How To Eat in Season

How to eat in season? It’s easier than you think.

Happy to share six sensational ways to eat and drink locally and in season – all in this post and in a televised segment at WRAL with my good friend, Ken Smith.

eat in Season
Heidi Billotto shares six local ways to eat in season on February 17, 2020 with WRAL’s Ken Smith.

You can start to eat in season, by shopping at local farmers markets. This time of year local proteins and root veggies are king. Buy what you love; then meal plan around your choices.

As you learn how to eat seasonally, add in as many local products as you can. Make it easy by sourcing from my recent lists of eat local, drink local posts. Simply type “Eat Local” or “Drink Local” into the search box on my home page, you’ll find lots of products and ideas.

Here is the video I did with Ken at WRAL showcasing all six of these sensational products. We had so much fun, but 3 minutes goes by fast! Give it a watch and then take some time to get all the delicious details (and recipes, too) in the info that follows. If you don’t see the clip just above this paragraph, simply click here to give it a watch

Sharing the word on How to Drink and Eat in Season

We’ll start this line up with a trio of award-winning gin from Chemist Spirits in Asheville, NC. All three of these locally made spirits are available in ABC stores across the state of North Carolina. If you can’t find it, ask and they will order it for you. Read more in my Made in the Carolina’s post.

eat in season

Local spirits are, of course, made and sold year round.. Happily, they are always in season! Chemist Gin start with classic juniper berries. And then, distillers add other botanicals like citrus and ginger. Its this blending of flavor that makes Chemist Gin so incredibly good. Try their American Gin, their Barrel-Rested version of the same, and their new Navy Strength Gin.

Always in Season…Let the Fun Be-Gin

Chemist branding ambassador, 2019 NCRLA Mixologist of the Year, Jonny Burritt, says that the 2020 trend in cocktails is to keep clean and classic. But, don’t be afraid to make it your own. To that end, I teamed the higher proof Navy Strength Chemist Gin with another favorite local product of mine: Alley Twenty Six tonic syrup from Durham, NC.

This tonic syrup is unlike any other. The rich dark color comes from real cinchona bark, the plant from which quinine is derived. The lemongrass, lime juice and cane sugar in this tonic recipe highlight the orange and ginger botanicals in Chemist Gin. You’ll find the two become soul mates in the glass.

Smile and Say, “Cheers!”

Because Navy Strength has more alcohol, you don’t need as much. Use less than you would if you were using Chemist’s American or Barrel-Rested Gin. Start with about half of what you would regularly use – say 1 1/2 oz instead of a 3 oz. pour, and then tweak to taste from there. Top with about 3 oz of the Alley Twenty Six tonic syrup. Shake with ice, and serve straight up or on the rocks. Top with a splash of plain sparkling soda just to add a bit of fizz.

As Chemist Navy Strength Gin is infused with orange and ginger, serve it with a slice of orange and a spring of a fresh woody herb. Fresh young sage from my herb garden seemed the perfect pairing to me, but do what you like. You are the bartender and there are no real rules.

Gin & Ginger

At the WRAL studios, I paired the Navy Strength Chemist Gin with ginger beer. It’s a simple cocktail but full of flavor. My Ginger Beer of choice is made by Devil’s Foot and like Chemist Gin is produced in Asheville, NC. In the Triangle area, you can find the entire line of delicious Devil’s Foot non-alcoholic sodas at Weaver Street Markets in the Triangle. Or, use a spicy hot ginger ale like South Carolina’s Blenheim’s. Blenheim’s is available at many South Carolina peach stands and in the local section at Harris Teeter’s across the state.

eat in Season

The photo in the graphic above illustrates what a professional mixologist can do with a pour of Chemist Gin. The beautifully presented cocktail in a coupe above is by Josh Hebert. Josh is one of the talented team behind the bar at Zeppelin in SouthEnd in Charlotte.

The drink is a blend of Chemist American Gin, lemon and French Vermouth. Strawberries from Bush-n-vine, and a house made Thyme syrup – see, there is that woody herb, once again – keep it local. The glass is capped with a soft and silky egg with foam made with Harmony Ridge Farm Eggs. Perfection! Yes please, I’ll have another.

Why do they call it Navy Strength?

Truth is, I’m not really sure anyone really knows. But, the legend makes for good story telling, so here you go.

Gin has forever been the spirit of choice for the Royal Navy in the United Kingdom. It was consumed for medicinal purposes as well as for pleasure; at least, that’s how the story goes.

As such, it was required cargo on every seagoing voyage. But, when times got hard, local merchants had to take liberties. It wasn’t long before savvy naval officers started to suspect the gin they were buying was being diluted, so that merchants could turn a better profit.

They needed a test – to prove the gin they were purchasing was up to its fully expected level of alcohol. Remember, I said Navy Strength has more alcohol that most other gins? Good, because, that’s an important part of the story.

To ward off dishonest merchants and sellers of spirits, the Royal Navy soaked a small amount of gun powder in the gin before they made the purchase. Then, they would set it on fire. If the wet, gin-soaked gunpowder ignited, they knew it was full proof; and, could indeed, be deemed Navy Strength.

Happily today, when you purchase Chemist Gin, you won’t need to do the gunpowder test.

Rest assured the elixirs that lie within these three varieties of award-winning gin are all they promise to be. When you are in Asheville, visit the distillery and the adjacent 1920’s style cocktail bar – called Antidote. For more info, visit the website. #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Even Babies Love to Eat in Season, oh Baby!

eat in season
Meet Asa on the left ( its his mom that makes this oh so local baby food and my niece Emory on the right. You can tell she is a big fan of the local flavor as well.

Asa, pictured above, on the left, is the reason that Amy Roar got in the baby food business. Amy and her hubby Joe are both farmers at their own Boy and Girl Farm in Waxhaw, NC. They sell a wide range of seasonal vegetables to chefs across Charlotte and to the public at the Saturday Morning Waxhaw Farmers’ Market.

eat in season
Emory was quick to turn the package of Asa Food For Babies around to read the ingredient label and was delighted to find there are no additives, no added sugar and no preservatives, just fresh frozen flavor of locally harvested seasonal vegetables.

Each four ounce package of Asa Food for Babies is packed with just picked veggies from Asa’s family farm. Two varieties are currently available. No preservations, no additives, just fresh from the farm vegetables, pureed and frozen hours after harvest to seal in the flavor. As seasons change, look for additional flavors on the Asa Food for Babies website. All vegetables, all the time.  Order today from the website. #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Asa Food for Babies in Waxhaw, NC

I had the pleasure of interviewing farmers and baby food maker, Amy Roar about her line of Baby Food. Hear all the delicious details in this video of Amy sharing why this new business venture is so important to her. Asa Food for Babies is the only seasonal baby food on the market.

You’re going to love all the time, love and attention to detail that goes into this locally made product. I know, it looks like its going to play sideways, but as soon as you click on the video, it will straighten out -don’t you just love technology! If you don’t see the video above, you can watch it here – third one down – or take a look on my Instagram IGTV feed.

Asa Roar says his mom’s Asa Food for Babies is for everyone!

ProTip: Asa Food for Babies isn’t just for Babies. Use is to jazz up a broth or sauce; a bowl of rice or quinoa, or as a pureed addition to your favorite batter bread or muffins.

Next, another way to Eat in Season while you are in Raleigh…

Locals Seafood & Oyster Bar at the new Transfer Co. Food Hall in Raleigh, NC

eat in Season
Locally cured Seafood Charcuterie and smoked fish dip from Locals Seafood and Locals Oyster Bar in Raleigh NC.

Have you been to eat at Transfer Co. Food Hall in Raleigh, yet? if not, what are you waiting for?

Usually my eat and drink local posts are about products, not about restaurants. But in this case, this restaurant and oyster bar, is featuring fresh and often locally caught seafood to go; and is also building a line of grab and go products. Among them, a fabulous smoked fish pate and cured seafood charcuterie, pictured above!

eat in season
This is Tucker. He loved taste testing the Brunswick Chews from Locals Seafood in Raleigh, NC. “Doggone, Delicious, ” he told me as he gobbled them up , apres walk, for his late afternoon treat.

At Locals, its a toe to tail operation and nothing goes to waste. They even have seafood-based dog treats. These are cleverly called Brunswick Chews. They are made from high-protein, rolled and dried fish skins for your four legged friends to enjoy and eat in season just like you do!  Check out the details and the where-to-buy info here. #TellThemHeidiSentYou

I’ll Bet You Don’t Know Jacked About This Next Local Beverage

eat in season
Meet Holman Distiller owner, distillery and chief cook and bottle washer, John Holman, standing outside his distillery in Moravian Falls, NC…. This guy does know Jacked!

With every North Carolina product is a story, The story of North Carolina Apple Jack is also a history lesson. I found it fascinating and you will too!

Drink Local with NC AppleJohn

This fabulous way to drink local is one that dates back to Colonial days in America. Real American Apple Jack. The man who brought the process back after a 100+ year absence is John Holman from Moravian Falls, NC. He calls his fermented and frozen North Carolina spirits Apple John.

eat in season
Holman Distillery, fermented and frozen Apple John and distilled AppleJack, is available at ABC stores across the state – if they don’t have it in, ask for them to order it for you. Or, you can order directly from the distillery as long as inventory lasts each season. #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Here is the story of how John knows Jacked. The end result: a drinkable spirit that concentrates the flavor of the fruit.

John brought back the process, and to his knowledge is the only person in the country now making real American Apple Jack the same way the colonists did. I love that he is using local harvest North Carolina apples, not a pre-purchased apple concentrate or apple juice.

When this country was founded, every man, woman, and child drank fermented beverages. Potable water was not always available. Fermented beverages were not only healthy, as they continue to be today, but they were safer to drink than water. Apples were prevalent in this country and provided the sugar that was used to produce hard cider. Just as they do today.

It’s how Johnny Appleseed and his friends, Drank in Season

This next part of the history is a little fuzzy. But ,it seems someone left a barrel of hard apple cider out in the harsh winter climes. The hard cider froze and consequently separated. Once defrosted, the fermented, and then frozen part of the cider, came to be known as Applejack. It was a happy accident that led to a delicious new spirit.

in season

From Hard Cider to Spirit

The regular process of fermenting and then jacking the fermentation ended with prohibition. Without regular and legal applejack production, there sadly wasn’t the call for apples. Hundreds of varieties of native wild apples were lost, as orchards were cut down to make way for other crops.

In the 1930’s when prohibition ended, distillers had to choose. They could go back to the labor intensive way of producing Applejack, a process that would start by replanting apple trees and waiting 7 years for tree to grow and produce. Or, they could embrace technology; grow grain, and distill a product in less than a one year turn around. Applejack production never returned to the forefront.

Inspired by the story and the history of original of applejack. Holman decided to bring it back. He sources local apples, mashes them by hand on repurposed equipment, ferments the apple mash, freezes it – how and where he does that is top secret info – and then, bottles it on site. Holman calls his North Carolina applejack, produced in apple growing country of Moravian Falls, NC. , Apple John.

It’s Apple-licious!

Straight from the bottle, Holman Distilling’s Apple John is sour – like the sour side of the bite you get from a green apple. But, add your favorite sugar or mixer and you magically reconstruct the apple flavor, for a fine local beverage.

Pick up a bottle at your local ABC store. More info on product, tastings and tours here and get more in the story plus all sorts of fun swag here.

If you want to meet John Holman and taste his Apple John and his distilled AppleJack for your self, make reservations now for his seminar the March 15 Piedmont Culinary Guild annual Symposium to be held in Charlotte, NC at Johnson & Wales University.

Here John will explain the process and will be sampling his traditionally crafted AppleJohn; and a distilled applejack in three different formats: bourbon-barrel aged 18 months; at 104 proof and at 114 proof! It’ll knock your socks off! Details and reservation information is here.

Cocktailing with a local Jack Rose

While local mixologists will be quick to craft lots of different plays on the theme once they taste this local AppleJohn, the most popular apple jack cocktail is called the Jack Rose. Its delicious, not super sweet and easy to craft at home. You’ll need grenadine, a squeeze of lemon and a squeeze of lime.

Make the recipe your own with a recipe of homemade grenadine. Also easy to create and a wonderful liquid condiment to keep on hand – think simple syrup made with pomegranate juice instead of water and you are there!

A bit of an aside and a great feed to follow:

If you don’t want to make an alcoholic beverage with your grenadine, its delicious in all sorts of mocktails too – like the well known Shirley Temple. For fun, and more mentions of grenadine than you will ever hear anywhere else – follow the Instagram feed of the self proclaimed “Shirley Temple King” ! Six-year-old Leo Kelly regularly reviews Shirley Temples and you are gonna love his style! Connect and follow Leo here! #tellThemHeidiSentYou

Heidi’s Homemade Grenadine

1 cup 100% real pomegranate juice (not the kind with sugar added)

1 cup organic cane sugar ( you can use more or less to taste)

Place the juice and the sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir gently until the sugar dissolves. Once the mix comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 15-20 minutes. Cool, Transfer to a jar or bottle and refrigerate for 1-2 weeks until you are ready to use; or pour into an ice cube tray and freeze. When you need a teaspoon or a tablespoon of grenadine, simple defrost one of the cubes and you are good to go.

Once you’ve got the grenadine, and a bottle of Holman Distillery’s AppleJack, you are well on the way to your own home crafted Jack Rose. Since we are making it with Holman’s AppleJohn, I’m changing the moniker to the John Rose Cocktail

The John Rose Cocktail with a Cherry on the Top

2 oz. Holman Distillery Apple John

1/2 oz. each: fresh lemon juice and fresh lime juice

1/2 oz ( or more or less to taste) homemade grenadine

lemon and lime wedges and Amaro cherries to garnish

Pour all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker or mason jar with ice; Shake it up with as much flair as your favorite local mixologist and pour straight up or on the rocks. If you like bubbles, add a bit of sparkling water or a splash of hot ginger ale or Devil’s Foot non-alcoholic ginger beer. Garnish with lemon or lime and an amaro cherry on the top!

Cloister Honey from Charlotte NC

Cloister Honey was in my very first Eat Local round up. Since that time this local Charlotte “Mom and Pop”, owned by my friends Joanne de la Rionda and Randall Young, is all grown up. Cloister Honey is now available in 40+ states across the country!

Randall works the bees. It’s a hobby turned profession, that started in 2006. Joanne thought Randall needed something to do with his spare time and gave him a bee box and the rest is history. You can  read more about all of their sweet products here.

Joanne and Randall of Charlotte’s Cloister Honey

What started with a few bee boxes producing wildflower honey sourced from their back yard and the top of the Ritz Hotel in Charlotte has grown into a wide selection of flavor infused regular and whipped honey.

Joanne is the talent behind each of the flavor variations which add a new dimension to the locally sourced NC honey.

Cooking with Cloister Honey

While the whipped cinnamon honey is one of Cloister’s most popular; I love the bourbon honey in place of a simple syrup in a cocktail. The honey adds a richer sweetness than even homemade simply syrup can; while the bourbony flavor adds a subtle punch.

One half cup of Cloister’s bourbon honey is also quite good, in all regards, in place of about a 1/2 cup of the sugar in your next pecan pie. Use it in my chocolate pecan pie recipe found here!!

I also am quite fond of the spicier varieties of Cloister Honey, those infused with arbol chilies and chipotle. Stir them up, before you pour to use as a spicy addition to your next cheese tray. Or make this BBQ sauce from the blog on Cloister Honey’s Website!

Last year Joanne and Randall introduced a new trio of flavor and I love them all. Look for Matcha honey, Turmeric Honey and Lemon Ginger on the Cloister Website or where every you buy Cloister Honey. #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Try Cloister’s earthy Matcha Tea infused whipped honey in your next smoothie; or melt it slightly and use it as a glaze over shrimp hot right off the grill. The benefits of turmeric are many and now you can make them even sweeter with Cloister’s Turmeric whipped honey. Try a spoonful or two in your next batch of pan roasted root vegetables

Playing favorites

While I vacillate quite a bit, if pressed to name my favorite Cloister Honey, right now, my answer is Cloister’s Lemon Ginger Whipped Honey. I love it paired with Lusty Monk Mustard and currently that combo tops my list as a pre roasting glaze for my favorite recipe for classic roast chicken. Use the honey and mustard mix in equal parts – say a half to two-thirds of a jar of each, in place of the butter (or heck, in addition to the butter) I called for in the recipe. Absolutely delicious results!

Carolina Culture Yogurts, Kefir & Smoothies

Carolina Culture is a small dairy in Bahama, NC, just north of Raleigh.

Farmer and yogurt maker Cindy Hamrick traded in her corporate briefcase for a farm with the intentions of producing quality, Grade A Dairy products. Done and Done.

I first met Cindy when she lived in Charlotte and making her fabulous yogurt was a side hustle. She used to sell at what is now the SouthEnd Market. It was the best yogurt I had ever tasted.

And then, one day, she wasn’t there any more. USDA restrictions had kept her from continuing production. I didn’t see her for several years.

In Search of Local Yogurt

Several years later, I was in Raleigh at a food show, tasting some locally made yogurt. I said out loud that this was the best yogurt I had ever tasted since a locally made yogurt I had in Charlotte! And, what do you know, Cindy turned around and said, “That was me!”

What a pleasure to reconnect! Cindy and her team, now make yogurt, kefir and smoothies fresh on the farm in Durham County, NC. She also makes a deliciously good-for-you Golden Milk, a smoothie of sorts with fresh turmeric and ginger added.

Can you guess the secret ingredient that makes the Yogurt, Smoothies and Kefir so delicious?  It is creamy, whole milk from their herd of Jersey cows who graze on grass all day.  All of Carolina Culture products are minimally processed, with no preservatives or artificial ingredients.  Probiotics?  Yep, there are billions of them. 

You can Learn more on the Carolina Culture website. If you live in Charlotte or really anywhere outside of Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, the downside of this story is that Carolina Culture products are only available to the retail market in the Triangle area. But, consider that a good excuse for a roadtrip! Buy them at all locations of Weaver Street Market, a cute little coop market with a lots of local on the shelves and in the refrigerated and freezer cases, as well. #TellThemHeidiSentYou

I originally wrote about Carolina Culture in the same first Eat and Drink Local blog post I mentioned in the Cloister Honey section here. That was just after I first rediscovered Cindy and all she was doing. At the time, the dairy’s name was Carolina Farmhouse Dairy. The recipe I shared then for a local yogurt coffee cake remains one of my favorites.

A Place to Stay in Raleigh

When I travel back and forth from Charlotte to Raleigh to do these Eat Local/Drink Local segments on WRAL, its nice to come in the day before and get ready for the early morning television segment. Many thanks to Raleigh’s Marriott Residence Inn Crabtree Valley for partnering with me on this post.

When you travel with food, you’ve gotta love that each room has a kitchen area and a full sized refrigerator (see the photo at the top of this post).

At the hotel’s lobby bar you’ll find several ways to eat and drink local on the menu in the way of a half dozen or so local beers along with several locally sourced proteins featured on dinner selections. And when there is a chill in the air, I love that the executive suites here have fireplaces for guests to warm their toes! Make reservations now #TellThemHeidiSentYou

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