By Erica Gagne Glaze
Many folks think that sourcing local is limited to the summer season. Actually, in Colorado, you can get a plethora of fresh ingredients all year, whether you have a year-round community supported agriculture (CSA) share or stop by the winter farmers’ markets. Eating local during the holidays is a great way to make your festive gatherings even more special. Not only do you support your local farmer during their leaner times, you make those delicious traditional dishes even tastier.
Sourcing Local in The Winter
Not sure where to start? The main centerpiece of your menu is an easy place to begin sourcing local ingredients. In Northern Colorado, access to locally raised meats is virtually unlimited in its variety. Aside from the usual pork, beef and chicken, you can find anything from rabbit to duck and lamb to goat. Once we skipped the store bought bird for Thanksgiving and started getting our turkeys local, we haven’t looked back. Check out our brine recipe below to bring out the best flavor.
The fall/winter season brings an especially wonderful range of options for dressings and sides to complement your main dish. There are wonderful varieties of root vegetables, mushrooms and greens available at this time of year. And with a little bit of planning and foresight, you can even add a taste of summer to your table from your cache in the freezer or those jars you put up in the pantry. I’m thinking corn, green beans and glazed carrots. Mmmm.
And for dessert, the choices are just as ample. Luckily many of the fall fruits, like apples, keep well. If you have a particular summer favorite, such as Palisade peaches, you can make up a batch of pie filling, can it, and have it ready for your special occasion. The same goes for those early summer cherries. And don’t forget pumpkins and squash! Nothing like a spiced pie on a cold winter evening.
Now, for the recipe! The best tip I received from a local farmer was the use of brining. Brining is the best way to bring out the flavor of a locally raised chicken or turkey. I even brine much of my pork before cooking. When sourcing local meat that’s pasture raised, you’ll find it to be leaner because the animals are actually able to use their muscles. (Don’t assume this. It’s always good to check with your producer first.) Brining enhances the taste and texture ensuring your meat stays tender and doesn’t dry out.
First, make room in your refrigerator! You’ll need a large sanitized pot or pail to start and a bag to line it. I usually use my canning pot, especially for the larger birds, and a plastic bag with no holes.After rinsing the bird, I place it in the bag and fill with water and the mix below to nearly cover the bird. If you can’t cover the bird that’s okay. Just make sure to rotate the bird regularly so it all has a chance to soak in the brine.
Add to the water:
1 1/2 cups Sea salt or kosher salt
2 quarts Apple cider
1/4 cup whole allspice
8 whole bay leaves
2 tablespoons peppercorns
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
Let sit in the mix, ensuring that you turn the bird at least halfway through, for 16 to 24 hours.
To prepare for cooking rinse off the bird and pat dry. (This is especially important if you deep fry your turkey. Water and hot oil do not mix well!) Then cover with your favorite glaze, fill with your favorite stuffing, cook and enjoy.