When the frenzy of the growing season is over for the year and I start spending more time indoors, I often review the locally grown ingredients I've been able to locate so far. Is there anything missing? Any ingredients that are too expensive to use as often as I'd like? Any quality improvements needed? Any easier way to access what I need?
After nearly four years of making the transition to eating as a locavore (a person who eats only locally grown food), the missing ingredient list has become pretty short. Coffee, coconut, cinnamon, and chocolate will probably always top the list, since they simply don't grow in this climate and I like them all.
I'm currently looking for a convenient, year round supply of organic, range-fed chicken eggs. I'm also looking for an affordable source of organic pork to purchase in bulk.
If I can't find some ingredient, often I've found an alternative that is just as satisfying. For instance, I discovered I enjoy the flavor of fresh mint with apples almost as much as cinnamon.
Other times, I've found ways I can make ingredients myself using other local ingredients. For example, my daughter Joan recently tested a way for us to get high quality organic sour cream. She simply made it in our kitchen.
As you may recall, if you read this column regularly, I once revealed a deep, dark secret: our family buys organic cream by the gallon - sometimes two at a time. Sounds over the top, I know, but stay with me while I explain. We use that cream primarily to make organic unsalted butter, and we use the leftover whey in our baking and cooking. Some of the cream may find its way into soups or sauces, and sometimes we also make homemade ice cream.
The Islander, the small grocery store here on Lummi Island, is able to special order cream in the gallon size for us from Silver Springs Creamery in Lynden. Even though butter takes a little time to prepare, the cream from those Jersey cows is so sweet, rich and delicious it would be difficult for our family to go back to eating butter from any other source. By ordering cream in quantity, we can make a lot of butter at once and freeze some until we need it.
With our most recent cream order, Joan had made butter, frozen some cream and whey for later use, and made some blueberry ice cream to die for. She still had some cream left over. She decided to investigate how to make sour cream, and as it turned out it's pretty easy!
There are several methods for making sour cream. Sour cream from the grocery store is usually cultured. That means bacteria have been used to sour it, in much the same way that yogurt and buttermilk are made.
To make cultured sour cream, you need something to use as a bacterial starter. Dry starter packets with bacteria specifically for this purpose can be purchased for your first batch, if you like. Some of these starters can be stored in the freezer until you are ready to use them. To make sour cream with dry starter, follow the directions on the packet.
Another alternative is to use cultured buttermilk, yogurt, or cultured sour cream itself as a starter. If you do that, be sure the buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream you use does not contain anything except live culture bacteria and cream or milk. Fillers, thickeners, stabilizers, and other things are sometimes added to commercially made products. Also, pasteurized cream seems to work fine, but mixed results have been reported with ultra pasteurized cream.
Note that the starter product you choose needs to contain live bacteria. It should say so on the package if it does.
Most recipes I've found for making cultured sour cream without using a dry starter packet recommend adding anywhere from 1 tablespoon to a 1/4 cup of the cultured product of choice to one cup of fresh heavy cream and stirring well. The mixture is then covered loosely and left to sit out at room temperature for about 24 hours before stopping the fermenting process by refrigerating. Personally, I haven't tried this method yet. I'd definitely want to check with a food expert first about the safety of any recipe I decided to use. As with pickling and canning, these techniques are not a good subject for uninformed experimentation.
Fortunately, there is a second and almost instantaneous method to give sweet cream a sour taste (see recipe below). Simply add something sour and acidic, such as fresh squeezed lemon juice (not local, of course, unless you grow your own lemon tree indoors), white vinegar (also not locally produced), or apple cider vinegar (made with local ingredients at BelleWood Acres near Lynden). Voila! Sour cream in seconds.
Nutritionally, the cultured method is probably better because of the probiotics developed in the process. Also, the fermentation changes the makeup of the cream and may help people with dairy sensitivities.
For flavor, though, results of the quick method seem about the same as for cultured, and the taste is definitely better than store bought varieties. That's probably because the quality of the local cream itself is superior to that used in most commercial sour cream.
Once again this year we've been able to add a simple technique to our kitchen repertoire to increase the quality and availability of the food our family eats. And when I say "simple," it doesn't get much simpler than this!
QUICK HOMEMADE SOUR CREAM
1 cup heavy cream (Silver Springs Creamery, Lynden)
1 teaspoon (or more) apple cider vinegar (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
Combine the ingredients, stirring well. The souring of the flavor will happen almost immediately. If you want a tangier flavor, add more vinegar to taste. For a thicker texture, whisk the mixture for a couple of minutes.
Makes approximately 1 cup.
You'll find Whatcom County foods at these stores and farms. Many outlets have seasonal hours. We recommend you call or check websites for current hours.
Acme Farms + Kitchen, 1313 N State Street, Bellingham
Appel Farms Cheese Shoppe, 6605 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4996
Artisan Wine Gallery, 2072 Granger Way, Lummi Island; 360-758-2959
BelleWood Acres, 6140 Guide Meridian, Lynden; 360-318-7720
Bellingham Country Gardens (u-pick vegetables), 2838 East Kelly Road, Bellingham
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad at Chestnut; 360-647-2060
Boxx Berry Farm Store and u-pick, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-380-2699
Cloud Mountain Farm Nursery, 6906 Goodwin Road, Everson; 360-966-5859
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. and 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham; 360-734-8158
Five Loaves Farm, 514 Liberty St., Lynden
Ferndale Public Market, Centennial Riverwalk, Ferndale; 360-410-7747
Grace Harbor Farms, 2347 Birch Bay Lynden Road, Custer; 360-366-4151
The Green Barn, 211 Birch Bay-Lynden Road, Lynden; 360-318-8869
Hopewell Farm, 3072 Massey Road, Everson; 360-927-8433
The Islander, 2106 S. Nugent Road, Lummi Island; 360-758-2190
Joe's Garden, 3110 Taylor Avenue, Bellingham, 360-671-7639
Lynden Farmers Market, Fourth and Front streets, Lynden
The Markets LLC, 1030 Lakeway, Bellingham; 8135 Birch Bay Square St., Blaine; 360-714-9797
Pleasant Valley Dairy, 6804 Kickerville Road, Ferndale; 360-366-5398
Small's Gardens, 6451 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4637
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham; 360-715-8020
Reach Whatcom Locavore columnist Nancy Ging at 360-758-2529 or email@example.com. To follow her day- to-day locavore activities, go to Whatcom Locavore on Facebook or @whatcomlocavore on Twitter. For locavore menus, recipes and more resources, go to whatcomlocavore.com.