Dark Days: Good Eating, Week One

November 23, 2009(updated on October 3, 2018)

Monday night local dinner

From now until the middle of March, I’ll be diverging from posts about foods in jars (no matter how loosely related to jars they are) once a week to post my Dark Days Challenge meal. The goal of the challenge is to eat at least one local meal a week during the colder months of winter. Because it’s quite easy to eat locally when the markets are bursting with strawberries, melons and eggplants, but when the farmers markets are yielding nothing but squash, potatoes and beets, it feels a little daunting.

These days, I’d say that about 65% of the food we eat at home is locally sourced. Part of what makes that number so high is that for nearly two years now, Scott and I have been members of a meat buying club. We order online and can select from a wide assortment of pork, chicken, beef, sausage, cured meats and eggs. They’re delivered to a friend’s house eight blocks from our place and the monthly pick-up has turned into a social occasion, as a number of friends and acquaintances all converge to get their locally raised, grass-fed, pastured groceries.

In addition, the bulk of our fruits and vegetables come from our CSA membership (although it just ended for the season) or the farmers market (there’s a weekly year-long market two blocks from our apartment). Also, being so close to Lancaster County means we have easy access to good, local dairy products. That just leaves things like beans, rice, grains, coffee and olive oil (and all those snack foods that Scott loves so much).

But anyway, on to our first Dark Days local meal. It consisted of some slow cooked pork, pan crisped potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts. The pork was from the buying club (Meadow Run Farm), the potatoes were from our CSA (Dancing Hen Farm) and the sprouts were from the Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market. I forgot to take a picture until we were finishing up dinner, which is why the pans you see above are mostly empty (proof of a delicious meal).

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13 thoughts on "Dark Days: Good Eating, Week One"

  • Eating locally does become more difficult this time of year. My CSA offers winter shares which started on Friday with an extra pick up on Tuesday for Thanksgiving. I think it continues through March. Lots of potatoes and broccoli, apples,cabbage and squashes. The cabbage is actually for New Years, Dan is attempting home made sauerkraut this year.

    I love roasted brussel sprouts! Unfortunately my CSA (Penny Pack Farms) did not have a good crop this year, hoping to be able to get them at Weaver’s way Coop.

    Have a wonderful holiday!

  • It’s so great to see people eating more locally. I have always struggled with eating locally in the winter because our markets all close and we have snow for months. I grow a few fall/winter crops but not many (due to space restrictions). We do eat all local meat and eggs and drink local milk, but the veggies can be a challenge. Although squash really helps in these dark winter months.

    I just found a local year-round indoor market (blogged about it http://chiotsrun.com/2009/11/23/local-roots-market-in-wooster-oh/). I’m so excited for this resource. I can buy greens and other fresh local produce all winter long. I’m also able to get local raw milk cheese, meats and bread as well.

    I’m so glad the local food movement is growing, makes it much easier for those of us trying.

  • oh man, I’m spoiled living in a place with year-round farmers markets. (And when I say year round, we will have green things well into winter)

    I’ve been basically living off of the market for the past few months–the exception is apples, we don’t have an apple orchard nearby and I have not been able to give them up.

    But see, this is where freezing stuff during the summer/fall comes in. 😉

  • But Marisa,all the canning you did will help with the challenge. There is no question that eating locally in the darker months takes quite a bit of planning in summer and fall – whether you grow it or you preserve it (or both as we do).. I am looking forward to your posts.

  • Sustainable Eats, My standard sprout preparation is to cut them in half and toss them with some chopped onion, minced garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees until the edges brown and the centers are tender.

    Donna, I’ve had really good luck with homemade sauerkraut (it’s amazing how much better it tastes than the store bought stuff). I hope yours turns out well!

    Chiot’s Run, I know, I am so delighted each time I see the local foods movement catching on and expanding. And how wonderful that you found a good year-round market. It really makes all the difference.

    Melissa, It’s funny, around here apples are one of the easiest things to get locally. But of course, you have local citrus (I burn with envy over that).

    Sylvie, All the canning I’ve done really does help when it comes to eating locally all year round. I still have about 20 quarts of tomatoes, a whole mess of pickles and lots of fruit, so I can staunch my cravings with that stash. And of course, I’ll be including those goodies in my Dark Days posts. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Interesting to think about. I do *try* to buy local. Maybe attempting a local meal once a week in the winter is something to strive for.

    We are not big meat eaters – we eat vegetarian 4 or 5 days a week – so I feel it limits me a bit in trying to eat locally. We rely a lot of legumes, rice, pasta. I guess it doesn’t count that I buy most of my bread and pasta home made from local women – since clearly they are not growing the wheat themselves (though my bread baker grinds her own flour).

  • Have you tried roasting beets (grill or oven, whatever is hot). Once roasted they work great just sliced with vinaigrette, or cold pickled. I do a jar or two of cold pickled beets at the end of the season and they don’t last long once I remember I have them.

  • oh I love this challenge!! I live in Lancaster, so yes, I have it made. My market has farmers who grow things all winter long in cold-frames and greenhouses. Just about the only things I can’t get local are olive oil, spices, and citrus.
    I also second Nate’s suggestion for roasted beets. I also make a salad with cold roasted beets with feta and (cheating) a citrus dressing. My kids scarf it down.

  • Ive held for nearly a year now that Farmers Markets and even CSA’s are NOT a sustainable resource, primarily because they WILL eventually be regulated out of existence. You commented “when the farmers markets are yielding nothing but squash, potatoes and beets, it feels a little daunting.” but NOW they are CLOSED for the “dark days of winter”. What would you be doing for food right now without a commercial source? Besides networking and possibly supporting local farmers in personal contractual agreements, home production is the only way. For those in the city…do rabbits, pigeons, etc. Watch the PBS mini-series 1940’s House (http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=1402950) for some excellent ideas concerning downsizing life.

  • ALSO want to ncourage you to look into FERMENTS IN JARS. This year I pickled sweet beets, sauerkraut, green tomato salsa, pickled eggs, dilly beans and even a chipotle beef brisket. NONE were pressure canner processed and all kept nicely thru the season they were intended for. Highly Recommended Reading: Keeping Foods Fresh by the Farmers and Gardeners of Terre Vivante

  • Thanks for your comments, FarmSchooler! My area farmers markets aren’t entirely closed, there are still a few that are open and offering some winter or storage crops. Additionally, I get a wide number of local items through two different buying clubs. They make my local eating far more sustainable through winter than it would otherwise be.
    As far as preserving via fermenting. I have done some, but I live in an apartment on the 20th floor of a high rise in Center City Philadelphia, so my space is not ideal for large-scale fermentation. We’d have to live with the smell (hard enough when I ferment several jars of sauerkraut in my kitchen) and it’s just too warm in my apartment to store those goods without some sort of process for any length of time.
    Thanks for letting me know about 1940’s house, though. I’ve seen several other of the programs about those era-specific houses and always find them fascinating.