Remember the tale of The Little Red Hen? The plucky chicken finds some grains of wheat. She asks her barnyard buddies if they’ll help plant them, but none are willing. The same thing happens when she requests their help harvesting it, threshing it, taking it to the mill to be ground into flour, and baking it into a golden loaf of bread. Only when she asks if they’ll help her eat the bread are they eager to participate. But the Little Red Hen turns them down, pointing out that she alone did every step of the work needed to produce that bread. The story has been used for decades to illustrate the value of a strong work ethic to children.
Gail Record reminds me of The Little Red Hen, not because she keeps the fruits of her labor for herself – she’s eager to share them – but because of her determination to grow and process as many of their ingredients as possible herself.
Record is the owner of Clarewood Farm and Bakery. This season she’s begun selling her wares at both the Old Capitol Farmers Market downtown and the Illinois Products Market at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. There are several excellent baked goods vendors at the markets, but Record is unique in using locally grown, certified organic wheat that she freshly grinds as needed. (For some items, she combines the whole wheat with organic unbleached white flour for lightness.) Eggs come from nearby pastured hens. She also uses locally grown, seasonally available fruits, vegetables and herbs, many of which come from her family farm, Clarewood, located in southwestern Sangamon County.
Record credits her two daughters with sparking her interest in local and organic foods. “Both of them worked on organic farms when they were in college,” she says. “They have a total commitment to sustainability.” Her daughter Lindsay is the executive director of the Springfield-based Illinois Stewardship Alliance.
This is not Record’s first food venture. During the 1970s, she sold herbs and some produce at the original Springfield Farmers Market, then located in front of the Old State Capitol. She also sold zucchini bread, which was a novelty. “It was fun,” she says. “At first I brought 25 loaves. They sold out so quickly; I brought more and more – finally I was making 85 or more loaves for each market. I’d drive up and people would say ‘Here comes the Zucchini Lady!’”
During the 1980s, Record did some freelance food writing for the State Journal-Register. Most recently, she managed the organic food section of Springfield’s Country Market grocery.
Clarewood Farm and Bakery is the result of Record’s and her two sister’s participation in “Farm Beginnings” in 2008-2009. (Clarewood Farm is owned jointly by them and their brother.) Farm Beginnings is a program sponsored by the University of Illinois Extension and The Land Connection that promotes the development of local food systems in central Illinois through farmer support and training. Record says, “The class was a turning point, as far as helping me clarify the direction I wanted to take. Clarewood Farm & Bakery wouldn’t have happened without Farm Beginnings.”
Much as Record wanted to grow her own wheat, it proved impractical. So she’s procuring it (5-6 different varieties) from a local farmer who will also supply her with oats this year. Clarewood Farm has 30-plus varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs, but some – such as apples – will take several years before they begin producing, so Record is sourcing them from other local growers for now as well.
Clarewood’s rotating offerings include different kinds of scones, three varieties of chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, brownies, muffins, quick breads, pies and shortbreads, many made with seasonal and local fruits and herbs. Whole-wheat tortillas and granola are specialties.
At the downtown market, Clarewood Farm & Bakery can be found on Broadway Street, a new extension of the market, slightly south and west of the railroad tracks at Adams and Third Street.
Contact Julianne Glatz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mu Shu pork
Record’s tortillas are customer favorites. Tortillas are made in virtually the same way as bao bing – a.k.a Beijing pancakes, northern Chinese flatbreads traditionally served with Mu Shu pork. In fact, the PBS cooking show, “Simply Ming,” featured a flour tortilla/Beijing pancake factory, just because they are so similar. Though fun to make – especially with kids – they’re undeniably time consuming. Good quality, purchased flour tortillas make serving home-made Mu Shu simple and quick enough for a midweek meal.
Both tortillas and bao bing are traditionally made with white flour but whole wheat versions such as Record’s have more flavor and texture, though they may not be as pliable.
- 3/4 lb pork, cut into thin bite-sized strips (this is easier to do if the meat is partially frozen)*
- 2 T. soy sauce, divided
- 1 T. cornstarch
- 2 T. sugar, divided
- 1/2 c. dried lily buds (hemerocallis), or substitute 3/4 c. fresh, unsprayed daylily buds
- 3 - 4 tree ear mushrooms (black fungus)
- 1/3 c. thinly sliced scallions
- 2 c. finely shredded cabbage (remove thick stems before shredding)
- 1 T. sesame oil
- 2 T. hoisin sauce OR 1 T. hoisin sauce and 1 T. fermented bean paste
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 T. peanut or vegetable oil
- 6 eggs, lightly beaten with ˝ tsp. salt
- 1/3 c. chicken or vegetable stock
- 12-16 small to medium Bao Bing or flour tortillas
- scallions, shredded into very thin strips
- hoisin sauce
In a bowl, combine the pork, 1 T. soy sauce, cornstarch, and 1 T. sugar and marinate for about 30 minutes. In another bowl, cover the lily buds with boiling water and let stand for about 10 minutes, then drain. Place the tree ear mushrooms in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 3 minutes. Let cool, drain, cut off any tough stem areas, and cut into the thinnest possible matchsticks. You should have ˝ c. of shredded mushrooms. Combine the hoisin sauce, remaining 1 T. each of soy sauce and sugar, garlic, and white pepper and set aside.
Have all ingredients ready and at hand. In a wok or skillet, heat the sesame oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the pork and stir-fry for about 1 minute or until the pork loses its pink color. Add the hoisin sauce mixture, lily buds, shredded mushrooms, scallions, and cabbage. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the cabbage is just wilted. Add the chicken stock and deglaze the pan (scrape up any browned bits clinging to the bottom. Transfer to a large bowl and keep warm. Return the wok to the heat and add the 2 T. peanut oil. Add the beaten eggs and scramble to a soft scramble stage, stirring with a flat bottom spoon. Add the pork mixture and continue to stir until the eggs are just hard scrambled and have broken into small pieces, about a minute.
To serve, heat the tortillas in a microwave. Each diner takes a tortilla, spreads a little hoisin sauce down the middle, spoons about ˝ c. of the filling down the center, and adds a few shreds of scallion, if desired. Roll up like a crępe or soft taco and eat out of hand. Serves 6- 8.
*Pork is the most common and traditional protein found in mu shu, but chicken, beef, shrimp or turkey can also be used. Make vegetarian versions by eliminating the protein altogether, or substituting fried tofu, button or portabella mushrooms, zucchini or even eggplant for the pork.