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zora

Poll: Odd groceries in middle America?

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It's never stopped me from buying a cookbook, though.  :wink:

Right. If I pick up a cookbook and browse through it, and the majority of the recipes look appealing and do-able, I'll buy it. Sometimes it even helps if there are some ingredients with which I'm not readily familiar. And if I have good luck with the recipes I try first, I look forward to sampling those with more intriguing ingredients. If they look good and interesting enough, I wouldn't mind ordering a few things from the internet.

I would suggest, though, that you include the definition and resource section at the back of the book. I think they're helpful.

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Smack dab in the middle of Kansas. Tiny farm town.

--Pomegranate molasses-No

--Sumac-No

--Aleppo pepper (Turkish-style red pepper)-No

--creme fraiche-No

--Mexican crema-No

--Spanish smoked paprika-No

--miso paste-No

--sherry vinegar-Yes

--duck (fresh or frozen)-Yes because my husband hunts

--duck fat-See above

--pancetta-No

--less common pig parts: trotters, unsmoked hocks, cheeks, slab bacon, skin-Yes

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I'm in a very small town in Southwestern Ontario. I'm 62 miles from the MI border.

--Pomegranate molasses- NO

--Sumac- NO

--Aleppo pepper (Turkish-style red pepper) NO

--creme fraiche- No

--Mexican crema - No

--Spanish smoked paprika _ Yes, mcormack brand

--miso paste- No

--sherry vinegar- Yes, Maille

--duck (fresh or frozen)- No

--duck fat- No

--pancetta- No, but we can get proscuitto

--less common pig parts: trotters, unsmoked hocks, cheeks, slab bacon, skin _ Yes, we're in a big pork producing county.

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I gotta say, I'm surprised that sherry vinegar is so common. That's the one thing I cannot consistently find in my own neighborhood!

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It's never stopped me from buying a cookbook, though.  :wink:

Right. If I pick up a cookbook and browse through it, and the majority of the recipes look appealing and do-able, I'll buy it. Sometimes it even helps if there are some ingredients with which I'm not readily familiar. And if I have good luck with the recipes I try first, I look forward to sampling those with more intriguing ingredients. If they look good and interesting enough, I wouldn't mind ordering a few things from the internet.

I would suggest, though, that you include the definition and resource section at the back of the book. I think they're helpful.

Yes, we have already put in some Internet sources for the rarer stuff, and we explain just about everything. (One of our recipe testers pointed out that she didn't know miso was a refrigerated item, for instance.)

The book is partially aimed at curious-but-new-to-cooking types, so we don't want to scare too many people. But from everyone's feedback, I'm encouraged that people in bookstores won't slam the book shut in despair at the sight of some of these ingredients.

Back to the butcher question--does anyone use one regularly? If you don't go to a dedicated meat guy (gal?), is the one at your supermarket useful? Can you order custom cuts?


Edited by zora (log)

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I'm smack dab in middle America here in Norman, Oklahoma (just south of OKC, about three hours north of Dallas). Despite OKC being a relatively large city, there is no "food culture" to speak of here, so many of these ingredients are difficult to find. I think I can actually identify sources for all of them, but certainly your bookstore cookbook shopper is going to have a rough go of it:

--Pomegranate molasses - No

--Sumac - No

--Aleppo pepper - No

--creme fraiche - No

--Mexican crema - Yes

--Spanish smoked paprika - Does McCormick count? That's a "no."

--miso paste - No

--sherry vinegar - Yes

--duck (fresh or frozen) - Yes

--duck fat - No

--pancetta - No

--less common pig parts - Some (trotters)

The book is partially aimed at curious-but-new-to-cooking types, so we don't want to scare too many people. But from everyone's feedback, I'm encouraged that people in bookstores won't slam the book shut in despair at the sight of some of these ingredients.

Alas, your average eGullet member does not exactly fit into this category: it's not surprising that no one here is particularly intimidated by that list. But I bet if I polled my neighbors not one of them would consider buying ANYTHING on it.

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I gotta say, I'm surprised that sherry vinegar is so common.  That's the one thing I cannot consistently find in my own neighborhood!

I lived in Astoria for six years (I'm originally from Brooklyn) and could never find sherry vinegar locally until I moved to first the New Jersey, then the Pennsylvania, suburbs. My local store at the time, Trade Fair, had lots of odd ethnic ingredients, however, that I'm hard-pressed to find around here, except in the ethnic section of Wegman's. They also had halal chickens with their heads still on, but no kosher ones. Go figure.

That having been said, I tend to agree with Chris:

Alas, your average eGullet member does not exactly fit into this category: it's not surprising that no one here is particularly intimidated by that list. But I bet if I polled my neighbors not one of them would consider buying ANYTHING on it.

eGullet members are not at all representative of the "curious-but-new-to-cooking" demographic. You might be better served polling random people in your building and neighborhood.

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The book is partially aimed at curious-but-new-to-cooking types, so we don't want to scare too many people. But from everyone's feedback, I'm encouraged that people in bookstores won't slam the book shut in despair at the sight of some of these ingredients.

Alas, your average eGullet member does not exactly fit into this category: it's not surprising that no one here is particularly intimidated by that list. But I bet if I polled my neighbors not one of them would consider buying ANYTHING on it.

In a similar but slightly different vein, I live just north of Chicago. Everything on the list is available here, but it takes a lot of riding around and a good knowledge of gourmet and ethnic grocery stores. If I were the average suburban shopper who just hits the Jewel or Dominicks (our 2 big supermarket chains) every week, I would have a real problem with some of this, even if I was intrigued by the recipes.

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I live in Madison, WI.

Pomegranate mollases--I've never looked, but I'm sure I could find it

Aleppo pepper, Sumac--I've never looked but there's a Penzey's storefront in town

creme fraiche--yes

crema--yes

smoked Paprika--yes

miso paste--all the colors of the rainbow

sherry vinegar--yes

duck--frozen, yes

duck fat--yes, but you really have to look around

pancetta--yes

The pig parts are a bit more complicated: fresh trotters are available easily, but skin alone is not. Fresh bellies are easy to order from a couple of butchers around town, but it's an unusual order for them--there's only one place where I can get skin on bellies and I have to buy the whole thing (though this is not a problem for me). A medium sized Asian market carries belly, pig's head, and things like that but there selection is sporadic. "Side pork," aka unsmoked, uncured belly usually sliced like bacon is relatively easy to find.

Luckily, there is a gigantic farmer's market that enables you to talk to farmer's directly so I've got a good source for all things Berkshire (except liver--they're not allowed to sell much offal by law), but at a very high price, all frozen, and only sporadically. They're a good source for me for smoked and fresh pork jowl and back fat though when they're around.

I have to second Chris Hennes' caveat that you're talking to an unusual bunch. It's taken me some time and energy to find sources for all the things I want and when I go to butcher stores they're always surprised but excited by my requests. All in all though, in a town like this if somebody really wants to explore food, they can.

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Not exactly from a non-coastal city as I live in Hawaii (suburbs on Oahu, to be exact), but of your list, I can get everything except duck fat and Mexican crema.

Most of the items are available in large supermarkets and/or Whole Foods and other natural food stores; pig parts at Asian grocers.

There is nothing like the traditional butcher shops in NYC. The handful of butcher shops here are more into selling 1/2 cow cut to order, rather than a small quantity of a particular cut.

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I live in a small town in a small state and will answer your query with what I know for certain can get locally, since almost anything can be had via the net.

At out local supermarket:

sherry vinegar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Yes

pancetta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Yes

slab bacon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Yes

Spanish smoked paprika . . . . . . . . . . Some smoked - McCormick brand - doesn't say it's Spanish

duck (fresh or frozen) . . . . . . . . . . . . Maybe 20 mile from town?

Haven't seen any of the below locally. I do need to look harder in the twenty mile radius but have not yet stumbled across:

Pomegranate molasses . . . . . . . . . . . No

Sumac . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . No

Aleppo pepper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . No

creme fraiche . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . No

Mexican crema . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . No

miso paste . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . No

duck fat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . No

trotters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . No

unsmoked hocks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .No

cheeks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . No

skin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . No

Our local supermarket in town isn't very super. I've yowled about it here. It's twenty miles to get to a somewhat better market - still nothing near as good as a Whole Foods or the like. Real food selections are probably fifty to a hundred miles. Just not worth the drive.

We just in the last year or so got a couple of decent custom butcher shops about twenty miles away. What a change! Good meat. Mmmmmmm.

Wouldn't trust our local market in town here for custom work at the meat counter. I have never asked and probably never will. Heck, on the ordinary non custom meats in the bins, I look at everything there very closely before I buy. Too many substandard items.

The worst though is just that the day to day meat and veggies are usually blah at best and of somewhat limited variety. The variety does keep improving. I don't want to think about what would not have been available twenty years ago.

A request to any and all cookbook authors and publishers: please start putting gram based recipes in cookbooks - or both gram and the ordinary volumetric measurements. Even in my poorly provisioned outpost, gram scales are available a few miles away, and make such a difference that I can see a time when cookbooks will be considered near unusable without gram measurements.

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In Seattle, no prob for any of this; In the heartlands of our families in Boonville Missouri, No way except the pig parts and maybe a bad grade of Sherry Vinegar. I would buy the spices from Penseys any how. Probably the Miso would be available in Columbia [25miles] and maybe some of the rest.

An aside though is just make the Sherry Vinegar. Very easy to do, the hard part being the fancy french jar [ I don't know how to spell the name of this cask or ceramic jar - I think vingarre?] which can be a sun tea jar wrapped in tin foil. Get the 'Mother' from any home brew supply or possibly, even from a bottle in your own cupboard.

edit:Lastly, it can be real Hell trying to find Veal in much of the midwest.


Edited by RobertCollins (log)

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edit:Lastly, it can be real Hell trying to find Veal in much of the midwest.

I had lived my whole life in the NYC metro area until I came to Chicago a few years ago. One of the most amazing things to me here is to see these vast supermarkets with tiny meat sections. Once you get beyond chicken, pork chops and ground beef, the variety is pretty poor in the big chains.

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Back to the butcher question--does anyone use one regularly?  If you don't go to a dedicated meat guy (gal?), is the one at your supermarket useful?  Can you order custom cuts?

Real butchers are a rarity here. The only specialty meat shops in the area are geared toward Cajun meats (stuffed chickens, sausages, and the like). There are no butchers to speak of. Even for bones -- most markets you ask will try to sell you shank and not know what you're asking for, and they look at you with a blank face when you tell them you need to make stock. :rolleyes:

We can count on Whole Foods to have a great selection, but they are very high. Local markets carry the normal cuts and will order for us, however. Unfortunately, their skills are marginal. I ordered a crown roast of pork for something one year, and I even brought a picture of "This is what it should look like, and this is what it should not look like." And the end-product was what it should not have looked like. :wacko:

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if it was fall, I could go outside and pick all the sumac I wanted.

In Western NY the pioneers made a "sumac tea" from the staghorn sumac . It was sort of like lemonade and supposedly full of vitamins.

I expect I could find everything on the list, Wegmans would have a lot, crema most likely at Super-Wal_Mart or a smaller Mexican store, we have a Halal market for sumac, pom mollasses.

Italian stores for pancetta. I would guess the public market would have piggy parts which I don't use. These are the places I enjoy shopping and all the non-meat things have had a home in my pantry at some point.

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I live in Atlanta, hardly a small town, and I could buy everything on the list IF -- and this is a big if -- I was willing to drive all over the city.

Personally, I'd be willing to drive for ingredients, but if you're asking what you can get at the usual grocery stores, then, this is my experience:

Of your list, I could get smoked paprika (probably not Spanish) and Mexican crema at my main grocery store. I know I can get duck and sherry vinegar at Whole Foods.

The other items? I know I can find them, but as I said, it might take a drive to a lot of markets that are out of the ordinary.

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We live in a town of 50K located an hour from DC and Baltimore. Readily available: creme fraiche, Mexican crema, miso, frozen duck, pancetta, pig trotters/tails/tripe. Other pig parts would require a 45-minute drive. We have most of the other ingredients in the kitchen, but I had to mail-order them. No specialized butcher.

I am amazed that so many people can find sherry vinegar locally. I searched for weeks, and finally ordered a bottle from Kalyustans (along with pomegranate molasses, oddly enough, and a few Indian spices).

Good luck with the cookbook!

(edited to add a few pig parts)


Edited by C. sapidus (log)

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I live north of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, (pop. 125,000) and south of Brookings, SD (pop. 28,000). I've purchased pomegranate molasses and Spanish smoked paprika at the TJ Maxx store in Sioux Falls, but not anywhere else. The Hy-Vee grocery chain that we have here in the mid-West carries creme fraiche, cheap sherry vinegar, domestically-produced pancetta and slab bacon. Sioux Falls also has many small Mexican markets and a few Asian/international markets, so miso is available, and Mexican crema probably is as well.

The Super Wal-Mart in Brookings carries offal and pig parts, though I haven't seen cheeks or skin.

There are many local meat lockers in the area, and two butchers in Sioux Falls that offer various cuts of meat and locally-produced sausages and cured meats.

April

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Have to chime in here, as a resident of an almost 400K population megaburb of the second largest city in the country.........

--Pomegranate molasses---Not a chance, and I've looked everywhere I shop, and I shop regularly at all the major chains in the area, including Whole Paychecks and Bristol Farms (a SoCal Whole Foods clone). And I covet this, so I keep looking.

--Sumac---Ditto

--Aleppo pepper (Turkish-style red pepper)---Ditto

--creme fraiche---Easily. At Trader Joes for about 1/3 of the price as Whole Paychecks and Bristol Farms. At the regular chain stores, not a chance.

--Mexican crema ---Easily, if you go to the lower end mega-mart chains. At the upper crust ones, not so much.

--Spanish smoked paprika---Nope, had to buy mine off the Interwebs.

--miso paste---Only at my local Albertsons. None of the other mega-mart chains, and not at Bristol Farms, or TJs. Haven't looked at WF. And only the red at my Albertsons.

--sherry vinegar---Pretty common. Bristol Farms, and the upper-end mega-marts.

--duck (fresh or frozen)---Frozen, pretty much everywhere. Fresh, never.

--duck fat---Bristol Farms, only. And then, rarely. And its frozen.

--pancetta---Everywhere. *IF* you want it in paper thin, pre-packaged slices, or in in vacuum packed poly paks of less than 1/4-inch chunks. If you want a slab to do with what you will, sorry, you're S.O.L.

--less common pig parts: trotters, unsmoked hocks, cheeks, slab bacon, skin---Not a chance. Not no where, not no place. I haven't seen a butcher, a real live butcher, since I played with dolls.

Now. Like others have said, I'm sure that I could find these things within about a 25-mile radius of me if........if.........*IF*........I took the time to research them and drive to them and find them. I am a foodie. I am likely to do this.

Is the average person.........probably not so much. Certainly most of my friends, although they love eating my food, would look at something like aleppo and go.....PASS.

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I think what we can glean from this is that anyone can get anything on your list, but some things will require extra effort.

I'm sure including these ingredients in a few of your recipes won't be a deal breaker, especially if you offer a familiar and readily-available substitute.

But I'd suggest you don't write "The Pomegranate Molasses Cookbook: 100 Delicious Ways to Use Up That Last Bottle."

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I think what we can glean from this is that anyone can get anything on your list, but some things will require extra effort.

I'm sure including these ingredients in a few of your recipes won't be a deal breaker, especially if you offer a familiar and readily-available substitute.

I agree. I live in Japan where I can get most anything, so I can buy and use almost any cookbook. But certain cookbooks that have a lot of recipes which use very country-specific items (butter-flavoured Crisco in the US, for example), are pretty much off my list for now. Although I'm in a different country, the same sentiment can apply to anyone who lives in a region with more limited availability of "ethnic" ingredients.

For me, if I think I want to make about 75% of the recipes (not that I would ever make that many--I'm too lazy, but it's just the desire that counts), and then can make, using ingredients available to me, at least half those (not that I'd make that many, either), then I'd buy the book.

But I'd suggest you don't write "The Pomegranate Molasses Cookbook: 100 Delicious Ways to Use Up That Last Bottle."

I missed the "you don't write" part and just saw the title, so I thought, "There's a cookbook like that? I need to buy it!" :biggrin: I've got a bottle of pomegranate molasses in my pantry that's about 4 years old. I've only got 13 months left in Japan to use it up, and I don't know what I want to do with it! (I bought it for a recipe from FoodMan's eGCI course on Lebanese cooking, and haven't touched it since.)

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I've got a bottle of pomegranate molasses in my pantry that's about 4 years old. I've only got 13 months left in Japan to use it up [ QUOTE]

In addition to the middle eastern recipes I got it for I put it in things which need a bit of "something". I started using it in a version of the CI no-knead bread. They called for beer, I substituted some herbs and some pomegranate molasses and it was good. I also use it in soups, but then my soups have no set recipe.

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Here in Ventura county (north of LA) most items would be no problem. The little non-chain market nearest my house is now owned by a Middle Eastern family and serves a primarily Mexican and Filipino clientele so they stock an interesting range of items that I used to have to hunt around for.

--Pomegranate molasses - yes

--Sumac - yes

--Aleppo pepper - yes

--creme fraiche - yes, at any big super

--Mexican crema - yes, everywhere

--Spanish smoked paprika - probably yes, though I bought mine from Penzeys

--miso paste - yes, although the selection varies from 1or 2 to many varieties depending on the store

--sherry vinegar - yes - 10 years ago, this used to be a problem for me to find but it's now at Trader Joes and big supers

--duck (fresh or frozen) - frozen, easy. Haven't looked for fresh but I'm sure they'd be available from Asian markets closer to LA

--duck fat - haven't seen it

--pancetta - yes

--less common pig parts - Some

Now, my parents live in rural Northern New York and I'm guessing creme fraiche, pigs feet (perhaps other pig parts, too) and maybe frozen duck would be the only available items on the list.

I'm not big meat eater or cooker so I have no butcher experience. I've driven by a number of nearby places with names like Carniceria El Matador‎ but have not stopped in to investigate.

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I'm working on a cookbook that I want to be pretty accessible. But I live in a very ethnically diverse part of New York City, so it's easy to lose sight of what ingredients are common or hard to come by.

My only other frame of reference is my hometown of Albuquerque, which just happens to have a ginormous international foods market, which solves just about every cooking conundrum.

But I don't know whether other smaller cities have the same diversity--whether for "ethnic" groceries or items that are considered high-end gourmet.

So, eGulleteers in non-coastal cities, can you let me know which of these things you can find easily (or not)?

--Pomegranate molasses

--Sumac

--Aleppo pepper (Turkish-style red pepper)

--creme fraiche

--Mexican crema

--Spanish smoked paprika

--miso paste

--sherry vinegar

--duck (fresh or frozen)

--duck fat

--pancetta

--less common pig parts: trotters, unsmoked hocks, cheeks, slab bacon, skin

I guess it would help if you also defined "easily"--supermarket, or only at a specialty store that you just happen to know about?

I'm also curious:  how many people actually have specialized butchers to visit?  (As opposed to just the meat case in the supermarket...)

Thanks a million!

I live in Bloomington, Indiana, a college town with a great slow-foods scene, so this may be not quite applicable, but here goes:

Pom. Molasses: Yes, in the local coop grocery and the specialty aisle of a chain grocery. Also Trader Joes, which is in Indianapolis but still mid-America.

Sumac: We have 3 middle-eastern groceries here, thanks to the University, so no problem with this one either. Never seen it at a chain grocer but never looked, either. I bought a huge bag of it in Chicago and will probably never need to buy it again.

Aleppo Pepper: In the "International" section of chain grocery store and mid-east grocery.

Crema: Ever been to a "Super Wal Mart" - the kind with groceries. There's lots of Mexican stuff there - tripe, chicken feet, crema, queso fresco and anejo, etc. I assume lots of poorer migrant farm workers shop there.

Miso Paste: Everywhere. I could probably find ten stores in this town of 90,000 that carry it.

Sherry Vinegar: Ditto. Always in the "International" aisle of the local Marsh.

Duck: Farmer's Market and the local coop always has it.

Duck Fat: Maybe not; I know the co-op can order it, but have never seen it available in a retail store; I lived in Chicago and never saw it there, either.

Pancetta: It's easily available, in every decent commercial grocery store. Easy.

Less common pig parts: Farmers markets: I've gotten pig livers, hearts, I could even get the lungs. Trotters, unsmoked belly, etc. are readily available.

I suppose that we're lucky to be in a culinarily diverse college town, but Bloomington is still 45 miles from the nearest big city and we do just fine. I'm sure there are small towns that won't have access to any of the things you mentioned, but, honestly, are people in those places going to pick up your cookbook anyway?

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Have to chime in here, as a resident of an almost 400K population megaburb of the second largest city in the country.........

--Pomegranate molasses---Not a chance, and I've looked everywhere I shop, and I shop regularly at all the major chains in the area, including Whole Paychecks and Bristol Farms (a SoCal Whole Foods clone).  And I covet this, so I keep looking.

--Sumac---Ditto

--Aleppo pepper (Turkish-style red pepper)---Ditto

That's strange because the pomegranate molasses I have in my fridge is imported by IndoEuropean, which is headquartered in Glendale. And I know I shopped in an Armenian store last time I was in LA -- I'm sure it would carry sumac and Aleppo pepper.

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