A Guide to Good Ingredients

A few go-to sources for the holiday bird, sides, breads, and sweets can lead to a memorable feast.


Heritage turkeys from BN Ranch.

Colin Price/Good Eggs

This Thanksgiving, pull up a chair to an unforgettable farm-to-table feast with local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients that not only offer peak flavor, but support regional farmers and purveyors.


Heritage turkeys from BN Ranch

The initials stand for Bill Niman, one of the pioneers in raising sustainable meat, who founded Niman Ranch decades ago. In 2007, he and his wife, Nicolette, started raising heritage turkeys on their 200-acre BN Ranch in Bolinas. They are now one of the largest producers of heritage turkeys in California.

The turkeys are direct descendants of three distinct old breeds: Standard Bronze, Narragansett, and Spanish Black. Unlike mass-produced turkeys, these heritage birds actually live outside and fly. They are also slaughtered at 28 weeks old, twice the age of a supermarket turkey, to allow them to develop deeper flavor. They don’t need to be brined to cook up juicy, Niman said. “People who like dark meat will find that same wonderful rich taste and succulence in the white meat of our heritage turkeys, too,’’ he added. “It’s not gamey; it’s just more turkey-like.’’

Find BN Ranch heritage turkeys, $6.99 to $10 per pound, at Berkeley Bowl, Local Butcher, and through delivery by Good Eggs. Both locations of Market Hall Foods also will sell the turkeys already cooked.  www.EatLikeItMatters.com


Aaron Dinwoodie

Sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potatoes from Feral Heart Farm

Farmers Aaron Dinwoodie and Sophie Bassin grow certified organic sweet potatoes at their Sunol AgPark farm, and they are beloved by Niles Pie Co. in Union City, Farm Burger in Berkeley, and Juhu Beach Club in Oakland. They’re also a staple from fall through winter at their Feral Heart Farm stand at the Friday Old Oakland farmers market, selling for $2.50 to $3 per pound.

Two types are available: an orange-fleshed Covington, as well as the Okinawan, a Japanese varietal with purple skin that gives way to starchier off-white flesh. They’re the two types that Bassin and Dinwoodie most like to eat. Dinwoodie likes to grate the orange ones to fry up as latkes, and to cube the purple one to simmer in soups such as Japanese dashi broth.  www.FeralHeartFarm.wixsite.com/feralheartfarm


Pastured Eggs from Skyelark Ranch

Even though this Capay Valley farm also sells lamb, pork, and broiler chickens, its eggs are what many customers make a beeline for during holiday baking season needs.

Alexis Robertson and her husband, Gillies, have 2,000 hens that spend their days outside, nibbling on grass, leaves, bugs, and seeds, in addition to non-GMO grain. During spring and winter, when the grass is abundant, it helps color the yolks a vibrant orange. “Our yolks are perkier; they stand up higher,’’ said Alexis Robertson. “They taste like an egg should taste.’’

A dozen large eggs is $7, and a dozen jumbo is $8 at the Sunday Jack London Square farmers market. www.SkyelarkRanch.com


Heirloom Grain Flours from Capay Mills

Take your holiday baking to another level with rare, heirloom whole-grain flours that are more flavorful and more nutritious than standard commodity wheat. David Kaisel, owner of Capay Mills, stone-grinds about 10 different types from grain grown in Oregon and California, and even on his own five acres in the Capay Valley.

“Each variety is really distinct,’’ Kaisel said. “Each has a different taste and color, and gluten quality.’’

He recommends Red Fife, a hard red wheat, for bread because it produces a dark, rustic loaf; emmer for great pie crust and biscuits because of its earthy quality; and triticale, a hybridized wheat that’s a cross between wheat and rye, for lending the perfect sweetness to cakes and cookies.

Two pounds of whole-grain flour retail for about $9.75 at his stand at the Temescal Sunday farmers market and at Preserved in Oakland. The flours also are available through Good  Eggs, and Farm Fresh to You. www.CapayMills.com/#capay-mills


Heirloom Winter Squash from Baia Nicchia

Geneticist-turned-farmer Fred Hempel grows gorgeous hard winter squashes on five acres in the Sunol AgPark. Think butternut Regosa, an Italian heirloom that boasts deep, bold flavor; three-lobed Terremotos that are pink or speckled on the outside; and the unusual Triamble that’s blue-gray on the outside and deep orange on the inside. The latter two are his creations, too.

 “The Terremotos and Triambles are popular for their looks and durability,” Hempel said. “It’s art for six months, then you can still eat them.”

Prepare butternut Regosa however you would a regular butternut. Because the Terremotos and Triambles have dense flesh, they’re best roasted, mashed, or incorporated into soups. The squashes, $12 to $20 each, will be for sale at Fenestra Winery’s Holiday Tasting event, noon to 5 p.m. Nov. 19-20. www.FenestraWinery.com; BaiaNicchia.blogspot.com


Local Wildflower Honeys from Bee Healthy Honey Shop

Owner Khaled Almaghafi is a third-generation beekeeper who learned the trade as a child in Yemen. His Bee Healthy Honey Shop in Oakland stocks 45 varieties of honey, including coffee honey from Africa, oregano honey from Greece, and macadamia honey from Hawaii. Each boasts a different hue and flavor influenced by the nectar of the specific flowers the bees forage on.

His biggest seller is wildflower honey, gathered from 150 hives he keeps around the Bay Area. For Thanksgiving, drizzle honey on rolls or use to sweeten pies, vinaigrettes, and sweet potato casseroles. Almaghafi also stocks honeycomb, the perfect topper with goat cheese atop a slab of artisan bread for a novel appetizer.

“I use honey in everything,” he said. “I gave up sugar a long time ago. I even put it in my coffee.”

The honeys, which start at $10, are also sold at the Temescal Sunday farmers market, the Old Oakland Friday farmers market, and the South Berkeley Tuesday farmers market. www.BeeHealthyHoneyShop.com


Published online on Nov. 22, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

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