late Michael Jackson (no, not that one … the influential, ultimate beer geek) on the history of Brett Porters, “Even after or War II, at least one German brewer continued to make a ‘British-style’ Porter with a Brettanomyces yeast culture. This type of yeast typically developed during the long maturation of strong, export Porters in the huge wooden tuns of the Victorian period. The brewer told me that a Porter without the ‘horse blanket’ aroma of Brettanomyces would have been thought ‘insufficiently British’.”

Some are wailing that the Budweiser takeover may mean the death of Goose Island. That’s doubtful, based on the Widmer and Redhook experiences. I’m guessing it’ll be more like the Leinenkugel/Miller experience than Celis/Miller.

And others have bemoaned money earned by Goose going to that megabrewer in St. Louis. But it’s clear that Goose was bursting at the seams — even having to outsource some production to New Hampshire. It’ll be a bigger Goose, employing more here. And I’m guessing as long as the revenues continue to grow, so will Bud’s investment in Goose.

It actually could be a good thing.


Beer Rankings Can Be Boring

Posted: March 28, 2011 at 3:02 am


Three Floyds, in nearby Munster Indiana, is the best brewery in the world for 2011. Out of more than 10,000 brewers worldwide.


That’s the same thing Ratebeer said last year, 2010. That’s what they said in 2009.

This is getting awfully repetitive.

It is based on nearly three million reviews – and some of these reviewers actually sound like they know something about beers.

For example, they also rated Revolution Brewing among the top five new breweries world wide to open in 2010. (Humbly, we’ll note that we predicted great things here.)

Grand Rapids, Michigan’s Founders Brewing moved up to #2, its Michigan neighbor, Bells ranked #7, and local fave, Chicago’s Goose Island, made it into the top ten. Among others in the region, New Glarus came in at #35, and Chicagoans Half Acre and Piece earned the #75 and #82 spots, respectively.

Goose also had a good showing for its individual beers. Overall, surprisingly, Goose’s Rare Bourbon County Stout edged out Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout, coming in as the fifth and seventh best beers in the world respectively (although note that Ratebeer has a strong bias toward big, strong beers — 17 of the top 25 beers are Imperial Stouts, with the others all being similarly powerful beers). Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout also made it into the top ten (#9).

Other notables in the top 50 include Bell’s Hopslam (#12), Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout (#14), Goose’s “Regular” Bourbon County Stout (#19), Coffee version of the same (#23), Three Floyds Vanilla Bean Barrel Aged Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout (#35), Goose’s Vanilla Bourbon County Stout (#37), and Founders Breakfast Stout (#47).

So, I’m not yawning. It’s a great time to be a beer drinker in these parts. I’ve got my Dark Lord Day tickets, so all’s well with the world (well, maybe if your world is limited to the Western Hemisphere).

Full results can be found at

Last Logan Square Farmer’s Market of the Winter, This Sunday

Posted: March 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm

For the second winter, the Logan Square Farmer’s Market moved indoors for the winter months at the Congress Theater.  They’ve offered an ever changing mix of prepared products and fresh goods.  They’ve generally taken an expansive view of local, allowing for items like coffee grown by the family of a neighborhood resident who has a plantation in Puerto Rico.  The Logan Square Farmer’s Market has also been an outstanding incubator for smaller farmer’s and producers.  For instance, giving a good platform to the clay pot baked breads from our friend Ann at Crumb.  All in all, the Congress Theater has been a good place to shop each weekend.  We’ll miss it during its spring hiatus.  The market returns outdoors on June 5th in the Square.

For their last winter market, there will be an indoor picnic.  The festivities include a scavenger hunt with prizes and family picnic time. The scavenger hunt starts at 10 am and goes to 11 am. Bring your blankets and picnic baskets or try some of the yummy food at the Market.

Logan Square Indoor Farmer’s Market – Sunday – March 27

Congress Theater

2135 N. Milwaukee, Chicago

10 AM – 2 PM


Follow the Momentum of the FamilyFarmed Expo with the Latest Local Calendar

Posted: March 25, 2011 at 8:56 am

Last weekend, a lot of us re-committed to local eating.  Many more discovered eating local for the first time.  Potential investors hooked up with food businesses; foodies tasted Localicious, and a whole heck of a lot of people filled the UIC Forum on Saturday hearing chef demonstrations, attending workshops and walking the exhibit floor.  We all left inspired.  Keep the momentum going with this latest Local Calendar, which highlights area markets and the little bits of local foods still available.

As always, please share with us any other events or tips on living the eat local life in the Chicago area.


This is the barest time of year on the Local Calendar.  Use mostly indoor grown vegetables: lettuces, spinach, micro-greens, mushrooms, cucumbers, herbs, rocket; there only the mostly limited supplies of  root vegetables : beets, carrots, celery root, sunchokes, while storage crops like onions, potatoes and apples, are hanging around.

Do resist the tyranny of the fresh.  We expect you can find frozen and dried fruits from Seedlings at various markets.  Tomato Mountain does all sorts of things with its Wisconsin tomatoes, not just salsas; I love the pickles made by River Valley Kitchen.  The Downtown Farmstand sells Three Sisters Garden dried beans.  Use the local.


It won’t be long, but the first things to spring: watercress, ramps, sorrel, fiddle-head ferns, nettles, and green garlic.  Let us know when you start seeing these products.


These stores specialize in local foods:

It’s open! Eat locally butchered meat at the Butcher and the Larder.

C&D Pastured Pork’s sales around town.

New! We learned of an Indiana farm growing lettuces, basil and rocket (a/k/a arugula) indoors called Eden Farms.  They sell mostly now in Indiana, but they also sell to the Sunset Foods stores on the North Shore. 

Your local grocery may not be carrying living waters lettuces, but look around for what they may have local.  You can almost for sure find local apples and potatoes, maybe onions at various grocery stores.  The Angelo Caputo’s in Elmwood Park still has Michigan apples, and I recently espied Wisconsin potatoes at the Fresh Market in Oak Park.


Saturday - March 26

Chicago – Green City Market – Theme: Say Cheese – 8 AM – 1 PM – Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Geneva – Geneva Community Market – Inglenook Pantry – 11 N. 5th Street, Geneva – 9 AM – 1 PM

Sunday – March 27

Chicago – Logan Square Farmers Market – 2135 N. Milwaukee – 10 – 2 PM – All sorts of things on for Sunday including Otter Creek cheddars, Mint Creek lamb, and Tempel Farms eggs; Otter Creek Organic Farm also has grass fed beef and pasture raised organic pork and chicken – Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee – 10 AM – 2 PM

Chicago – Winter market associated with Faith in Place at St. John’s Episcopal Church – 3857 N. Kostner, Chicag0 – 12 PM – 3 PM

Wednesday – March 30

Chicago – Soup and Bread at the Hideout benefiting local food pantries – 1354 W. Wabansia, Chicago – 530 PM – 730 PM


April 18 - Our friend Jon-David, the Mafia Hairdresser, made us aware of  GREEN CHICAGO @ Joseph Michael’s Salon & Spa..
GREEN CHICAGO is an Earthday Celebration where “Social Media Royalty meet Chicagoland Green Groups” to mingle, have fun & learn about each other. Your ticket includes munchies, fabulous beverages & a special “Mafia-Mojito” made by jon-david.  Pepsi Refresh Challenge winner, Alicia Ontiveros, will be screening a portion of Meet the Gulf, her documentary about the people in the Gulf of Mexico affected by the BP Oil Spill.  All ticket and raffle purchasers go into weekly raffles leading up to the event and 1 lucky Ticket Event attendee will win a Hair Make-Over at Joseph Michael’s Salon & Spa.  Mother Nature herself will be your special guest ambassador and show you how a salon can turn into a GREEN CHICAGO tradeshow and how a spa can turn into a screening room.  At this event green-guy/writer/hairdresser jon-david will be launching & signing his book, Mafia Hairdresser, and all proceeds will go to Climate Cycle, the May 22nd Chicago fun bike ride which put solar power in Chicago schools. You will also be able to sign up for Climate Cycle. Pre-Purchase your book and pick it up at Green Chicago, 1313 Ritchie Ct. anytime after March 31.  TICKETS now on sale VIA EVENTBRITE .  See also the Mafia Hairdresser site for more information.

April 30 – GreenNet’s 19th Annual Green & Growing Urban Gardening Fair – Garfield Park, Chicago

March is Maple Syrup Time in Illinois

Posted: March 25, 2011 at 8:39 am

Editor’s Note: Last fall, area chef, Tom Leavitt organized a “crop mob”.  A whole host of us rode a biodiesel bus to Spence Farm to spend a day as farm hands.  We threshed sorghum and planted garlic.  We learned about the farm, including touring the maple house.  Several months later, Tom returned to see that maple house in action.

Making Maple Syrup  on Spence Farm

Our visit March 5th to Spence Farm brought us full circle through the seasons. My wife Lori, friend Lorelle and I had driven down from Chicago to Fairbury to see how maple syrup is produced and to help the Travis family for the day. The late Winter chill and dampness underfoot had us wondering about our offer as we walked across the fields to the tree line at edge of the farm. Arriving at the syrup shed, our doubts disappeared as the warmth of the wood-stove and sweet aroma of boiling syrup greeted us warmly as did Marty, Kris and Will. A year earlier, in late March, we’d visited for the first time after the maple syrup season had just ended.  I’d contacted the Travises then looking for their organic Iroquois corn and was graciously invited to visit.  We also returned for a community potluck held on the farm and again in October with a “Crop Mob” that I’d organized to help them with their harvest.


Truly a family enterprise, 20 year old Will Travis is the driving force behind the operation.  He resurrected the dormant maple syrup operation as a 10 year old in 2002.  The history of syrup making on the farm stretches back all the way to Will’s 8th great-grandfather who settled the farm in 1830.  The grandfather learned how to make syrup from the native Americans living in the area. Syrup making continued on the farm until the 1950’s when is was abandoned.  



Maple syrup production hasn’t changed much since Will’s great-grandfather’s time. Tap the trees, collect the sap, boil it down to syrup. It is a labor intensive and weather dependent undertaking.  The sap buckets are collected by hand and carried to the collection tank outside the syrup house. The ground is usually too soft and muddy this time of year for a truck to make the rounds among the some 300 trees that Will and the family tap. When the sap is flowing especially well, they’ve stationed a series of blue 55 gallon barrels to siphon the sap from barrel to barrel to make the collection work less backbreaking.  I made several trips from the maple grove to collection tank with fully laden five gallon buckets at 40 pounds each and could only imagine a full day’s work collecting sap from each tree.spence1

The weather is also important. Daytime temperatures must be above freezing and nighttime temperatures must be below freezing for the sap to flow.  Copious amounts of firewood must also be collected to keep the boiler/evaporator going all day.

When you think about maple syrup, Vermont, Canada or Wisconsin come to mind, and Will’s maple taps are just one of only three commercial maple syrup operations in Illinois. The production is not large by any standard, last year’s production was only 50 gallons for a short, three week season. The Travises are hoping for a longer season and to double their production this year. To produce one gallon of syrup, 41 gallons of sap must be boiled. They needn’t worry about selling their production. It is already spoken for to their list of chef clients from Chicago to whom they supply a wide range of farm products throughout the year.

When Will first started up the syrup operation, he began with his 6th great grandpa’s syrup shed and equipment and recruited his friends to help.  When he reached the point where he wanted to integrate it into the farm production, he realized that he needed better equipment and facilities.  He applied for and received a grant from the Frontera Farmer Foundation to upgrade the enterprise.  After purchasing a new evaporator and equipment, Will and his friends poured a concrete floor and constructed a new house next to the old shed.  


Once we’d filled the storage tank, we spent the the day hauling firewood, warming up in the syrup house and catching up with Marty, Kris, and Will.  We’d now visited Spence Farm in every season of the year.  With each visit we learn more about the Travises devotion to sustainable farming and the amazing creativity that they display in their organic oasis in Livingston County, Illinois.


What is the Taste of Local

Posted: March 25, 2011 at 8:03 am

Editor’s Note: Many of you know Lee Greene, proprietress of the Scrumptious Pantry.  The Scrumptious Pantry began by importing small farm produced products from her home in Italy.  Lee’s plan, however, was to bring to market, similar products from her new terroir, the Midwest.  So, she worked on identifying local products.  In her exploration, something stymied her, inspired her, and intrigued her: what was her Midwest products supposed to taste like.  She wanted her line to express the land where it came; the question how exactly would she achieve that.  Lee took to the books.  She began researching the historical tastes of the Midwest.  She began trying to addressing the problem, food should not just be from a location, it should be of the location.  As Lee continues to explore this problem, she agreed to share her thoughts with us.  She also wants to hear your thoughts.  What is the taste of local?

Being a locavore is ll the rage – and for good reasons. Enjoying the rich bounty of the local farms and ranches has many benefits, the most important being taste. Fresh food, picked at the peak of ripeness and delivered straight to market tastes better.

So, yes, proximity matters. But is local food only defined by where it is grown?

One of the major challenges of our current food system is its past industrialization. It promoted hybrid crops, developed to yield the best results in processing. National brands spent decades and huge advertising budgets to convince us that we wanted to buy our food ready made. And as a result, tastes became homogenized.

Yes, we got Chinese dumpling soup in cans, frozen burritos and sushi in the grab & go cooler of the supermarket, but we lost the sense of place in our food. Would it not be nice if we reconnected with our regional food culture and increased the awareness of the Taste of the Midwest?

Local food to me has three components: indigenous varieties, techniques and flavor compositions. Which gives you many angles to be creative – and even innovative. Celebrating the Taste of the Midwest does not mean that we need to meticulously execute a century old recipe. But instead of using Japalenos on your taco, why not chop up the Beaver Dam Pepper? It is a mildly hot pepper an Hungarian immigrant brought to Beaver Dam, WI when he settled here in 1929. The only thing keeping the world from forgetting about it is the Slow Food Ark of Taste and a handful of curious farmers growing experimental plots. At The Scrumptious Pantry, we are now working on pickling this local beauty for our US-farmed product line.

Pickling is a Midwestern technique – as compared to canning or preserving food in salt or fat. As to cooking techniques, the Midwest is the capital of stewing. In a climate that favors storage crops and a poor economy that favored cheap, muscle rich cuts of meat, the long cooking process was what produced tasty results.

Flavor compositions are mainly defined by the immigrant waves. With the predominantly German and Eastern-European settlers to the Midwest traveled their seeds and their recipes. A similar climate favored the conservation of their homelands’ growing & cooking styles: storage crops and a hardy taste profile centered around spices such as cloves, bay leaves, nutmeg etc. Of course, more recent immigration as brought new influences to the flavors of the Midwest, and these influences should be celebrated as our regional cuisine evolves. But if you asked me what dish I would choose to represent the Midwest, I would choose a beef stew over a salsa.

There are many ways to incorporate the Taste of the Midwest into modern, contemporary cooking, and personally I think there is huge potential out there for a “Midwestern Cooking revisited”. Chef Paul Virant at Vie has taken in house pickling to a new level for a restaurant. The snout to tail movement in our local food community in my eyes is a natural development for the Midwest – always a meat driven food economy. The dynamics of our local food movement are impressive. We are lucky to have some of the country’s greatest chefs, being committed to local food.

I cannot wait to taste, what we are gonna get cooking!

What is your take on the Taste of the Midwest? How do you pay tribute to it in your cooking?

Controlled Spoilage: Cottage Cheese (& Granola is Delicious With It)

Posted: March 25, 2011 at 7:33 am

One of my favorite snacks is cottage cheese and granola. Not yogurt but cottage cheese. There was this salad buffet near my house when I was a kid. It was one of my favorite restaurants. There was a dessert section where you could make your own sundae. There was also cottage cheese right next to the granola. I assumed they went together.  It turns out they do! And it”s oh so delicious.

Cottage cheese, named after you guessed it, cottages, is a very common homemade cheese. Traditionally made with raw milk, this cheese was made by pouring a gallon into a pot and letting it sit in a warm place for a few days. The enzymes in the raw milk get so concentrated that it starts to curdle. Because after all cheese making is just controlled spoilage.

Yay, history! But that”s enough. On to our cheese!

You will need:

1 gallon milk

1/8 tsp calcium chloride (if you”re using store bought milk. if you”re using raw milk omit it)

1/4 tsp liquid rennet dilute in 1/4 cup cool water

cheese salt

1/2 cup half and half (optional)

butter muslin

Heat the milk to 72 degrees (room temp).


Add the calcium chloride and mix thoroughly.

Add the rennet and stir with an up and down motion.

Cover the pot and let it sit for 4-8 hours. Check on it after 4 hours, mine was ready at about 4 and a half. The curd will be pretty soft but you should be able to cut it and it will hold the line.

Cut the curd into one inch cubes.

Let them rest for 10 minutes.

Heat the curds to 80 degrees, by 3 degrees every 5 minutes.

Heat the curds to 90 degrees by 3 degrees every 5 minutes.

Heat the curds to 110 degrees and keep it there for 20 minutes. All the while stirring occasionally to avoid matting.

- Those last three steps sound kind of confusing but really what you should do it keep your burner on low and keep checking the temperature every few minutes.

The curds need to cook through and they shouldn’t be custard like in the middle. You can squeeze one to test it.

cottage squeeze

After the curds are the right consistency, turn off the heat and let them sink to the bottom of the pot. Let them rest for 5 minutes.

Pour off the whey and ladle the curds into a butter muslin lined colander.

draining cottage

Tie the corners of the muslin and hang to dry for 10 minutes.

Place the curds into a bowl and break apart the bigger chunks. Add salt to taste.

Add the cream if you would like a creamier texture.

cottage end

Cottage cheese!

And here is my recipe for granola, just in case you want to try it!

2 cups oats (not instant)

2 tbs honey

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup sliced almonds (or whatever nuts you would like)

1/2 cup dried fruit

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix all the ingredients and spread on a greased sheet pan.

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Let it cool for a second and then drop some on your new cottage cheese.

Enjoy enjoy!




RECYCLED – XOCO – Local Beet Restaurant of the Year

Posted: March 24, 2011 at 7:13 am

We are pleased to see that LTHForum designated Xoco a Great Neighborhood Restaurant in 2011.  Every so often, participants at LTHForum identify places around town as being a “GNR.”  The Forum participants then spend several weeks arguing over exactly what “great” “neighborhood” and “restaurant” mean (the latter being somewhat resolved when overseers at LTH decided the ‘R’ could stand for “restaurant” or “resource”, hence allowing, for instance, the ineffable Northwest Cutlery to gain a GNR).  Xoco, especially caused consternation amongst the folks.

Now, in full disclosure, our Beet staff did not fully agree on whether Xoco fit into the standards of GNRship.  Myself, I take a very expansive look at the thing and found Xoco’s greatness represented in their commitment to high quality local ingredients and interesting and complex recipes.  Wendy, on the other hand, tends to feel GNRs should go towards the more obscure, the more out there, to the neighborhoods that are neighborhoods.  Still, Wendy and I both agree that Xoco is a special place, and that is why we were ahead of the curve, and gave it our Restaurant of the Year Award for 2009.  (Read also about our 2010 Restaurant of the Year, City Provisions Deli, here.)


We’re here with the mission of making local eating practical for everyone.  As much as we keep a root cellar in the sky and feed the kids sprout sandwiches (with cranberry cheddar and jam), we recognize that many a-times, eating local means eating out.  It is not just the back door delivery of produce.  The ramps and Iroquois corn of Spence Farm, the hogs of Slagel, George’s meats from Swan Creek, these all go to the restaurants.  Worse, in the winter, they have access to City Farms, Growing Power, and Michigan’s Werp Farm for indoor produce.  Do you.  Or they have their own garden with a full time granger.  Rick Bayless looked beyond his garden for Xoco.  The dairy comes from Iowa’s Farmer’s All Natural Creamery; the ham, Prosciutto di Iowa.  What really pleases us.  We schlep to Indiana to get New Rinkel flour.  Xoco has it for you.  Xoco’s larder looks like ours.  The opportunities to eat out in Chicago are many.  Xoco made a nice addition to our choices this year.

We got a lot out of eating local out this year.  At Mado, the hearts and heads that tasted so good also allowed local farmers to prosper (or at least make-do) because they could sell the whole beast.  We stood in Paul Virant’s crowded office last February while he called up his latest menu on his computer.  In the darkest of days, he rattled off his Vie offerings that, excepting seafood and citrus, remained local.  Mark Mendez at Carnivale could whip up a tasty farm lunch the day after he marketed.  Pat Sheerin, who shared some of his recipes on the Local Beet, showed us that local food could be served with a view at the Signature Room in the Hancock.  We enjoyed what they did with local food at Naha, Lula, Blackbird, Publican, Prairie Grass Cafe.  We want to name all of these places restaurants of the year. 

The crowds now crowd our kind of places.  Try getting in to Lula on a Sunday morning or Publican on a Sunday family dinner evening.   And when we went to have lupper at Xoco at just past three, late enough for the caldos or meal-in-a-bowl soups, we found a line out the door.  As much as it pained us to choose amongst so many choices for Restaurant of  the year, we went for Xoco because of its role in the eating-sphere.  Xoco proves that people want good food.  It is not so much that Xoco brought great local food to the masses; it’s that the masses came to Xoco for well prepared, locally sourced foods.  Even if you have to wait in a long line.  Even if you have to wait again for a while for your food.  If the guacamole is spare and served miserly in a plastic cup.  If you cannot have the full menu if you eat only at lunch; that you have to bug them to get your dessert chocolate.  You went to Xoco.  Vie is fine dining.  Mado a trattoria, but Xoco is the Soup Nazi of Mexican sandwiches.   They are lining up for us.

And lining up for great reason.  A torta for twelve dollars only seems like a lot until you eat it.  The locally sourced goods taste clean and fresh.  It tastes alive, as we always come to describe the differences because of  local.  Xoco proves that people want better bread.  For some panphiles, the custom designed teleras and bolillos from Labriola justify the entrance fee.  Xoco is uncompromising in its shopping.  You roll past the suppliers like Burma Shave ads as you slowly move the line, but Xoco is also uncompromising in its cooking.  A friend complained that the torta ahogada was too one note, all red chili and bright.  Well, you know what.  Mexican food can often be one note.  It attracts us so much for its assaults and one notes.  We want our Mexican food not to play nice with us.  Xoco obliges (the pork carnitas caldo is muy picante too if you want that). 

Want us to say some less than nice things about Xoco. Well, one of us did once get a caldo that seemed on the small side.  Our other complaints: First, we would love to find some way that Xoco could accommodate its most casual fans.  No, not that way.  We mean there should be an easier way to come for a thick cup of Barcelona and a plate of churros to re-fuel.  In fact, our second complaint is not so much a complaint but a request to accommodate your less than casual fans.  We’re here naming Xoco Restaurant of the Year because of how they are reeling in the masses.  You’ve done it with pork belly and suckling pigs [ed. was there not a headcheese sammy at one point?].  How ’bout going deeper.  Stroll down Maxwell Street (well Des Plaines Street) some Sunday.  Make us some of that.  The lamb guts called buche.  A torta with cabeza or steamed cow’s head, although we’ll understand if you skip the eyes.  Get squishy on us.  We’re ready.

We eat local out at several favorite restaurants.  Picking a Restaurant of the Year was damn hard.  With its 3 PM line out the door for local cuisine, we decided to go with the it place, Xoco.  Thanks all of you for making it a pleasure to eat at your places.

Advocates For Urban Agriculture: Spring Meeting, 3/24 @ 5:30 & Potluck, 3/30 5:30-8:00

Posted: March 23, 2011 at 11:39 am

Advocates For Urban Agriculture (“AUA”) is holding a meeting and spring potluck within the next week.

AUA’s advocacy working group will meet Thursday, March 24 at 5:30PM to discuss zoning policy at 444 N Wells, Suite 602 (Shaw Environmental). [Ring buzzer to enter, and go to 6th F via elevator at rear of building (stairs end at someone else's office).]

On March 30, from 5:30-8:00 pm, AUA will hold their Spring Potluck at the Garfield Park Conservatory, Jensen Room, 300 N. Central Park, in Chicago. It will include a “community slideshow” (everyone will have 30 seconds to show off their urban rooftop, garden or farm). There will also be a speaker panel on food security, and a discussion on Chicago’s proposed zoning code changes.

For more information on the Potluck, see below or click here:


“It’s cookies, for crying out loud,” – ChiTrib Covers Stalled Cottage Food Bill

Posted: March 23, 2011 at 6:56 am

Amongst the many things handled at the Local Beet booth Saturday at the FamilyFarmed Expo was encouraging people to fill out cards to tell their state representatives that they supported the stalled SB 137 allowing for “cottage food” in Illinois; i.e., people making certain types of generally safe foods (cookies, jams) in their home for sale in farmer’s markets and similar venues.  The bill would provide for supplementary income to farmers across the state, provide an additional outlet for local foods as they could be used in more products and provide an entrepreneurial foothold for people getting started by reducing greatly the costs associated with food production.  It’s such a generally good idea, that a whole bunch of neighboring states have cottage food laws on their books.

Not so fast say our health department overlords.  The Chicago Tribune covers the stalled effort today.  Listen, we are all for safe foods, and we know that many a case of “stomach flu” really stems from something you ate, but we also know that the risks here are small.  This is not home canned corned beef.  As the article notes, of the 23 confirmed cases of foodborne illness in Illinois in 2008, only two could be traced to home cooking.  We believe Illinois should create a law allowing for home production in appropriate circumstances.  We appreciate everyone who signed the cards towards this effort on Saturday.

To learn more about the proposed cottage food bill and what you can do to un-stall the effort, see the page of our friends at the Illinois Stewardship Alliance.   Thanks, by the way, to Zina Murray of the Logan Square Kitchen, for providing that stellar quote on eating cookies for the Tribune’s article today.

PSA for the Bees

Posted: March 22, 2011 at 9:52 am

220px-European_honey_bee_extracts_nectarI have taken the following right from Would love if you could all take the time to read, and then sign their petition to help get to the bottom of what is killing our honey bees. Bees are the key in sustainability. We lose them and…well, I would rather not go there right now.

Spring’s going to be a lot quieter this year. Something is killing off almost 40% of North American honeybees each year, and it’s threatening our entire food chain. Mounting scientific evidence suggests agricultural pesticides are one of the culprits.

The Environmental Protection Agency has the power to investigate and ban the pesticides thought to be responsible but, despite their own scientists’ advice and under pressure from pesticides companies, they’re dragging their feet.

Much of the plant-life we depend on for food exists thanks to honeybees. Now the bees are depending on us to return the favor. Click here to sign our petition calling on the EPA to solve the mystery that’s killing our buzz:

Bees don’t just make honey: from apples to lemons, much of the food we eat may disappear with the bees. Even milk and beef production could be threatened: guess what makes the plants that feed the cows? Our friend the honeybee.

What’s more, bees add $15 billion to the annual US economy, and their loss will have a devastating impact on food production and food prices. But the EPA is under pressure to do nothing about it from pesticide companies and the pesticide ‘scientists’ those companies bankroll.

The EPA has already acknowledged it should look into the causes of “Colony Collapse Disorder”. We need to counter the pesticide lobby’s pressure and hold the EPA to that commitment, by sending them a message they can’t ignore:

Everyone stands to lose with the threat to our food chain known as CCD. That’s why everyone needs to stand together to counter the pressure the EPA is under not to do it’s job: protect the things we rely on to survive.

Many Slow Food chapters are also hosting screenings of a new CCD documentary, Vanishing of the Bees. It’s a great way to get together in your community and learn more about what you can do to help solve this problem.

Time and again Slow Food members get together to celebrate the importance of food. It’s now the time to take action to protect that which binds us together, and stand up for the bees that make it all possible.

Thanks for spreading the buzz,
The Slow Food USA team

PS – Can you help spread the buzz? For every 100 signatures we collect on our petition to protect the bees we depend on for our foodwe’ll send a bee-shaped postcard to the Director of the EPA’s Pesticide Programs. Imagine those on the wall the next time the pesticide lobby pops in!

FamilyFarmed Expo 2011 – What Others Are Saying – UPDATED x 4 Monday, March 21st, 2011
Another Successful FamilyFarmed Expo – The Local Beet Recaps – UPDATED Sunday, March 20th, 2011
Glad to Have Met You, Please Stick Around Sunday, March 20th, 2011
This Local Calendar Tastes Localicious Friday, March 18th, 2011
Local Beet Find of the Week – Eden Farms Indoor Grown Produce Friday, March 18th, 2011
The Weekly Harvest – In Which We Reap Some Worthy Local Food Links Friday, March 18th, 2011
I Don’t Can, but They Do – Excited to Be on FamilyFarmed Panel – March 19 Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
The Local Beet is With FamilyFarmed Expo Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
RECYCLED – Finding Funding For Farms Monday, March 14th, 2011
Breakin’ Bread Friday, March 11th, 2011
Family Farmed Expo Groupon: $10 for 2 tickets Thursday, March 10th, 2011
Shop for St. Patrick’s Day with Our Local Calendar Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
‘climb every mountain…’ Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
Esquire … really? Best beer city? Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011