The Wedding

Last weekend was the much anticipated wedding of my older brother! I flew home to Wisconsin to help celebrate. My mom, my younger brother and I were responsible for the rehearsal dinner the night before the ceremony, and we decided to do a local Wisconsin theme - sourcing as much as we could from South Central Wisconsin. We'd been planning for months, and it was fun to finally put it all together! The dinner was to be a picnic at a Madison city park, so a traditional Wisconsin bratwurst cookout seemed appropriate.

My mom started collecting the ingredients weeks before: In early September, she started fermenting cabbage to make sauerkraut, and called a local farm to order the bratwurst. She ordered hot dog buns from Jennifer Street Market, a favorite neighborhood grocery store/bakery. She collected three different flavors of locally made mustard, and about 4 different locally made pickles and pickle relish. The Saturday before, she went to the main Madison farmers market to buy whatever produce ingredients we thought would last through the week (the dinner was the following Friday.)

The day before the rehearsal dinner, my younger brother and I drove all over town looking for the remaining ingredients: sweet corn, potatoes for potato salad, vegetables for an appetizer veggie tray, basil for the pesto that was to be the veggie dip, summer sausage and cheese for another appetizer, crackers, tomatoes for tomato relish, and a few other random ingredients.

This is the Madison South Side Farmer's Market, which happened to be the only market around that happens on a Thursday. There were only three tents - a far cry from the main Madison farmers market which draws hundreds of farmers and thousands of customers! We were hoping to source a lot of the produce we needed here, and were a little disappointed at first glance. Once we looked over what they had though, we were happy to find a few things we needed. I've never felt like my farmer's market dollars were spent so well, or to such deserving farmers in need of support! We bought about 5lb of red potatoes, a few tomatoes, a bunch of radishes, a few cucumbers, and a few heads of garlic.

From here, we headed to the West Side to hunt down some local hard sausage to slice with cheese and crackers as an appetizer. This proved more difficult than we anticipated. We tried several places that touted their "local Wisconsin" products and had summer sausage galore, but on closer inspection we found that the sausage was only packed under the "Wisconsin" companies' label, or was made in Madison of meat sourced from a feed-lot in Nebraska or Colorado. Disappointing. It felt good to walk into these stores, ask about their products, and leave without buying anything when it became clear that they weren't really local. This is a great way to encourage these stores to source things from actual local farms!

We finally found some real local pasture raised summer sausage at Artamos Meats, a really nice specialty meat shop on the West Side. Score! From there we headed back to the other side of town to The Willy Street Co-op, where we were sure to find many local products. I worked at Willy Street before moving out to California, and it has remained very near and dear to my heart. We got a few more veggies for our veggie tray, a few more red potatoes, locally made Potters crackers, local butter from pastured cows, Maple Syrup for the apple crisp my mom was planning, some gourmet Wisconsin cheeses, and a few other odds and ends.

The only thing we were still missing was the sweet corn. We had hoped to find some at the farmer's market, but struck out. Willy Street didn't have any either.....we went back to my mom's house and called four or five farms listed in the Farm Fresh Atlas, a wonderful publication that lists farmers in the Madison Area. Every farmer we called told us that the season was over. We were about to give up, but decided to call one more farm, a U-pick about 45 minutes outside town. The recorded message on the answering machine told us that yes, they still had corn, although it was close to being done for the year. Score! We hopped back in the car (how ironic that we put so many miles on the car hunting down all this local food!) and drove out to the farm.
It was exactly as we hoped! The farm had an amazing array of veggies you could pick yourself, but the sweet corn had to be picked by the farmer. We told him we wanted 4doz, and he immediately got in his truck and drove off to pick them for us.

As we waited, I took advantage of their U-Pick flower garden to collect some flowers for the dinner. In about 15 minutes he was back with the corn - it looked great!

After we got back to the house, we set to work prepping a few things - time would be relatively short the following day, and we wanted to get as much done as possible....

I picked these beets from my Mom's garden, along with some basil to make pesto for a vegetable dip. I topped the beets, washed them, and boiled them while I made the pesto - basil, olive oil, garlic, walnuts, Parmesan cheese, and some sour cream to make it "dippy." My younger brother set to work on the tomato relish (local ketchup is non-existent, so we decided on relish as an alternative.) He pureed tomatoes with onions, vinegar and salt in the food processor to make a chunky relish.

Once the beets were done I skinned them (the skins slip right off after they're cooked) and then sliced them and dressed them with a little apple cider vinegar, salt, and oil. The pesto, beet salad, and tomato relish all went in the fridge overnight.

Here's my Mom with the flowers she picked from her garden. She added them to the flowers I had gotten from the farm, and made quite a few beautiful bouquets.

Friday morning, after getting a relaxing pedicure with the other female members of the bridal party, I set to work on the potato salad. I based it on the potato salad that my Grandmother Blodgett used to make - red potatoes cut thinly and lightly cooked, celery (n0t local, but essential to the recipe,) parsley from my mom's garden, all dressed very simply with white vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. It's pretty easy, but it did take a while to slice all those potatoes!

This was my big experiment of the day - an edible veggie "floral" arrangement. I'd never made one of these, but had been anxious to try, and this seemed like a great occasion! I started by poking all these bamboo skewers into this savoy cabbage.

In the foreground is the finished product - not perfect, but not bad for my first try! The hardest part was not poking myself with the skewers as a put the veggies on. You can see the pesto dip in the background, along with the crackers, cheese and veggie trays, and some local deviled eggs that my Aunts and Grandmother made.

The cheese and sausage disappeared quick! There were two kinds of white cheese that my mom had collected (I don't remember what they were....) plus some artisan blue cheese, and one of my favorite cheeses ever, the 7 year aged cheddar from Willy Street. If you've never tried aged Wisconsin cheddar cheese, I highly recommend it - it's everything cheddar cheese should be!

The veggie arrangement looked almost too good to eat, so I made a simple veggie tray as well - bell peppers and green beans from Mom's garden, cucumbers from the farmer's market, and Romanesco broccoli and watermelon (aka Beauty Heart) radishes from Willy Street. These radishes are one of my favorite things to use on a raw veggie platter - they're one of those little known and under appreciated vegetables they always catch peoples attention. The Romanesco also gained a lot of new admirers.

Unfortunately, those are the only pictures I got of the picnic. It soon got dark, and I was simply too busy being a hostess to take pictures. Needless to say everything was delicious! My younger brother did a great job grilling the corn, brats, and a few eggplant slices for the vegetarians. The total spread included a big bowl of potato salad, marinated beets, home-made sauerkraut, tomato relish, three kinds of mustard, four kinds of pickles, sweet corn with butter, and bratwurst with freshly baked buns. All this was washed down by local microbrews for the adults and locally made root beer for the kids. For dessert my Mom had made a wonderful local apple crisp sweetened with local honey and maple syrup, which we served with locally made ice cream and a pot of locally roasted decaf coffee. What a wonderful Wisconsin feast!!

The wedding reception was catered by a pretty well respected Madison catering company, and featured a lot of local ingredients. I didn't get a whole lot of pictures, but I managed to snap a few:

The meal was served "family" style, with platters being delivered to each table for people to spoon what they wanted from. It was a Mexican theme: chips and salsa and margaritas before dinner, followed by tortillas, beans, rice, sour cream, a pico de gallo plus a red and green salsa...

These tamales were presented beautifully. They were wrapped in banana leaves instead of the traditional corn husks, and were filled with cheese, mild chiles, and masa.

The grilled steak was done to perfection! Very rare, and it practically melted in your mouth!

Instead of one big cake, each individual table got a little carrot cake. This was the head table's - the squirrel couple were adorable! It was garnished with ground cherries, which are a little known locally grown fruit that are kind of like sweet tomatillos .....very nice!

It was a whirlwind of a weekend, and lots of work for everyone involved, but oh what fun!!!!
share on: Facebook