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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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In Holiday Guide

Fresh produce is still readily available for your locally inspired holiday spread.

In Holiday Guide

Swing by the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers Market and pick up one of Bolzano's many varieties of artisan meats.

In Holiday Guide

Purple Door Ice Cream also serves up an array of frozen seasonal treats.

Feasting with a conscience: Eating locally for the holidays


Do you care about reducing your carbon footprint?
How about supporting local producers?
Creating a holiday dinner that's both delicious and sustainable?

If you said "yes" to any one of these questions, it might be worth your time to consider sourcing all or most of the products for your holiday meals locally. And despite what you might think, it's not an impossible task.

I've spent the past few weeks talking to local experts and doing the necessary research, so I know what's really out there and I'm prepared to give you all the information you need to pull together an impressive festive feast that's completely locally sourced. All you'll need to do is set aside the time for a trip to the Milwaukee County Winter Farmer's Market at the Wisconsin State Fair Park, and a run to Outpost Natural Foods.

Now, before we discuss your options, let's define our terms. By "local" I mean Wisconsin. There's always much debate about what "local" means, but for the purpose of this article, we're sticking to items grown or produced in our home state. There will be nothing imported from California, no Mexican avocados and no fruit from Australia. Not even canned tomatoes from Indiana.

"Local" also means seasonal. Because it's near impossible to find fresh local strawberries in December, I won't advise you to start off your meal with a strawberry spinach salad (though, as you'll read below, locally grown frozen strawberries are an option for desserts and sauces). But, you'll still have a wide range of choices for flavorful seasonal food that's still at its peak of freshness.

This guide will walk you through some of the options available.

STARTERS

As you're planning your holiday appetizer plates, you'd be remiss not to include some of the delicious local artisan salami produced by Milwaukee's own Bolzano Artisan Meats. Bolzano's full range of products, including the holiday favorite Figgy Puddin', will be available at the Milwaukee County Winter Farmer's Market on Saturdays, as well as at Outpost Natural Foods and a variety of local grocers.

If you visit the market, you'll also be able to pick up a lovely selection of traditional Wisconsin cheeses from the Decatur Dairy in Brodhead. And don't forget to pick up a few containers of quark cheese from Milwaukee's Clock Shadow Creamery. Quark is a deliciously versatile cheese that can be used to make spreads, dips and cheesecakes.

Palmyra's Rushing Waters Fisheries, a regular at the market, will offer smoked rainbow trout raised on their aquaculture farm in the Southern Kettle Moraine – a favorite for making pate, mousse and other holiday appetizers, as well as delicious winter salads.

VEGETABLES AND SIDES

Seasonal side dishes are easy to source locally when you consider the full range of your options.

Outpost Natural Foods also offers sprouts, salad greens and spinach from Growing Power and Sweet Water Organics, as well as locally grown white, cremini and portabella mushrooms, garlic and black garlic from Blue Fortune Farm, local winter squash, leeks, fennel, cabbage and plenty of root vegetables, including beets, daikon, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, black radishes, celeriac, burdock and sunchokes.

Vendors at the Milwaukee County Winter Farmer's Market will also have a variety of winter vegetables for sale on both Dec. 8 and 15.

Turtle Creek Gardens in Delavan offers high quality, nutritionally dense seasonal vegetables and fruits grown on certified organic land using sustainable farming practices that care for the soil, ground water and adjacent natural areas. Its offerings at the market include carrots, green kale, romanesco, Yukon Gold potatoes, Rose Finn apple fingerlings, rutabaga, turnips, scarlet turnips, celery root, red beets and Beauty Heart radishes. They will also have maple syrup on hand.

Likewise, JenEhr Family Farm out of Sun Prairie has taken the time to make appropriate investments, from high-quality packshed and hoophouses to extensive irrigation systems and professional refrigerated cooling and storage. These enhancements have allowed the farm to consistently meet the needs of CSA members, farmer's market customers and grocery store and restaurant customers throughout the season. JenEhr's produce offerings include black and Beauty Heart radishes, globe radishes, celeriac, rutabaga, purple top and yellow turnips, potatoes, beets, leeks, carrots, sweet potatoes and kohlrabi, as well as delicata and butternut winter squash.

Thanks to the farm's hoophouses, it can also offer a variety of fresh greens including spinach, Napa cabbage and rotating varieties of other greens, including baby arugula, lettuce salad mix, Swiss chard and lacinato and red kales. Other items include roasted red peppers and tomato puree.

Burlington's River Valley Ranch & Kitchens will have plenty of mushrooms on hand, including button, crimini, portabella, shiitake and oyster. It also sells handmade artisan sauces, dips, salsas and pickled vegetables.

Additional vegetables are also available from Flyte Family Farm of Coloma and Springdale Farm in Plymouth.

MEATS

When it comes to carnivorous main courses, you have plenty of local choices.

Dominion Valley Farm in Allenton will offer a wide variety of products. One of my favorites include its breakfast sausage, which comes in both savory and maple varieties. It's perfect for holiday stuffing, breakfast or brunch. It will also carry Bronze Ranger Chickens, delicious pasture-raised birds with a robust chicken flavor that's not wild or gamey. These birds differ from typical Cornish cross chickens for a number of reasons, including a more proportional white-to-dark-meat ratio.

JenEhr Family Farm will also offer its pasture-raised chickens and American Bronze Heritage turkeys.

If you're looking for something a bit different to serve over the holidays, you'll be pleased with a number of offerings that can be found at the market. The Golden Bear Monarchs Elk Farm in Beloit will offer 20 percent off all elk tenderloin roasts and steaks during the month of December, including ribeye and New York strip. Rolled elk rump roasts and sirloin tip roasts will also be available.

A variety of cuts of lamb will be available from Glen Rock Farms in Neshkoro on Dec. 15, as well as pasture-raised goat meat from BSW Farm in Union Grove. Jeff-Leen Farm in Random Lake will offer grass-fed Piedmontese beef, pastured chickens and free-range eggs. Belgium's Lakeview Buffalo Farm will offer a variety of cuts of buffalo for purchase.

DESSERT

Fruit options might be limited, but you can find apples for crisps, kringles and classic pies from Brightonwoods Orchard in Burlington. Brightonwoods uses an environmentally friendly Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to grow over 200 varieties of apples and also produces award-winning cider.

JenEhr Family Farm will have frozen locally grown strawberries available that are perfect for topping desserts, adding to cakes and breads, and pureeing for delicious sauces.

Purple Door Ice Cream, produced at the Clock Shadow Creamery in Walker's Point, will also be in attendance at the market selling premium small-batch ice creams made with milk from Wisconsin dairy farms. On Dec. 15, Purple Door will feature peppermint ice cream, as well as pumpkin spice, vanilla and cinnamon.

This year, make it a point to delight your guests and reduce your impact on the planet by planning out festive, yet sustainable, holiday dinners using locally sourced ingredients. You'll be surprised how simple it is, and how good it makes you feel.

Talkbacks

olderwiser | Dec. 6, 2012 at 4:18 p.m. (report)

Layton Fruit Market at 1838 E. Layton (St. Francis) is another great local market. It is convenient to anyone on the south side and open seven days a week. They assemble beautiful gift baskets of fruit, cheese, wine, etc., custom made to your specifications. Produce is wonderful and reasonably priced, as well as locally made dips, salads, weekend ham and rolls, and fresh bread. No, I don't work there or know anyone who does...but I am a frequent shopper.

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