Create a homegrown Thanksgiving dinner with local ingredients

The Fresno BeeNovember 18, 2013 

The Valley features many food items that are locally grown and available for Thanksgiving Feasts.

ILLUSTRATION BY STEVEN PARRA, THE FRESNO BEE

If you are a big believer in buying local, farmers and ranchers in the central San Joaquin Valley have nearly all the ingredients you may need for your Thanksgiving feast.

It may take a little more legwork to collect your supplies, but local chefs and farmers say you won't be disappointed. Buying locally grown produce or meats often means it is fresher.

"And you can really can taste the difference," says Sharon Alexander, former owner of the Fresno restaurant Upstairs Downtown. "There is more flavor and it is better quality."

Alexander says she is amazed at the diversity of what is grown in the Valley.

"I honestly don't think people realize how fortunate we are to have nearly everything at our fingertips," she says. "Everything, except for cranberries, but you can always substitute something for that."

For those who want to make it a homegrown Thanksgiving, here are a few suggestions:

For meat, the turkey of choice for many local food fans is from Pitman Family Farms, producers of the Mary's brand of turkeys. The Sanger-based company raises three types of turkeys: free range, organic free range and heritage turkey.

Mary's turkeys can be found at: Kristina's Natural Ranch Market, 761 E. Barstow Ave.; Whole Foods Market, 650 W. Shaw, and eight Save Mart stores in Fresno.

Other local meat options include beef roasts and hams from Page River Bottom Farm in Reedley. Blue Oak Beef, near O'Neals also sells beef roasts, goat and lamb.

Both livestock producers sell at the Vineyard Farmers Market on the northwest corner of Blackstone and Shaw avenues on Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m and from Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon.

"Everyone is trying to eat healthier and buy local and we support that," says farmer C. Jay Page.

If you are looking for vegetable side dishes, there is no shortage of possibilities at your favorite year-round farmers markets. Green beans, carrots, spinach, kale, lettuce, arugula, potatoes, winter squash and sweet potatoes are in season.

Alexander likes to use butternut squash, instead of pumpkin, for her pies.

"It is really sweet and creamy and makes a great pie." she says.

Also plentiful are fruits such as apples, pomegranates, grapes and Fuyu persimmons.

"Fuyus and pomegranate arils are wonderful to add in salads," Alexander says. "They have a nice crunch."

For those willing to experiment a little, Alexander suggests buying some fresh pomegranate juice to make a rich and pungent pomegranate reduction sauce for your turkey.

Finding fresh herbs to spice up your side dishes or meat also should be easy. Nolan Schmidt of the Tower Urban Family Farm plans to open up his farm stand Saturday before Thanksgiving.

The stand, at 111 E. Dennett Ave., between Harrison and Palm avenues, will be open from 8 a.m. to noon and sells fresh herbs, including sage, basil, parsley and bay leaf. Schmidt also will have pumpkins, pomegranates and salad greens.

KMK Farms at the Vineyard also sells a variety of herbs.

Schmidt says he has prepared a seven-course and a five-course meal using locally sourced ingredients — a majority that came from his own urban farm.

"If you put in just a little bit of effort you will be amazed at how much you can find that is locally grown," Schmidt says.

"And when you buy from the farm, you know it's fresh and you know it hasn't been sitting on a shelf for two weeks."

RECIPE

 

Butternut squash pie

Makes a 10-inch pie

For the filling:

Peel squash and roast covered at 350 degrees until fork tender. Put in food processor along with the following ingredients:

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup organic sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon clove

1 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon nutmeg

4 large eggs

Blend, to make 3 cups purée.

Add:

12 ounces (1 can) evaporated milk or heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the crust:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsalted butter that has been previously been cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen

7 tablespoons ice water (may need a couple more; when you pinch dough it should hold together).

Put flour, sugar, and salt in bowl of food processor. Pulse 2 or 3 times to combine. Add frozen cubes of butter and pulse until butter is the size of a pea. Do not over pulse.

Add 7 tablespoons chilled water to processor one tablespoon at a time, pulsing as you pour. The dough should hold together when compressed, but remain relatively dry to the touch. Don't allow the dough to form a ball in the food processor. Remove dough from processor and form into two flattened circles (this recipe is enough for two pie crusts.) Refrigerate the dough in plastic wrap while you work on filling.

After making filling, roll out one of the dough circles on floured surface, put in pie pan and prick dough with a fork. Line with parchment paper and beans/rice to help keep the shape of pie's crust.

Bake in 425 degree oven for 15 minutes in lower half of oven. Remove pie crust and turn oven to 325 degrees. Remove bean/rice and parchment paper and fill crust to top with your filling. Bake 45 to 60 minutes or until a knife in center comes out clean.

Serve with whipped cream and a grating of nutmeg.

— Sharon Alexander

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, brodriguez@fresnobee.com or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter.

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