Summer Grilling in Peoria, (Mostly) Locavore Style
We all know summer grilling is one of the main reasons we have summer, right? But summer grilling is even more satisfying when you know exactly where your food came from. In a perfect year I would be grilling at least some of my own vegetables, but if you’ve been reading this blog you know that putting a garden in in the spring wasn’t exactly feasible. (If you haven’t been reading, check the archives, we were in Chile and it was fall down there.) But due to recent developments in the Peoria area, knowing where the food on our grill came from is easier than ever, even if you didn’t grow it yourself.
Farmer’s Markets Here, Farmer’s Markets There, It Seems There are Farmer’s Markets Everywhere
To me one of the great local advancements in recent years has been the rise of the local farmer’s markets. When we arrived in Peoria 9 years ago there was the Riverfront Market and the Metro Centre market. Now there is a veritable plethora (you know there’s no other kind of plethora than a veritable one, right?) of farmer’s markets throughout the region. We still prefer the Riverfront because it’s a growers market, which means the people there have grown their own food. At Metro Centre and other non-grower’s markets your food could be coming from the same places as what you buy in the supermarket. Often it’s a combination of locally grown and imported to meet customer demand, but we still prefer to stick with the growers.
In addition to knowing exactly who grew our food, buying from the growers makes it easier to establish relationships with your farmers. We pretty much buy from two main farms at the Riverfront, Garden Spot (veggies and fruits) and Greengold Acres (eggs & meat); they know us, we know them and we don’t just buy and go, we talk about how the season’s going, and even about their families and ours. It makes that relationship between you, your food and your food’s growers even more personal and we think that’s a good thing.
Enough Already, Back to the Grill
A couple of weeks ago, with the family finally reunited and the temperatures moderate to say the least, it was time to start grilling. The first round was not completely local, as you can see from the picture. Much as we’d love to have salmon instead of Asian carp in the Illinois River, alas that is not yet the case. It was locally bought at Pottstown Deli and wild caught Copper River salmon, so there’s that. Everything else is local, though, and deliciously so. Well, except the beer, sort of; it’s a delicious amber ale from the Delafield Brewhaus, so it depends on how local you consider Wisconsin. All in all it was a fabulous meal. Next step is grilling the corn in husks to avoid wasting aluminum foil.
The grill was a father’s day present a couple of years ago, and provides me with the space and adjustments necessary to grill right; those old Weber’s just weren’t cutting it anymore, but I do love charcoal over gas any day. We now use hardwood lump charcoal instead of briquets, which makes things … interesting but even less processed than ever!
More Grilling! Even More Local!
With the temperatures remaining ridiculously pleasant, it was back to the grill with me earlier this week. This time it was all local, including bratwurst from Broad Branch Farm. I haven’t mentioned them yet, and I surely should have. They weren’t mentioned above because they don’t do farmer’s markets anymore, they’re CSA only, and I highly recommend them for anyone looking for a CSA. The don’t just do veggies, obviously, they have meat, eggs (sold out this year) and veggies, and their meat shares give you options for the types of meat you want. We don’t eat chicken out anymore after having theirs, it’s like a completely different animal from what you buy in the store. And I don’t say these nice things just because I do their website, but I do. They’re a great family who work hard to bring us fabulous food and have been instrumental in our ability to pay very few visits to the supermarket in the spring, summer and fall. Check them out, they have a custom CSA where you can pick the weeks you want to receive veggie boxes.
Anyway, back to the grilling. This was another fabulous meal of their pastured pork bratwurst (really, these are the happiest pigs you’ll ever see, happy as pigs in … well, you know), more corn from Garden Spot and zucchini and yellow squash from Broad Branch and Garden spot respectively. Yum.
Well you don’t really need them for this stuff, fresh and local generally calls for simple. Do any of you still put butter and salt on your corn on the cob? If you do, you can put that in the foil for grilling as well, but some of us older folk are more prone to watching our weight, plus the corn tastes so good grilled on its own it doesn’t really need anything.
For the veggies, I tend to just toss them with olive oil, salt (a very little) and some pepper before grilling. If doing slabs as in the squash above, brush one side with the olive oil (mixed with salt, pepper and fresh herbs if you want), put in on the grill brushed side down, then brush the other side.
Obviously your smaller and less dense veggies will cook faster and so can be on more indirect heat. I’ll sometimes start the meats a little away from the flames also while the grill’s still very hot to avoid flareups, them move them to the hotter coals when things have settled down a bit. I usually grill with the lid open for a few minutes, getting things a bit brown and again letting the real excitement of the fire work itself out a bit, then close the lid and open the vents to let the heat cook down and even itself out a bit. When I flip things, I’ll again leave the lid open for a minute or tow, then lower. As always, YMMV and whatever works for you is best. Feel free to share your methods and recipes in the comments. (I am looking for a better commenting system than Facebook, which works quite poorly, but not there yet, sorry.)
Grill Local, Grill Often
So in conclusion, don’t just grill this summer, grill local. Locavore grilling gives all the yumminess of grilling with the self-satisfaction (in a good way) of buying and eating local. Your options are varied and can include plenty of meat if you’re so inclined. I know the Riverfront Market has sellers with meat and some of the others do as well. And another note about the non-growers markets: if you ask, most of them are pretty honest about where their food comes from, local or not. And that’s another reason to build a relationship with your farmer. Locavore. Griller. They’re not two different things anymore.