Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ideas for a Simpler, Greener Holiday

Up until a few years ago, my husband and I celebrated Christmas all year long—that is, it took us the next twelve months to pay off our holiday gifting. But when John and I conceived a dream to start a homestead in the country and needed to save every dime, we had to quit running up our credit cards. Still, we wondered: how could we jump off the spending merry-go-round, without wrecking the holidays? Well, after lots of soul-searching, reading inspiring articles, and a bit of self-discipline—and helped along by our homesteading lifestyle—we’ve managed to not only downsize our holidays, but make them happier and almost stress-free!

Here at Berryridge Farm, we focus on creating lots of small celebrations, rather than one giant one. How? By stretching out our holiday season. Which at our place unofficially begins around the end of October, when John starts listening to Christmas CDs on the sly. And that’s when I can’t wait any longer to taste homemade pumpkin pie. So, for our first mini-celebration, I’ll start warming up for Thanksgiving by making a “practice” pie.

Sadly, the cool weather this past summer meant that our pumpkin and winter squash harvest was a bust. Canned pumpkin would have to do. Still, last week, when I pulled out a big can of Libby’s for the first pie of the season, I decided that lacking some in-house pumpkin, I’d try a few other local ingredients.

Since we got six laying hens this past summer, naturally there were plenty of Berryridge Farm-fresh eggs on hand. Now, I’m normally not an adventuresome cook—I go with what works… and in this case, I’ve used the same pumpkin pie recipe since I was a teen. But this time, I told myself, take a risk! So instead of two cans of evaporated milk (24 oz. total), I used about 21 oz. of organic half-and-half from a local dairy. It made a beautifully textured filling—and not too watery, as I’d feared it might be. I was sure fresh half-and-half would cost a lot more than canned milk, but after I did the math, I discovered that organic wasn’t really more expensive. Who knew?

For sweetening, I used ¼ cup less sugar, and subbed in 3 tablespoons of locally-made honey—and the texture was melt-in-your-mouth. I bypassed processed nutmeg, and used fresh-ground instead—I bought the nutmeg “nuts” at my local Co-op. And for the crust, I used organic flour from the nearby flour-mill. And if I do say so myself, the pie was amazing!

Coming up: To gift or not to gift? That is the question…