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!), 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. 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, Field Notes

Mill and Churn with Avery Ruzicka

photo: Aubrie Pick

With both a culinary and bread degree from the French Culinary Institute as well as having worked a staging stint under Per Se restaurant’s master baker Ben Hershberger, Avery Ruzicka knew that she wanted to devote her career to the miracle of grains and yeast and ovens.

But she had to take an unusual route to get there. Which is how she ended up working the front of the house running food at Los Gato’s famed Manresa in 2012. After six months of delivering chef David Kinch’s three-Michelin-star dishes to diners, she made her way into the kitchen, where she had been headed all along.

There, she founded the Manresa Bread Project, an endeavor that began in the restaurant with an official bread course included in prix-fixe dinners, moved to serve a rabid farmers’ market fanbase, and now includes bakeries in Palo Alto and Los Gatos with a new one set to open in Campbell.

Ruzicka comes to SHED on May 12 to demonstrate some of what makes her bread so acclaimed. And of course, it starts with the grain. As do we, Ruzicka mills her own grain for making bread and even oatmeal.

For her class, she’ll tote along her favorite tabletop mill, a KoMo Mockmill that she adores for its price and durability. The similar hand-cranked Country Living Grain Mill is a staple of our kitchen.

“My vision is to show people that this simple piece of equipment can open up so many avenues of creativity,” Ruzicka told us by phone recently.

“I want to show people that what we do is possible. The Mockmill especially is not a huge financial investment. It’s a couple hundred dollars and will last a lifetime. Instead of grabbing a bag of old flour from your cupboard, you can make fresh ingredients that are a million times better.”

Supporting local grain growers is a passion for us. We’re so excited to see young chefs like Ruzicka embracing real grains for taste and good health.

“We use all organic grains,” Ruzicka explains, adding that she purchases pre-milled flour from Central Milling Co. out of Petaluma and buys grain from Coke Farm, an organic produce farm in San Juan Bautista.

“Owner Dale Coke is a passionate bread baker and, as a farmer, decided to start selling some grain,” she says. “He grows some rye, a variety of bread wheat called Patron and a white wheat called Blanco Grande.”

Ruzicka explains that you don’t have to own a bakery to purchase whole grains to mill yourself, listing more of the producers she uses that sell to the public as well.

“We get einkorn and spelt from a farm in Oregon called Bluebird Grain Farms. I have also purchased a lot of wheat from Camas Country in Washington, also family-run, and they mill as well. When you’re buying direct from farmers, you have to contend with the fact that they don’t have a shipping system. It’s pushed us to find even more California grain. It’s around, but it’s in smaller volume.”

Ruzicka’s sourdough breads rise for up to 36 hours. Allowing for such a long fermentation period makes the loaves easier to digest and makes them palatable to those who are typically bothered by gluten (celiac sufferers still can’t consume it). It also creates airy pockets inside the loaves that make the bread tender and perhaps even more addictive.

It’s all a product of patience and science, but mostly patience. Ruzicka stresses that any one who is interested can get learn how to source and make good food. “If you eat a delicious meal, ask where it came from,” she says simply.

Avery Ruzicka comes to our Healdsburg store on Saturday, May 12, at 11am for a two-hour workshop on simple bread and butter. We’ll learn to churn our own fresh cream into butter and how to make sourdough flatbreads. Students will receive recipes and a 10% SHED discount on all purchases that day. Join us!

Eat Good Food

Stocking the Spring Pantry

spring pantry

Stocking the spring pantry with essentials helps you make the most of the season’s unfolding bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

With your pantry well stocked, you’ll be prepared to cook a wide range of dishes, and you’ll save time and money by avoiding unnecessary trips to the store.

Enjoying spring’s beautiful produce means letting the flavors speak for themselves. The following are some of the ingredients that pair well with spring produce to build or enhance dishes.

Anchovies Cured fillets, packed either in olive oil or salt (our preference, as these have a longer shelf life), add an umami depth to salad dressings and pasta sauces. Just one or two mashed-up fillets can be the magic ingredient that enhances flavors.

Black Peppercorns and a good pepper mill.

Chicken or Vegetable Stock Homemade stock for making risottos, light soups and braises, and pasta en brodo.

Condiments
Cornichons 
are an essential ingredient for egg salads, sauce gribiche, and charcuterie; Dijon mustard is traditionally added to vinaigrettes to dress salad greens, poached leeks, or asparagus spears; Capers, packed in brine or salt, are an essential ingredient in salsa verdes, remoulade, and ravigote, and add tang and pungency to chicken, fish, and pasta.

Dried Pasta
A year-round pantry staple, pasta is a great vehicle for spring vegetables as in Pasta Primavera. If you have several types — some long like Linguine and Fettuccine, some shaped like Penne and Orecchiette — you’re halfway to dinner.

Dried Red Pepper Flakes A pinch of red pepper flakes added during the cooking process goes a long way to heighten flavor any season of the year.

Grains
Quinoa (grain salads); Millet (muffins and waffles for crunch protein); Farro (salads and risottos); Arborio rice (risottos); Brown rice (pilafs, rice bowls, salads); Buckwheat flour (sweet and savory crepes).

Lentils A quick-cooking legume that makes a nice warm side dish or a fresh, cool salad. The tiny green French variety LePuy and Black Belugas are favorites. Yellow lentils are common in Indian cooking.

Nuts
Pine nuts, Pistachios, and Almonds, toasted quickly in a skillet, are versatile additions to be used in salads, rice dishes, and pestos.

Oils
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sesame Oil, Coconut OilMake sure yours are fresh.

Seasonings
A few seasonings from our SHED Pantry line that add great flavor to some of our favorite springtime dishes include Moroccan spice blends such as Ras el Hanout to enhance lamb and chicken dishes; Tarragon Caper Powder for asparagus salads, poached fish, and devilled eggs; Shiitake Mushroom Powder to add umami to dashi broths for poaching fish, chicken, or vegetables.

Salts
Flaky Maldon Salt, and flavored salts such as Lemon Salt and Green Salt from SHED’s Pantry line.

Vinegars
Stock a few varieties such as Champagne vinegar; Banyuls, a mellow red wine with a complex nutty flavor; White Wine vinegar and Rice Wine vinegar.

Verjus The pressed juice of unripened grapes, verjus can be red (made from either purely red grapes or a red-white mix) or white (made from white grapes). While acidic, verjus has a gentler flavor than vinegar, with a sweet-tart taste that is often used in salad dressings as well as marinades. You can use white verjus as you would use white wine vinegar, lemon juice, or white wine—it is good in beurre blanc, or other sauces for chicken or fish.

Eat Good Food

Millet Muffin Recipe

SHED co-owners Doug Lipton and Cindy Daniel adored the millet muffins at Alice Waters’ beloved Cafe Fanny and would often drive from San Francisco to Berkeley on Sunday mornings to enjoy them.

Millet Muffin
Makes 12 muffins

1 egg
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
12 tablespoons millet
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat an oven to 375°F.

Beat the egg and brown sugar well with an electric mixer. Add the melted butter and 1/2 of the buttermilk.

Stir in the millet. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and add to the other ingredients. Add the other 1/2 of the buttermilk and mix until incorporated. Place in greased muffin tins.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Serve these crunchy, tangy muffins hot out of the oven with plenty of butter.

Learn more about the history of millet.