Bringing family and friends back to the table to slow down, relax and relish a meal together
We moved away from vegetable gardening and locally-sourced food when our country began creating convenience foods that were frozen, boxed and packaged. As women began to work outside the home, time for daily cooking became less and less. The marketing of these new, manufactured foods created a sense that to nourish your family in a modern manner, you had to buy TV dinners and boxed dishes. Soon, family time around the dinner table was replaced by frozen meals in front of the television.
Microwaves for home kitchens became popular in the late ‘70s. Chicken nuggets and Lean Cuisine arrived in the ‘80s. In the 1990s, “fat-free” became the trend for improved health and wellness, but this did more harm than good: we know today that healthy fats are important to our diet, and the incidence of heart disease and obesity did not decline. Meanwhile, questions of where our food was coming from and who was growing it started to gain interest. That’s when old became new again.
Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California and a pioneer of the farm-to-table movement, celebrated locally grown foods and farmers by highlighting the farms’ names on her restaurant’s menu. This movement continues to grow—not only in restaurants, but at home as well.
Taste matters most, and eating food that is in season tastes the best. Fresh peaches should be eaten during peach season, and the same goes for tomatoes. Fall in central Illinois brings us winter squash, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, pears, garlic, greens, leeks, beets and apples.
I recently visited Brian and Anita Poeppel’s Broad Branch Farm, northwest of Chillicothe. Besides growing vegetables, they raise pastured livestock without synthetic amendments, including heritage breed hogs, and the meat is 100% organic.
I purchased pork from the Poeppels and slow-roasted the meat, serving it with tangy, quick pickled vegetables, crusty bread and plenty of jus from the roasting pan. The meat was rich, juicy and downright delicious. Before dinner, we toasted the evening with a Stone Fence cocktail—made with local bourbon from J.K. Williams Distilling, and mixed with hard apple cider from not too far away.
The last Saturday in September marks the end of the Peoria RiverFront Market, but the Peoria Farmers Market at Metro Centre continues through the end of October. The end of the market is always bittersweet for me. I’ll miss the community, the farmers and the bounty that each month brings, but knowing that hoop houses and events celebrating local farms and food continue in the off-season gives me opportunities to support great food and wonderful community 10 to 12 months a year. a&s
Golda Ewalt is catering manager at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and director of the OSF Dietetic Internship Program.
"Stone Fence Cocktail"
2 ounces J.K. Williams bourbon
3/4 cup hard cider
5 dashes Fee Brothers rhubarb bitters (available at Friar Tuck)
Fresh mint for garnish
1. Add ice cubes to a rocks glass.
2. Pour the bourbon and hard cider over the ice. Add 5 dashes of the bitters.
3. Stir, garnish with fresh mint and enjoy.
Makes 1 cocktail
"Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Quick Pickled Vegetables"
1 bone-in pork shoulder
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup light brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
Dried or fresh herbs, minced, to taste
1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
2 bunches radishes, julienned or sliced thinly
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
As needed: quality bread or buns
Optional garnishes: lettuce, cilantro, mustard, sliced jalapeños
1. Using a sharp knife, cut slits one inch apart in a crosshatch pattern in fat cap of roast, being careful not to cut into meat. Combine salt, brown sugar, garlic and herbs in a bowl and rub mixture over entire pork shoulder and into slits. Wrap roast tightly in double layer of plastic wrap, place on rimmed baking sheet, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
2. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Unwrap roast and brush off any excess salt mixture from surface. Season roast with pepper. Transfer roast to V-rack coated with nonstick cooking spray set in large roasting pan, and add one quart water to pan.
3. Cook roast uncovered, basting twice during cooking, until meat is extremely tender and instant-read thermometer inserted into the roast near (but not touching) the bone registers 190 degrees, 5 to 6 hours. Transfer roast to carving board and let rest, loosely tented with foil, 1 hour. Reserve the jus.
4. Combine vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Add radishes, carrots and onion mix to combine and let stand at least 10 minutes.
5. Toast the bread or buns and make sandwiches! Serve with the jus from the roasting pan.
Makes 12 or more sandwiches, plus extra pork for snacking. Recipe adapted from Chef Keith Shank, Assistant Professor of Culinary Arts at Illinois Central College.