Artisan Producers, Cooking, Craftsmanship, Eat Good Food, Field Notes

Clay Cooking Transcends Time and Tradition

Clay cookware brings traditions to the kitchen and tenderness to recipes. Since their invention about 12,000 years ago, clay pots have been used for good cooking and good eating across cultures and geographies. Clay vessels have unique properties that make them ideal for roasting, baking, steaming, and braising. The porousness of the material allows for heat and moisture to slowly circulate around the dish while it cooks. This makes the resulting food more tender, juicy, and delicious.

There are health benefits associated with clay cooking. Recipes do not require as much oil or fat because clay naturally draws out the rich flavors by heating evenly and recirculating steam. Some claim that clay cooking retains vitamins and minerals that otherwise would be lost in the process. Also, the alkaline in clay balances out the acidity in food, which makes the flavors more coherent and rounded.

Cooking and serving in clay cookware encourages a certain thoughtfulness in the kitchen. Gathering for a slow-cooked meal becomes a sought-often moment of respite. We offer a selection of clay cookware pieces, each with a unique story to tell. These made-to-last vessels are a way to connect to traditional cooking techniques from around the world and make your own memories.


Chamba (La Chamba, Colombia)
Chamba cookware is handmade by local artisans in La Chamba, Colombia, out of natural clay. Each piece is burnished with stones and fired on site. Chamba earthenware pieces are unglazed; their distinctive black color coming from the clay and how they are fired in the kiln. We use Chamba dishes in our Café because they retain the heat well from our oven to your table. The smooth black finish makes the vessels appear strikingly modern. However, the origins of the vessel’s design can be traced back 700 years to pre-Columbian archaeological sites.

The Chamba roaster and bean pots are designed for cooking meats, stews, and pulses. The lid-less options are the Chamba Oval Platter for roasting and baking, and the Chamba Comal for heating tortillas and roasting chilies.


Oaxacan Collection (San Marcos Tlapazola, Oaxaca, Mexico)
We are proud to offer a selection of clay earthenware from Oaxaca. These pieces were created in San Marcos Tlapazola in collaboration with Colectivo 1050º, a design guild devoted to maintaining and advancing Oaxacan craft tradition. There are over seventy pottery villages in Oaxaca, each with distinct workshops and artisans. Eric Mindling’s book Fire and Clay: The Art of Oaxacan Pottery is an essential introduction to the culture imbued in Oaxacan pottery.

The Elia Cooking Pot is suited for beans, soups, and braising meat. The Elia Rice Pot can be used for rice and other grains. The Clay Grill is a portable grill for meat and vegetables, as well as a mobile stovetop for cooking soup and warming tortillas. It is an intricately made and striking to watch in action.


Manufacture de Digoin (Burgundy, France)
Founded in 1875, Manufacture de Digoin originated as a family ceramic business in the northern Loire valley and established itself crafting staples of the French kitchen. Digoin specializes in earthenware and stoneware made from local materials. Each piece of pottery is hand-shaped by artisans and made to stand the test of time.

We’re honored to be Manufacture de Digoin’s first collaboration with a U.S. company. Digoin’s selection of clay cookware includes unglazed and glazed pieces that serve a variety of functions. The Unglazed Roasting Pot works like a stove-top to roast potatoes, beets, and even chestnuts and coffee beans. The Unglazed Terracotta Roaster is ideal for baking bread (the clay will keep the insides soft and the make crust crispy) and roasting chicken – check out our roast chicken recipe. This type of roaster dates back to Roman times and is nicknamed the “four crétois,” which translates as “the Cretan oven” or “Mediterranean oven.”


Nagatani-en Pottery (Iga, Japan)
We source our donabes, traditional Japanese clay pots, from the Nagatani-en clayware house founded in 1832. Nagatani-en is the leading producer of Iga-yaki pottery, which is crafted from clay from the 4-million-year-old seabed of Lake Biwa. Iga-yaki donabes are handcrafted, each taking two weeks to complete. Donabe cooking has been traced by 10,000 years, yet the vessel remains a modern kitchen staple.

The Donabe Clay Smoker can be used for grilling vegetables and fish (here’s our getting started guide). Due to its thick clay body, the Donabe Rice Cooker steam-cooks rice even after it is removed from the heat source, making the rice extra fluffy. The Donabe Clay Steamer is an impressive cooking and serving vessel well-suited for fish, chicken, or vegetables.

Artisan Producers, Chefs, Cooking, Craftsmanship, Farming, Field Notes

Dan Barber’s Row 7 Seed Co.

Dan Barber

Dan Barber is more than a chef or restaurateur, he’s even more than an author. With the launch this year of the new Row 7 Seed Co., a collaboration with seedsman Matthew Goldfarb and plant breeder Michael Mazourek, Barber is now also a botanical innovator, aiming to input deliciousness into plants from the seed forward.

It’s a radical idea that’s already working. Witness the success of the Honeynut, a squash Mazourek — an associate professor at Cornell — developed some eight years ago at Barber’s request.

Boasting a higher nutritional quality and greater sweet profile than the Butternut, the Honeynut’s pure deliciousness prompted star chefs and even such outlets as Vogue magazine to support it. The exposure made this squash a culinary hit and today it’s readily available at Whole Foods Markets and other ordinary outlets.

Developed to entice a child, the Badger Flame beet has none of the earthiness of traditional beets, but is sweet enough to be eaten raw.

Barber comes to our Modern Grange on Oct. 10, 2018, to introduce Row 7 Seed Co. in an event dedicated to good farming, good cooking, and good eating with a who’s-who roster of West Coast chefs.

We expect that one of the first questions he’ll address is this basic: What’s so radical about breeding for flavor? And here’s what we reckon will be one of his answers: Flavor is typically last on the list when large seed companies are involved.

Rather, large corporations breed for portability, chemical symbiosis (as with those seeds made to interact with Monsanto’s Roundup), uniformity of size and shape, and the varied notions of attractiveness that arise when one considers such as a tomato.

Durability and disease resistance are bred into Row 7’s seeds so that they don’t need to interact well with Roundup or other chemical inputs; they’ll be robust enough to resist pests and other dangers all on their own.

Ultimately, the delectability of the produce and its nutritional value are the first concerns. Unlike other breeders, Row 7 has pledged not to patent their line of seeds, encouraging users to acclimate to their particular spot in the world. They’re even working to make the leaves and stems of their squash delicious and edible.

And of course, the seeds are non-GMO, organic, produced without chemicals, and grown in the USA. When you’re going to do something good, why not do it all the way?

That’s the idea with Row 7. To do something good — all the way. Its initial seed slate includes the Badger Flame, a sweet orange beet that can be eaten raw; the Habanada, a habañero pepper with all of its floral notes retained without the heat; a potato that tastes as if already buttered; a cucumber with the yummy bitter edge that’s been bred out of most stock; and a squash that changes color on the vine to indicate ripeness.

At our own HomeFarm, we’re supporting Barber’s efforts by growing his Habanada and Badger Flame varieties for our produce shelves. We grew Row 7’s new line of peas last spring. Our friends at SingleThread Farms are growing some, too.

One of the genius beliefs that the folks at Row 7 hold is that chefs can actually influence supermarket choices by popularizing produce through their own artistry and evangelism. Actually: it’s all genius.

Dan Barber hosts a sold-out Row 7 Seed Co. dinner with us on Oct. 10. 

Artisan Producers, Farming, Field Notes, Foodshed, Meet the Makers

Honoré Farm and Mill Gives Us Back Our Daily Bread

Fifteen years ago, Episcopal vicar Elizabeth DeRuff was presiding over the eucharist at a retreat center in Healdsburg when a congregant declined to take communion. This wasn’t unusual, but the woman’s reasoning was, at least for the time: she was allergic to wheat and certain that eating the Bread of Heaven would make her sick.

Cut to 2010. The number of people avoiding gluten is trending upwards (it will go on to triple over the next 8 years). It’s a post–South Beach Diet world. Bread is now seen as a guilty pleasure at best. But that moment at the altar is still firmly lodged in Elizabeth’s mind. As she puts it now, “what does it say about our food and farming systems if someone can be allergic to the food that is the very symbol of all food?”

That year while working on an agricultural service project, Elizabeth met a farmer who was growing heirloom wheat—wheat which, seemingly by magic, even gluten-sensitive people could eat with abandon. The problem for most people wasn’t actually wheat or gluten but rather industrial processing, which strips grains of their nutrients and divorces bread from traditional sourdough fermentation, which makes wheat more digestible. The problem was equally compelling to her from a theological point of view: the supply chain behind most communion loaves hardly reflects care for creation. Thus began Elizabeth’s 8-year deep dive into the science and spirituality of wheat, and thus began Honoré Farm and Mill.

Honoré is a nonprofit that integrates spiritual care, climate action, and heirloom grain stewardship. In practice, their work is multifaceted: Honoré grows, mills, and sells Red Fife and Sonora wheat (and incredible shortbread cookies, which we sell at SHED), hosts sourdough classes and educational workshops, and runs a flour and communion wafer CSA for churches. In 2016 they crowdfunded a mobile stone mill to travel to schools, churches, synagogues, and markets.

The mobile mill was Honoré’s answer to what Elizabeth sees as the biggest barrier to thriving grain economies: lack of infrastructure. There used to be more than 20,000 stone mills around the country, but now that industrial agriculture is the status quo there are just a small handful (we’re lucky to lay claim to one at SHED). In fact, when Elizabeth first started working on heirloom grain issues she had to drive to Ukiah to find fresh flour. Most people don’t think of flour as perishable, but the difference between fresh-milled and conventional flour in terms of both flavor and nutrition is astonishing. To a grain-lover like Elizabeth, “it was like if you had to drive 200 miles whenever you wanted a good cup of coffee.”

Thankfully, Honore’s community saw the value in getting a little closer to their daily bread. Their kickstarter campaign reached 125% funding, and the mobile mill was able to take its first major trip in June, to the Episcopal General Convention in Austin. It’s also the centerpiece of Honoré’s “Wheat Wednesdays” educational program at underserved local schools. Their next project is a conference in May of 2019, which will gather farmers, millers, bakers, and church members together to build community through workshops, panels, and a planting day. (In a bit of spiritual kismet, the Growers Guild Conference will be held at the very retreat center where that fateful 2003 communion took place.) They’re also searching for land to create a home base for Honoré, which has been loosely based in and around Marin County thus far. Elizabeth envisions an educational farm for land-based healing ministry—simply touching organic matter is good for us, Elizabeth points out.

Spirituality and nutrition are singularly slippery topics that can be difficult to discuss. Trying to relate one to the other is an even more esoteric challenge. But listening to Elizabeth, it feels like the most natural thing in the world. She says the reception to Honoré’s work has been overwhelmingly positive (though she’ll admit a Dow Chemical executive’s wife walked out on one of her climate-focused sermons once). Not only that, but people seem to be more and more interested as time goes on: their booth at the general convention three years ago garnered mostly blank stares, but this year they were deluged with interest.

“I haven’t met very many farmers who don’t think farming is a very spiritual practice,” Elizabeth says. “And spiritually it’s so rich to be able to inhabit the life of scripture for a moment while you’re threshing or harvesting.”

Cooking, Farming, Field Notes, Foodshed, Healdsburg, HomeFarm

Food is Too Good to Waste

Currently, about 40% of the food we produce is wasted, representing a carbon footprint larger than any individual country except China and the United States. It’s also a moral failing—in the United States alone, 1 in 8 people are food insecure.

The EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy ranks methods of dealing with food waste from the most preferable to the least. Many people think of composting as the be-all end-all of responsible waste management, but it’s actually all the way at the bottom of the pyramid, just above the landfill. Don’t get us wrong, we’re big believers in compost—one of our owners is a self-proclaimed dirt doctor!—but effective reduction of food waste starts long before your cores and peels hit the compost bin.

The top of the pyramid is source reduction, which simply means generating less food waste to begin with. The more mindful we are about using every ingredient to its fullest, the less food waste we’ll have to manage further down the line. It’s a philosophy essential to our culinary identity at SHED. Our different departments work together to ensure that nothing goes to waste, much like a permaculture farm would. When we have surplus dairy in the coffee bar, pantry products we need to move, or extra ripe and ready produce, our cafe chefs can transform them into new dishes.

Our menus are full of underappreciated ingredients, from croutons made of bread heels to apricot kernel ice cream. And when we can’t use all of a seasonal ingredient, we ferment or preserve it. It not only lends flavor to our dishes, it extends fresh ingredients’ shelf lives to ensure they don’t end up in the trash. And our eye toward preservation goes beyond pickles; culinary powders and shrubs also keep produce out of the landfill. Our passion for preserving extends to helping others learn the art. From canning classes to full-on food waste dinners, education is a top priority. Going low-waste in our own kitchen is good, but encouraging those in our own community and beyond to do the same can be game-changing.

But despite our best efforts, sometimes we end up with food waste. We over-prepare or end up with trimmings that just can’t be used. The next three tiers on the food recovery hierarchy are all ways to make the most of leftover food. If we can’t eliminate food waste, we should try to feed hungry people, feed animals, or find industrial uses for food waste. As our leftover-loving employees and our well-fed chickens can attest, we’ve got the first two covered. We also work with an oil management service that turns all those fried chicken Fridays into energy-rich biofuel.

The bottom tier of the food recovery hierarchy is the landfill. The landfill should only ever be a last resort. With so many alternatives to choose from, there’s no reason we should be throwing food away. Yet this is where 90% of food waste ends up. We’re proud of the work we have done to be part of the solution, but we know we can always do more. So we’re asking for inspiration from the place we so often find it: our community. We want to hear your ideas of how we can do more, because every meal we can keep out of the landfill is one more we can enjoy together. We welcome your comments and insights below!

Field Notes, Nonprofits

Edible Schoolyards Help Kids Grow

edible schoolyards

Having revolutionized American cuisine with the launch of her Chez Panisse restaurant in 1971, chef Alice Waters created a second wave of change with her Edible Schoolyards program in 1995. Her first effort served adults; her second, their children. Taken together, her impact has touched us all.

Alice’s philosophy is succinct. We should all be able to eat and have access to fresh, seasonal food. We should understand how our food is grown and where it comes from. Food is to be celebrated and enjoyed, its preparation experienced as pleasure rather than chore.

Fast food, she recently told an audience gathered to support Edible Schoolyard, “tells us that work is drudgery. That more is better. That our natural resources are limitless. That everything should be the same, no matter where we go.”

Loaded with fat, sugar, and salt — fast food is often what children want most. It activates all of our pleasure sensors and quickly overwhelms them, resetting taste buds to exaggerated heights.

Not wanting her own daughter Fanny to grow up eating junk food, and concerned about how other children in her community and beyond were being exposed to poor eating habits that could affect them for life, Alice decided to do something about it.

She convinced the administration at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in her hometown of Berkeley to turn a weedy one-acre parking lot into an experimental garden. Soon came a communal kitchen and a whole new curriculum for teachers and students at King Middle.

Alice knew that math, science, history, humanities, and even technology can all be taught from the garden. Planting, growing, harvesting, and preparing food offers opportunities to explore all of the academic subjects. Students must cooperate and interact; along the way, they gain independence and the satisfaction that engenders.

Dedicated to the ideal of children having a balanced daily meal that is as delicious as it is healthy, Alice helped to establish the School Lunch Initiative for all students across the Berkeley city school system. Over 10,000 students participate each school day. No one is trading Cheeto’s for a PBJ sanny in Berkeley school yards.

Today there are five affiliate Edible Schoolyard programs across the country in places as disparate as New Orleans and San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, and even Greensboro, North Carolina. A study followed students at one school over three years and discovered them to be healthier and better informed than similar students who didn’t have access to a school garden.

Speaking to that same audience raising money for Edible Schoolyard, Alice concluded, “I feel like [fast food has] imprisoned us, depriving us of living harmoniously with nature. Every time we choose what to eat, we’re voting for the kind of world we want.”

Cooking, Eat Good Food, Field Notes

Make Your Own Yogurt

Yogurt is downright magical. It’s packed with protein and with gut-friendly bacteria that aid in digestion. It goes from sweet to savory, from breakfast to dinner, like nobody’s business, and it stays fresh far longer than a carton of milk. Making your own batch of yogurt feels pretty magical too, and is simple to boot—all it takes is a quart of milk and a spoonful of yogurt.

Yes, you read that right—you need yogurt to make yogurt. Yogurt is the product of live bacterial cultures fermenting milk, and for your first batch you’ll need to borrow some of those cultures from a good storebought yogurt. Once you’ve had your first yogurt-making session you can save some of your homemade yogurt to inoculate the next batch, much like maintaining a sourdough starter or a kombucha mother.

Homemade yogurt without stabilizers or thickeners has a thinner texture than you might be used to—it will dribble, rather than dollop. If you prefer a thicker yogurt, strain your yogurt through a cheesecloth-lined colander for a few hours.

 

Ingredients

1/2 gallon fresh whole milk

1/4 cup plain, unsweetened full-fat yogurt with live active cultures

 

Instructions

Put milk in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Heat, stirring frequently until milk reaches a bare simmer. Milk should be between 180 and 200 degrees. Remove pot from heat and let cool to between 110 and 120 degrees.

Place yogurt in a small bowl and whisk in a bit of milk until smooth and liquidy. Stir the yogurt mixture into the pot of warm milk and cover with a lid. Wrap pot in a large towel and place in a warm place, such as in the oven with the light turned on or on top of the refrigerator. Let yogurt sit for 6-12 hours until thickened. The longer it sits, the tangier it will be.

At the end of fermentation, whisk the yogurt vigorously until smooth. Keep finished yogurt in the refrigerator, and be sure to save some for the next batch.