Posts Tagged ‘30 mile meal’

The Sorghum Also Rises


On a cold December 13th, I got up at the crotch of dawn, drove 45 minutes due east through the moutainous Ohio countryside to get to the barnyard of Willie Gingrich who lives on Tabor Ridge Road. My friend Matt Starline promised to meet me here and show me how to make organic sorghum syrup with the Amish. As I stepped out of the car, I was not only assaulted by a baseball bat of cold air but the sight of Willie butchering a 500 pound hog that was hanging from a tree in his front yard.

“That’s a nice pig.” I said.

“He was a nuisance in the barnyard. That’s why he’s hangin’ from my tree…upside down…and slit open.” Willie said as he cut three inch wide strips of skin off with a box cutter ensuring that none of the fat got pulled off with the skin.

 I made a mental note to avoid  nuisance-like behavior around Willie.

 Just then Matt appeared from a weathered shed that for all purposes looked like it was on fire. Matt had brought the sorghum cane that he had cut from his river-bottom field and it sat stacked high on a trailer. He himself looked like a Siberian hunter out here in the cold and I looked down thankful I had beat-up jeans and crappy shoes on. This day making sorghum syrup looked like it was gonna get messy.


The organic sorghum cane that Matt brought all the way up State Route 550 and the juice from can which tasted like green candy.

Sorghum is native to Ethiopia and is thought to be cultivated between 3000 and 4000 B.C. Some say that the seeds were brought to the new world by slaves. There are two types of sourghum; the grain sorghum (Sorghum Bicolor) and the (Saccharatum) which is used for the sap that is abundant in the thick stems. Sorhum is considered to be one of the four most important grains in the world and is higher in protein and lower in fat than corn and easier to grow than corn. It is used extensively in Africa, India, China and the Near East. (No, that’s not Pittsburg.) Sorghum is not used that much anymore in the U.S.

      Matt with the lighter syrup on the left from the initial cooking and the darker version on the right after hours of cooking.

I am intent on making a pizza out of both types of sorghum, but first I want to know how Matt Starline makes his syrup. here is a great video of how the stuff is made. Like Matt said, “No one does this stuff anymore.” The government doesn’t even want these guys to label it ‘Molassas,’ because of rules; (i.e. corporate lobbiests) and regulations, (i.e. those made by our politicians after they were bought off by these corporations.) Can’t a guy just grow some cane, juice it, cook it and jar it without a hassle anymore?


Alright; I hope you come back  for a great freakin’ pizza with both Ohio sorghum syrup and Ohio sorghum flour in the next post.

30 Mile Meal Pizza: Asparagus, Bacon, Feta and Gruyere

After my time at the Chesterhill Produce Auction, I got to thinking about the 30 Mile Meal Project here in Athens. These are people who, in a very short time, have promoted the use of sustainable local foods in a 30-mile radius of Athens. Thanks to them and Rural Action, I ended up with some great veggies and the resulting pizza below. If you wanna taste one just like it, come to Avalanche Pizza the week of July 17th and I’ll make you one. That’s Restaurant Week in the 30 Mile Meal Project.

My pizza, topped with local vegetables and ready for the oven.

Like I said previously, the auction is run by Rural Action and Tom Redfern and Bob Fedeski. They get the word out to guys like me who want the freshest vegetables around.

Brandon Jaeger, Co-Owner of Shagbark Seed and Milling Company (left) and Matt Rapposelli, Executive Chef at Ohio University (right)  are proponents of local foods here in Southeast Ohio. They’re great guys (despite those evil looks).

This day at the auction, I see some tough bidding competitors like Matt Rapposelli, the Executive Chef of Ohio University. I also see the chefs from The Wilds. Matt has retooled his prep kitchens to wash, peel, shave, chop, package and freeze all these local vegetables for students eating at the University.

All sorts of people showed up for the first produce auction of the year. There was no  fruit to be seen but lots asparagus, garlic, chard and radish.

Here are the ingredients  for this local pizza:

Shagbark Spelt pizza dough using a 50/50 blend

Easy Dough Recipe

3 medium leaves multi-colored Swiss chard

7 young Chesterhill radishes

2 spring garlic sprouts

4 to 5 slices of lean King family bacon

1/4 cup of Integration Acres goat feta

A big fat slice of Laurel Valley Gruyere

5 spears of fresh asparagus

Quick Marinade for the radishes and chard:

2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar,

Pinch of salt

Pinch of sugar

Slice the ham, then peel the skin of the asparagus.

Slice the asparagus lengthwise.

Slice the radishes thin or on a mandoline, toss them in a bowl with the vinegar, salt and sugar.

Cut the stem out of the chard, roll the leaf lengthwise and cut in a thin chiffonade.

Toss the chard with the chopped garlic and the radish.

Form the spelt crust round on parchment paper. Add the goat cheese and gruyere.


Add the ham, then the chard-garlic-radish mix. Then top with the asparagus. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the bottom is crisp. Serve immediately.

Nothing is better than a 30 mile pizza.

Here’s Tom and Bob explaining the Chesterhill produce auction