Old Farm, New Tricks
Carol Chaffin Albrecht’s great grandfather Del Chaffin settled on the Chaffin Family Orchards site below Table Mountain north of Oroville nearly a hundred years ago. He was looking for land where he could grow fruit 365 days a year, and the farm was soon in production. The farm first produced olives and olive oil over seventy-five years ago, then citrus, stonefruits, and avocadoes around fifty years ago. At that same time, the farm went into beef production, and then, about ten years ago, into chicken and lamb production (as well as Chaffin’s eggs from pastured poultry). Next, three years ago, the farm began selling goat meat as well. The animals integrate into the fruit production: goats prune the orchards and manage invasive species around them; cows and sheep mow the grass in orchard rows; and chickens move in to eat the bugs and deposit their rich high nitrogen manure. This holistic approach to farming allows the farm to use about 85% less diesel for farming than what it used to.
This year, Chaffin Family Orchards received new recognition for its practices as a family farm: the Animal Welfare Approved seal. One of only three family farms in all of California to receive such recognition, Chaffin Family Orchards is pleased. The label signifies the well-being of the farm’s animals, certifying that those animals enjoy what the program calls “the five freedoms”: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to behave normally; and freedom from fear and distress. In earning this certification, Chaffin Family Orchards has met what the Animal Welfare Institute calls “the most rigorous and progressive animal care requirements in the nation.” The seal is only available to family farms that put the animals’ well-being first. Regular meat buyers are already very familiar with Chaffin Orchard’s attention to high quality. Now, with the Animal Welfare Approved label, they have one more reason to support their choice of producer.
The farm is embarking on another new journey this winter by launching a Grassfed Meat and Egg CSA. Over the course of four months subscribers will receive roughly sixty-five pounds of meat (broiler chickens, stewing hens, chevon, beef) and Chaffin Orchard’s famous pasture raised eggs. Each week will bring a total of three to five pounds of individual portions of frozen cuts of meat, perfect for small families with little to no extra freezer space, and a dozen eggs. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to see if shares are still available.
Another new development begins in January 2010. Carol Chaffin Albrecht (farm owner and third generation Chaffin) and long-time family friend and farm helper Kim Port recently traveled to the Weston A. Price Foundation in Chicago to receive training to lead a Weston A. Price Foundation chapter in Chico-Butte Valley. The Weston Price Foundation is a nonprofit organization that educates and advocates around the work of a nutritionist named—no surprise—Weston Price. His studies of non-industrialized peoples enumerated the benefits of diets consisting of nutrient-dense whole foods and animal fats from pastured livestock.
Come January, Carol and Kim will host cooking classes in Chico each month—the first on preparing soup stocks—aimed to help consumers integrate properly prepared whole foods into their lifestyles. They also plan potlucks, speakers and numerous other activities to connect consumers with locally-grown organic and biodynamic vegetables, fruits and grains; and milk products, butter, eggs, chicken and meat from pasture-fed animals. The goal is to provide a venue for local growers and conscious eaters to break bread together and to form a strong network that will help to build health and environmental awareness throughout the local region.
Chaffin Family Orchards, 606 Coal Canyon Road, Oroville, Chaffinfamilyorchards.com, 530.533.8239
They’re Here: Buy Fresh Buy Local North Valley
Perhaps you’ve come across the logos, designed to look like the labels on old packing crates. If so, you are certain to have noticed. If not, take a gander to the right.
Sponsored by the nonprofit FoodRoutes Network, Buy Fresh Buy Local chapters exist all across the nation. Their purpose: to connect consumers to fresh, locally grown and locally produced foods. In California, Buy Fresh Buy Local chapters are sponsored by the nonprofit Community Alliance with Family Farmers. Both network hubs, the national and the state hub, provide communications tools, organizing support, and marketing resources to the grassroots chapters. Our local chapter, Buy Fresh Buy Local North Valley, is such a grassroots effort. Sponsored in Glenn, Tehama, and Butte counties by The Northern California Regional Land Trust, Buy Fresh Buy Local North Valley is beginning its efforts to connect us with fresh, local products. In the works is a Local Food Guide, to be published in spring 2010, that will list local farms, food producers, farmers’ markets, restaurants, and retailers selling local farm goods—a great resource to connect us to the freshest foods and keep our food dollars in the local economy. Buy Fresh Buy Local chapters also serve restaurants and schools by connecting chefs and food services to local sources, and they hold fun, educational events around food and farmers.
A number of local farms are already listed on the Buy Fresh Buy Local California website: California Organic Flowers, Chaffin Family Orchards, Cole Farm, Gaea’s Garden, Massa Organics Farm, Towani Organic Farm, and Woodleaf Farm. Now that this program in Glenn, Butte, and Tehama counties is underway, look for many more in the local guide that comes out in the spring.
For information on Buy Fresh Buy Local in California, see buylocalca.org For information on the Buy Fresh Buy Local North Valley program, email Noelle Ferdon at email@example.com or call 530.894.7738.
Education at Leon Bistro
At the cooking class offered on a rainy November night at Leon Bistro, Ann Leon served up much more than the dozen Indian dishes she cooked in front of us. These dishes were extraordinary: curry cauliflower soup, carrot and cashew salad, vegetable samosas, pakoras (seasonal vegetables dipped in a chickpea and rice flour batter seasoned with hot Indian spices, then deep-fried), aloo gobi (potatoes lightly fried with onion, to which cauliflower and a half dozen Indian spices are added, then the whole is simmered in yogurt), murgh makhani (also referred to as butter chicken curry—chicken rubbed with tandoori spices, then grilled, and finally simmered in a tomato butter sauce), plus dal, biriyani, fresh chutneys, raita, and a rice pudding dessert, the rice cooked in coconut milk and the pudding topped with toasted coconut. Ann walked us through the food preparation, dish by dish, and then we got to eat, dish by dish.
Ann’s narrative was much more than how-to. To judge by the Sanskrit saying she invoked, “God will treat you as you treat your guests,” she’s in for some good treatment. She began with the culture of food in India, which embraces the Sanskrit saying, and told how mothers pass cooking down to daughters as they observe and copy in the kitchen and how the typical meal consists of a wet dish (often a vegetable curry among family, meat added for friends), a dry dish (bread like naan or papadum, rice, or, for guests, biriyani), a yogurt digestif (raita or lassi), and typically chutneys and/or pickles. She introduced the vegetables she’d be using and saluted Jim Miller, who had delivered them fresh that afternoon from Comanche Creek Farm, even fresh garbanzo beans used in the dall. And then she began, dish by dish, moving through the recipes, which were also printed out for the class members.
Also served up were general kitchen tips (get a spice grinder or dedicate a coffee grinder to spice work; add salt to onions to aid the caramelization process; marinate meat in yogurt and spices to tenderize it; store pulverized ginger in olive oil to retain its flavor) and tips on sourcing Indian spices (go to Yuba City or University Avenue in Berkeley). Ann had ground all of the spices that afternoon, and she passed them around whole and ground to delight our touch and smell. Used that night were fenugreek, star anise, black and green cardamom, fennel powder, black sesame and mustard seed, lime leaf, curry, tamarind pod, saffron, and garam masala—and probably more!
And all the while, Ann exhorted us to questions and jollity. Guests were welcomed by a champagne cocktail with a red layer at the bottom of the glass: an essence of rose water and a touch of pomegranate juice. Various wines accompanied the courses. Sous chef Dylan Breyer anticipated chef Ann’s every need, usually before she knew of it. Ann’s mother Joan Leon and her sister Sue Leon Patterson greeted the class members as they arrived, served them, and packed them up leftovers.
Watch the website for upcoming cooking classes; Chef Ann Leon has promised Parmigiano ice cream (and swears it’s to die for) in the next Italian Cuisine class. Come January, she’s also offering a dinner here each course is paired with beers from craft breweries Lagunitas, Mad River, and Lost Coast, among others. Check out leonbistro.com for class and event details.
Leon Bistro, 817 Main Street, Chico, 530.899.1105
Greek Beef Stew from Chef Ann Leon
In a blender, combine tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, vinegar, salt and pepper to make a thick sauce. Set aside.
Heat some olive oil in a sauté pan. Add beef cubes and brown, adding garlic in the last minute of cooking. Remove to a casserole dish and then sauté the onions in the pan, adding them to the casserole after they have softened a bit. Add the tomato sauce to the casserole along with bay leaves. Simmer very gently 3 to 4 hours until meat is butter-tender.
30 min before serving, stir in pecans. 10 min before serving, add cubes of feta, which will melt around meat and blend with sauce.
BUTTER CHICKEN CURRY
Murgh Makhani from Chef Ann Leon
This recipe uses grilled Tandoori chicken, which is easy to prepare in advance if you have a Tandoori spice mix on hand to rub on the chicken before grilling. If you can’t find a pre-made Tandoori mix but have on hand (or want to make) a garam masala mix (cardamom, black pepper, cloves, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon stick), you can create the Tandoori rub by adding chile powder and cayenne to the garam masala. Ann Leon uses large quantities of spices at Leon Bistro, so she prepares these mixes from scratch, purchasing whole spices and then roasting and grinding them for optimal flavor.
Melt butter in a sauté pan and add bay leaf, cardamon, and cinnamon, cooking the spices lightly. Add garlic, ginger, and chile peppers and continue to sauté for a few more minutes. Add tomatoes, paprika, nutmeg, water, salt, and fenugreek and allow to simmer. Add cream. Set aside.
Dice Tandoori chicken into 11/2-inch cubes. Heat oil and cook ginger and chile peppers until golden. Stir in chicken and then add butter-cream sauce, simmer lightly, and serve.
Edible Shasta-Butte is the guide to local food, dining, and gardening in Northern California’s central valley from Butte County north to the Oregon border.