December 2008

Let's talk about vinegar

Vinegar is as old as civilization. Records of humans using vinegar reach back to at least 5000 B.C. when the Babylonians were making wine—and vinegar—from dates. We've used vinegar for thousands of years, as a preservative, a pickling agent, a flavoring, and as medicine.

We still love the stuff. We use it on pasta and veggies, in marinades and dressings. Here in the Northwest, we have access to good local wine and excellent local cider, with which to make our own vinegars (for the adventurous) and any number of locally grown fruits, herbs, and other seasonings, to infuse otherwise ordinary grocery-store vinegar with some extra flavor and beauty.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts are one of the better known products of Washington and Oregon. The two states between them grow about 3% of the world's hazelnuts (Turkey is the hazelnut king), with Oregon accounting for most of those, and Washington growing a mere 3%. There are two native species of hazelnut (or filbert; the nut's the same) in North America; the Beaked Hazelnut, Corylus cornuta is a native of the Pacific Northwest, though it's rarely used for human consumption these days, in its time it was a staple for native Americans. Tukwila, six miles south of Seattle, was named by the Duwamish for the prominence of large native hazel groves.

Cranberry Sauce

I grew up with cranberry sauce out of a can, and there's not a thing wrong with it. I actually like it quite a lot, especially on turkey sandwiches, the day after a holiday feast. But there are other ways to use cranberries, as well. And we should use cranberrries, really, because they grow here, they're extremely good for you, and it's fun.

Welcome!

When you ask people about food and the Northwest, they almost always think first of salmon, then possibly oysters, clams, chanterelles, or specialty cheeses. Some might be aware of the many apple, cherry, and berry orchards, the amazing local specialty potatoes and onions, the wineries and micro breweries, or the popularity of wild huckleberries, blackberries and mushrooms. But there's far more to Northwest Specialties than that— we'll be talking about all of those, but also, many others, including locally grown hazelnuts and walnuts, and grape seed oil, artisan bakers, millers, wineries and breweries— including mead and cider brewers, and locally grown beef and organic poultry, vegetables, fruit and greens.