Friday, July 25, 2008

looking for a relaxing way to burn off sustainable eats?

Ride your bike through Swede Hollow Park in St. Paul. Arguably the most scenic, historic, shady, pleasantly downhill stretch of paved bike path in the Twin Cities, the trail through this park (if you ride from north to south) is perfect. The path is part of the Bruce Vento Regional Trail, which weaves its way through most of St. Paul's East Side. In addition to a picturesque valley of trees and limestone, you will pass the old Hamm's Brewery and ride through a very unique railroad tunnel.

For those of you who don't know the history of the park - check this out.

(photo credit: kaitschott)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

rotten tomatoes

Today's St. Paul Pioneer Press contained two national wire stories about the current salmonella scare surrounding tomatoes and other fresh produce. The first, "Growers: Tomato probe flawed" (McClatchy), outlines the tension between farmers and the Food and Drug Administration. The second, "Fear of tainted food growing, poll indicates" (Associated Press), describes the results of a new Associated Press-Ipsos poll about changes in eating and buying habits during the past six months.

They're both worth reading, but I wanted to call attention to a few passages from the second article, which outlines the current level of fear permeating the marketplace:

While the poll found that three in four people remain confident about the overall safety of food, 46 percent said they were worried they might get sick from eating contaminated products. The same percentage said that because of safety warnings, they have avoided items they normally would have purchased.

Wow. If the poll is accurate, basically half of the country is worried about the safety of the food they eat. Sadly, if you look at in a different way, the least processed foods (fresh vegetables) are perhaps most at risk for contamination in our current industrial food production system, since you can't pasteurize, reconstitute, or preserve them as you can a box of dried macaroni and cheese or a mass-produced hot dog.

To put this in a broader context, the article also states that "In addition to the salmonella outbreak, this year has seen the largest ground beef recall in history, raising consumer concerns reflected in the poll." Do you remember the beef recall? It's easy to forget amidst the deluge of tainted products.

Furthermore, the article suggests that most people would support increased regulation of produce production and distribution, but that's only a small piece of the puzzle. The broader issue is the increasing distance, mechanization, and general over-complication of our mainstream agricultural system, all of which is driven by the race for lower food prices. For example, does someone in Duluth, Minnesota really need Peruvian asparagus in September?

(photo credit: [177] on Flickr Creative Commons)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

recipe: classic german bratwurst

As promised, I'm posting an abbreviated version of the brats we grilled up for my daughter's b-day. I've pulled the ingredient list and steps from the book I mentioned previously, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlmann & Brian Polcyn, which contains some additional tips and details.


  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder butt, diced (if you're in MN, buy from Prairie Pride or Farm on Wheels from the St. Paul Farmers' Market)
  • 1 pound lean veal shoulder, diced (could also use venison or beef)
  • 1 pound pork belly or back fat, diced
  • 3 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground white pepper (or black, if you don't have white)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg (very important - check out Penzey's)
  • 2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup ice-cold heavy cream
  • 10 feet hog casings, soaked in tepid water for at least 30 minutes and rinsed (I get my from Kramarzcuk's in Minneapolis).
  1. Combine all the ingredients except the eggs and cream and toss well to distribute seasonings. Chill in a bowl until ready to grind.
  2. Grind the mixture through the small die into a bowl set in ice (note: I use the Kitchen-Aid food grinder attachment, which is an excellent tool, but you could also use an old-school manual grinder).
  3. Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer (or a strong wooden spoon if mixing by hand), mix on low speed (or stir) for 1 minute. Add the eggs and cream, start the mixer on low, and then increase the speed to medium and mix until the cream and eggs are uniformly incorporated and the sausage appears sticky, about a minute longer. Saute a small portion of the sausage and taste; adjust the seasoning if necessary. (Refrigerate the sausage mixture while you do this.)
  4. Stuff the sausage into the hog casings. Twist into 6-inch links. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook. (note: I use the Kitchen-Aid sausage stuffer attachment, which doesn't work very well).
  5. Gently saute, roast, or grill the sausage to an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Yes, do not overcook your sausage. You bought the best all-natural meat, correct?
Try it. You will never look at Johnsonville the same way, if you even choose to look at them.