For five years, a group of bloggers and blog readers took on a challenge to cook locally during the winter, at least once a week, and blog about it. We called it the Dark Days Challenge, for the dark days of winter here in the Northern Hemisphere. Ten of us, called the south region made it all the way through the challenge, and we bonded in our support for one another.
We continued our blogging together, setting up a Southern SOLE food challenge, using our gardens, farm stands, CSAs, markets and local producers for some staples, as a basis for cooking with our bountiful summer goods.
We decided we wanted to continue this winter and do our own Dark Days again. We will be keeping our google reader going with the participants, and our leader, Emily, from Sincerely Emily, is putting it all together right now. We will blog on Sundays or Mondays about what we made, from our freezers, our canned fruits and veggies, our dried herbs, a few local winter markets, some farm stands that are open year round, and let you know you can still find good things to cook in your own backyard, regionally. From places like Breezy Willow or TLV or Clark’s Farm, all open on Saturdays this winter.
What is SOLE food? Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical. Pick two or three or all four for most of your ingredients. Eggs from free range chickens. Locally produced meats from animals that aren’t given hormones, antibiotics or fed grain to fatten. Seafood from the local waters. Winter veggies from farmers who don’t spray pesticides or use GMO seeds. Fruit from growers who practice IPM, and minimize what they put on their trees. Those types of things. We state up front that certain items like oils, spices and in our cases, citrus, beans and grains, won’t be local if we don’t have sources ever for those items. Chocolate, for example, or cinnamon. Salt and pepper. Olive oil. When I cook my dark days meal, I do use things like olive oil that have traveled a lesser distance, like my oils from California. Much closer than Spain, Greece or Italy.
It is a fun challenge to make a meal by minimizing non-local items. We will be running our challenge from December 1st until May 1st. I will be updating my food challenge page to follow it.
To kick off my week, I will be making venison chili this week with the venison I will be getting Tuesday. Newly processed. A freezer load of 50-60 pounds, to keep us in stews, chilis, soups and a few nice meals with the loin and the steaks. Out here in our neck of the woods, the bow season is fairly long and we are supporting the deer management practices, to lower the over population in our forests. In some of our watershed areas, they have done night counts that register 6-8 times the number of deer than the vegetation will support. If we don’t use managed hunts, we end up with large numbers of starving and diseased deer.
After providing deer meat to family and friends, many of our local hunters support FHFH (Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry) with donations of deer to be used as a nutritious inexpensive source of protein.
I will be using my frozen chunky tomato sauce and CSA veggies to make my meal. I will write a post about my dinner, and also link up with the others who are supporting the eat local challenge with me. A year ago, when I started this blog, my CSA and my locavore tendencies were my main source of postings. I do believe it is not that difficult to make one meal a week using something produced right down the road. Even if it is only a couple of eggs for breakfast one Sunday. Served with a walnut spelt bread from Atwaters in Catonsville. Spelt is a local grain, grown in PA.
Anyone interested in taking the challenge, add your name in comments here, and add your link, or your description each week as we go through the winter supporting our local farmers and businesses. Definitely a way to support the best that Howard County and the rest of the region offer us. Truly the Land of Pleasant Living.