For many years I have been exploring and cooking from the farms and food producers in and around North Bay and the Almaguin Highlands region of northern Ontario. I have been inspired by spring chives and asparagus, summer's sweet strawberries, and fall's crisp apples and winter squash. I have met a lot of colourful personalities as I tasted and searched out local foods.
Did you know that AgOn says there are only 282 farms left in northeastern Ontario? I think we need to work harder to support local agriculture and stop this trend. The garlic many of you bought in the supermarket last winter was from China and it wasn't very good - papery and lacking the intense, sticky oil of Ontario garlic. I hope it leads you to question how foreign produce is raised and if there are other more pleasing options? I bought organic Ontario garlic last fall (about 75 heads) and hung them in my basement in bags the air could flow through (aerated? like onion bags). They did great and tasted wonderful and I still have some left.
In 2009 I will continue to teach people how to buy and prepare local and organic produce and meats. My menus feature local foods and change throughout the season. There is always dessert but they are healthy and contain real food. I provide a lot of ethnic cooking workshops as they add variety and interest to meals and allow people to use more vegetables, grains and legumes with less meat and fat. Try Indian, Italian, Mexican and even Peruvian cooking.
Every year I do more wild crafting or collecting edible fruits, vegetables and herbs from the wild. You have to love free food! Last year one of my students from Canadore College's food and nutrition management program, Julie Dudgeon, pressed a lot of choke cherry and high bush cranberry juices for the freezer. I used it in punches and in dessert sauces over the winter. Very flexible and good for us as we don't eat a lot of jam or jelly.
I will also be interviewing some of our food heroes and hope to share some of their collecting, growing, gardening and cooking tips! And, most of all, I am interested in your comments. Do you have a good place to buy a local food product you want to tell people about? A certain recipe you need or want to share?
Please tell your friends about Chapman's Landing Cooking Studio and my blog. We continue to expand our classes and have a steady stream of traffic coming our way. See you in 2009!