30-Day Eat Local Challenge: June 20

Drunken Pancakes
I’ve got to admit, it’s getting better. It’s getting better all the time.

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I began this morning with a bike ride, and it was a strangely profound experience. I’ve been quite bummed about my evening rides because I tire quickly—far more quickly than I’m used to, back when I was pushing hilly 10-mile courses with relative ease just a summer ago. But all of my rides down here have been past 5:00 PM. My body doesn’t want to cooperate.

Mind you, this ride wasn’t exactly by choice. About a day or two ago, we ran out of butter. This isn’t actually the biggest of problems; we can use the pecan oil for most everything, but I really wanted to make drunken pancakes this morning. We had the rum-soaked blueberries, we had everything we needed, so why not? It’s not like we had any other plans for them.

Going back probably two weeks now, we decided to buy a bottle of Old New Orleans Crystal Rum and infuse half of it with blueberries. All in all, we ended up sinking a little more than a whole pint of blueberries into a jar with the rum, and starting about a week ago, we began using said rum to make cocktails. The only problem is, with the ultra-strict level of the challenge, there’s simply not a whole lot one can make cocktails with when your base spirit is blueberry-infused rum. We tried doing a mojito kinda thing with mint and cucumber, but nothing really seemed to hit the way we’d’ve liked. So that was a bust. I’d still like to try infusing the other half with something, but I’m not sure what just yet.

Here’s an important tip about rice flour: you must let it sit as a batter for at least two hours if not overnight before you try to make anything with it.

I learned this the hard way. The first time I tried making regular blueberry pancakes, they actually turned out all right; I let the batter soak overnight, and while they were a little flat from not having baking soda, they were still quite pancake-like. But today, I just made the batter, threw some blueberries in, and went to town. The problem I encountered was that when I flipped the pancake, there was this canyon-like arrangement, as all of the batter had flattened out, and failed to expand whatsoever. So, learn from my mistakes! Love rice flour, use rice flour, but for the love of all that is cooking—let your batter soak for at least two hours before you do anything with it!

(And, seriously, that’s not knowledge you’re born with, so hey! Go team Challenge!)

While they weren’t the prettiest pancakes, the taste…

Oh.

My.

God.

Try soaking blueberries for a week or more in alcohol and see what they taste like. I don’t care how much you cook them, they’re going to taste like the alcohol you soaked them in. Furthermore, I picked up Kleinpeter’s heavy whipping cream at the same time I got the butter, and we found out how to turn heavy whipping cream into whipped cream. So we used that for a topping on our pancakes and drizzled them with cane syrup. The taste was vaguely reminiscent of Irish creme, but with blueberries. The first bite I took, I shot straight up in the air. It was uncanny. It was beautiful. It was incredible.

I cannot recommend this enough: alcohol-fruit infusions might be a massive time-sink, but they are 100% absolutely worth the wait you sink into them.

With breakfast out of the way, we discovered that we had dallied too long and the Crescent City Farmer’s Market closed, so we decided to pack up and head out to a farmer’s market out in the next town over. There, we picked up a thing called a “sugar baby” which, I learned today, is a kind of watermelon native to the US South. Haven’t cut into it yet, but I’m intrigued. They’re reportedly sweeter than normal watermelons. Maybe they’ll find their way into a bottle with the rest of our crystal rum? Who knows?!

We then swung by Hollygrove and discovered that they had Oyster and Chanterelle mushrooms. We picked up oyster mushrooms and immediately roasted them with red new potatoes and tossed them with local lettuce (also from Holly Grove) and a Kleinpeter-based rice flour Bechamel sauce with local garlic. That was lunch. Here’s the recipe I got the idea from, but mind you, we barely stuck to it.

We ended up going on one of the Eat Local Challenge activities: a foraging walk through one of the local parks where we picked up some stuff called “poor man’s pepper” (peppergrass, I believe), and elderflowers—the last of the season, as many were already turning into pre-ripe elderberries. I can’t say I’ll go out foraging much soon, if at all in the near future, but hey, I’m a sponge for knowledge, so for all I know, it’ll come back to help out someday. That’s what we learn for, right?

Dinner was pretty much an all-star wrap up of everything we know.

Spanish rice + shitake, garlic + thyme mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob. None of this is new; we’re just refining what we know. A glass of kombucha in the evening, and call it a day from there.

Tomorrow, we have plans to return to Hollygrove for those mushrooms. The idea is to make a Cream of 3 Mushroom Soup, using Oyster, Chanterelle, and Shitake Mushrooms. Since I already know how to make a roux, and now a Bechamel sauce, expanding that further into a cream soup base seems like it’d be relatively simple. If we’re lucky, we’ll find some green onions somewhere, but seeing as we found those as one of the Crescent City Farmer’s Markets, I’m not optimistic (they aren’t out on Sundays).

Furthermore, we picked up some red beans and crowder peas. I know the red beans will get set to soak tomorrow; not sure about the peas. But, it’s time to make another stock with the veggie scraps we’ve accumulated as well. The stock will go towards making the best Spanish Rice ever, or it’ll go into a red bean dish. I haven’t quite decided yet. There’s an option to soak the red beans in veggie broth, but as we’re currently out, that’s not so much of an option, and Monday’s only two days away!

Overall, I’ll say that it’s getting easier. We’re turning down more of these even one and two ingredient “foods” because we just suspect more and more that they don’t meet the challenge requirements. Even things like Country Girls Creamery cheese, we have to shrug our shoulders at. They’re an operation only 40 miles away, but it’s very possible that even a single ingredient they use could be imported. So we just don’t trust anyone anymore. It makes things easier, at least shopping-wise. It can be a little heart-breaking at times, but the difficulty will only last for a couple more weeks.

Let the countdown begin!

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