Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Grateful Harvest

Five years ago my family was featured in a Portland Press Herald article. We were planning a "local" Thanksgiving dinner.

I remember that meal. I remember that we anguished over the menu. We'd think of some traditional thing that people serve at Thanksgiving, and often, I'd have to nix it, because the ingredients weren't local. This dinner was to be all local ... but not just "local" - all Maine grown. Once we settled on a menu, we spent countless hours looking for local sources for the food. A lot of time and effort and money went into that meal. It was totally worth it.

Little did we know where that path would lead us.

Fast forward five years, and we're again enjoying an all local Thanksgiving dinner - this time without the press :).

The difference is that we didn't, really, spend a lot of time trying to figure out what we were going to serve. We knew we'd be eating Turkey, because Deus Ex Machina shot a turkey with his bow. We also knew that we would be smoking it on the grill. This morning the turkey was brined for a couple hours in salt water. Then it was seasoned and put on the grill. It was everything we hoped it would be ... and better than any turkey we've ever had. If that's what wild turkey tastes like, I'll take it!

Other than the turkey, however, I only had a vague idea of what I was going to cook. Nothing was preppped beforehand, and in fact, it wasn't until after I got up this morning and started flipping through my recipe binder that a plan was formed.

Deus Ex Machina said that he woke up dreaming of pecan pie, but not pecan. His dream was about acorns, and so he found a recipe for pecan pie, harvested about three pounds of acorns, cracked them and boiled them, and made the pie. I made the crust ... more on that later.

We also had some usual stuff, like mashed potatoes, cranberry jelly, and roasted pumpkin. What's kind of neat about the pumpkin is that it was grown in my back yard, and half went into the pumpkin pie that was made using eggs from our chickens, milk from the local dairy farm, and some spice and sugar from away. The crust, though ... the crust was made using King Arthur flour, which is locally milled (not in Maine, but in Vermont, which is less than 100 miles from me) and lard. The lard was rendered in my kitchen from fat that I received with my cow share.

I should probably share that I'm not a baker. I don't make cookies or pies or cakes ... unless I have to, and pie crust is one of those things I'd almost rather just do without if it means I have to make it. I like pie. I like pie a lot. I'm just not good at making it. So, to say that I made a pie AND a pie crust is quite a big deal ... at least it is to me.

I also made, what we have started to call stuffing bread. It's made with jerusalem artichokes, and true to form, I didn't have all of the ingredients, and neither did I much care. I had the most important ones. I thought I'd have to skip the carrots, but when I looked in the garden bed that I planted in the late fall, I found some teeny-tiny carrots - enough for the bread.

So, while Deus Ex Machina processed acorns for his pie, I dug up sunchokes and carrots and harvested herbs from my garden for my bread. I used locally grown and milled wheat flour, and subsituted maple syrup for the sugar the recipe called for. It was all local, mostly grown on our quarter acre, and amazing.

We haven't eaten the corn pudding we made. It's a little like a sweet polenta, and after it was cooked, I decided I wanted to bake it to see if it would end up more like a cake than a pudding. It will be a snack later in the evening. The corn? Yep, grown here at Chez Brown. Deus Ex Machina and Precious ground it this morning.

It was an amazing harvest dinner and a wonderful reminder of the incredible bounty that surrounds us. No GMOs. No artficial flavors or colors. Real food. Grown where it was eaten. It just doesn't get better ... except when someone else offers to do the dishes ... :).

Happy Thanksgiving! Here's hoping that you have more to be thankful for than not


  1. Happy Thanksgiving to the Browns! I was hoping you'd post about a locally produced meal. It sounds like it was perfect.
    I'm fascinated about grinding the corn....that looks like my mother's old meat grinder that she would clamp on the old wooden kitchen chair. Was all that ground corn from that meat grinder?

    And please.....more details on the acorn pie!

  2. Hi, Farmgal - yes, the grinder is a "meat grinder" - or can be used as such. We have two grinders, and we use one for just grains and butters. We also use this one for grinding acorns and jerusalem artichokes into flour. It works really great!