Food Swaps are all the rage these days, and I got invited to one! Have you been? I thought it was pretty wonderful. Here’s how the Facebook invitation read:
Bring 10 to 20 handmade, homegrown, fresh, raw, baked or foraged food items to swap. Just about anything goes! We hope to see you there!
I’ve decided a Food Swap could in fact be considered the ultimate Foodie Experience, when you think about it. It’s nothing at all like the usual multi-course gourmet dining extravaganzas that we’ve come to think of as the Foodie milieu. Instead it is a celebration of homemade foods – from the classic (Strawberry Jam) to the delicacy (Oyster Mushroom Butter) with a good dose of community building thrown in.
But what to make? Luckily we’re still in citrus season and I have had my eye on an Orange Rosemary Marmalade recipe from The Herbfarm Cookbook. So Friday afternoon I sliced 5 pounds of oranges and set them to marinate overnight. I also got my hands on 2 1/2 pounds of bittersweet chocolate and started production of three batches of my new favorite not-so-sweet sweet, Ancho Chili Chocolate Bark.
I really didn’t know how much stuff to bring or what exactly to expect, but I was ready to wing it.
I made a double batch of the marmalade, and was frustrated that the gel test the book described did not work. I ended up cooking the marmalade just a smidge too long, but we think that gave it a pretty delicious caramelized touch.
I ended up taking 8 pints of the (newly named) Bitter Orange Rosemary Marmalade and about 16 packages of the Chocolate bark.
When we arrived at our destination everybody was streaming in carrying boxes or baskets of their goodies. The set up was simple and quick, two to three people to a table, depending on how much stuff each brought. There was lots of chattering, people introducing themselves to each other, and then the “oohs” and “aahs” started, as people began admiring what every body else brought.
The first step was for everyone to wander around and “shop”, just to see the things that were there and think about what they might want to swap. There was a “bid sheet” for each swap-able item and often samples. After about 10 minutes of perusing, the announcer said it was time to start bidding. This is when you write your name on the “bid sheet” of an item you want, and what you’re willing to trade.
There was no exact method here, it was just pretty much a free-for-all. I am certain I signed up for more items than I had to trade, but it didn’t seem to matter in the end. Another 20 or so minutes of bidding, sampling and chatting. A few babies crying and kids pulling on a parent’s sleeve imploring them to “come taste this!” and then it was time for the trading to begin.
Oh my, there was some high energy in the room! Everyone looked over their bid sheets and went off to find the folks who wanted to trade with them. Again, no formal system here, just lots of good-natured swapping and laughing. And a few gleeful giggles when a coveted item landed in your hands!
And this is what I got to bring home:
1 quart jar apple pie filling
1 quart jar beef bone broth
2 small jars tomato jam
½ ping salted caramel pear apple butter
1 small jar Oyster Mushroom Butter
Fresh goat cheese with herbs
Baby food jar of Grapefruit Lime Lotion
1/2 pint Plum Chutney
1 pint homemade catsup
1 pint fermented beets
Blueberry Hot Sauce
½ pint Balsamic Thyme Black Pepper Strawberry Jam
2 bottles Lemon Lime Ginger Kombucha
1 bottle Petite Sienna Beer (I’m not usually a beer drinker, but this was light and lovely)
1 quart bag of Dried Blueberry Hazelnut Granola
1 bag (2.5 oz) Open Book Study Tea
Everything I’ve tasted so far has been delicious and my larder is full! I’m absolutely in love with that Oyster Butter – tossed on roasted asparagus, its divine!
I chatted with two sisters who are part of the organizing effort. It looks like the next Swap will be in early May, and they predict it will become a quarterly event. Count me in.
If you’re thinking about creating a Food Swap in your community – and you should be! – here is a useful Toolkit.
Ancho Chili Chocolate Bark
By March 22, 2013Published:
This recipe originated from the Food 52 Cookbook. I adapted it just slightly. This is a perfect after-dinner sweet, though as I mentioned, it's not too sweet. Which I prefer. It's perfect at the end of a big meal when you just want a little something and still have the last of the red wine in your glass. So easy to make too, and it keeps in an air tight container for about a week.
- 1 large ancho chili
- 1 whole star anise
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 2-inch cinammon stick
- 2/3 cup shelled pistachios
- 2/3 cup cashews roughly chopped
- 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup crystallized ginger chopped
- To make the spice mix, heat the oven to 350. Spread the first 5 ingredients on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Toast until fragrant, about 10 minutes.
- Remove the stems and the majority of the seeds from the toasted ancho. Place the ancho and the rest of the spices in a coffee grinder (it doesn't even have to be really clean, the coffee adds a nice touch!) and pulverize. You may need to grind the spices in batches. (This will make much more spice mix then you need for one batch of bark. I kept mine after the first time I made it and had it and happily had it on hand for the Food Swap occasion).
- Toast the pistachios and the cashews on a baking sheet in the oven. Check after 10 minutes. Whey they're nicely toasted remove from the oven and let cool.
- Gently melt the chocolate, either in a microwave or on top of a double boiler, stirring often.
- Add 1 teaspoons of the spice mix to the chocolate and taste (I ended up using 2 teaspoons. Remember that when the chocolate cools the spice taste will be subtler.)
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the nuts and ginger close together in a single layer. Reserve a few of the nuts to decorate the top. Sprinkle the salt over the nuts and ginger.
- Slowly pour the chocolate onto the pan, covering the nuts and ginger. Use a spatula to spread it in an even layer.
- Cool the bark in the refrigerator for 45 minutes. Break into pieces and keep in a sealed container in the fridge.