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Food from the Heart of the Valley

'Changes' is a good song by the Band YES, and changes are something that happen regularly in our lives. The same is true for ranch and farm owners in the San Luis Valley. Decisions must be made on occasion about how to best use the family ground to adapt to changing economic conditions, mixed with what current family members consider their passion. We can all be versatile, when by necessity, we have to be.

While volunteering for the 12 Hours of Penitence Bike Race on October 18th, our aid station was treated to a local's lunch. A warm box showed up shortly after noon filled with locally grown baked potatoes and fixings, including Gosar sausages. Yum!

When I was leaving later that afternoon I met Kris Gosar at his grill where he had been cooking brats and sausages for racers and volunteers and asked if I could come see his sausage making facility the next day. He agreed. "Ok, see you late morning!" He also mentioned they milled organic, stone ground, whole wheat flour. As a frequent baker, I was excited to see that process.

Monday, October 19th was sunny and nice in the valley as I crossed the cool flowing waters of the Rio Grande going north and east of Monte Vista. The growing season had ended and wheat fields, plus the natural vegetation along the river banks, and grasses in the cow pastures had turned to various shades of bronzes, goldens, tans and browns. After a pleasant drive through the country, while enjoying the views of the light snowpack covering the distant mountain peaks, I arrived at a small complex of buildings on the Gosar Ranch. I walked in and could immediately smell the spices used to make the sausage. Kris gave me a tour of the building where they were preparing to make a batch of their chicken sausage. Spices were packaged on the stainless steel commercial kitchen counters and he told me each premeasured bag would go into one hundred pounds of meat. The spices smelled so good. I took no pictures in this building but imagine a nice kitchen with plenty of room where meat gets to meet spices, blended together, and become flavored bratwursts and sausages to be distributed to restaurants and stores. Using organic spices and natural meats, Gosar products are indeed a cut above. One bite tells that story! I had one of the Hot Italians.

Kris took me next door to his whole wheat flour mill. As we talked, he told me he had gone to college for an art degree which he uses in commercial design work for nearby restaurants, including doing logos and other types of artistic work. He attempts to manage all of the irons in his fire. I can relate to how that feels!

How interesting it was to see the process of milling wheat into flour on natural stones. The wheat goes into their 100 year old husking machine - one of only two in the country and works like a charm. As the wheat is processed some of the husks come flying into the air. The 'wheat berries' are then pulled through a small grain auger and go into the next machine that separates out larger renegade barley grains and eliminates small stones. The clean wheat berries are transported back into the flour mill building and go into a bin above the stones that grind the flour. To keep the whole wheat flour whole, the bran on the outside of the wheat berries is pulled off, ground separately and returned to the mix of flour. The flour is ground to order and thereby keeps the flour as fresh and nutritious as possible. Kris gave me about 15 pounds of fresh ground flour upon which to do my own research to make pizza crusts and homemade rolls for his brats.

To be a bit corny, even though I am talking about wheat flour, 'give a person some dough and they can eat for a day, teach a person to make dough, and they can eat for a lifetime. I guess in the old days money and bread were interchangeable - did not do the research on that topic!

My pictures here do show most of the equipment used in the Gosar milling process. Kris is passionate about the family businesses of sausage and flour as the family has evolved from once selling grain to large flour mills and at one time using their grain to make ethanol as a fuel additive. He likes the work much better now as he can control the end products of great meats and excellent organic flour. GOOD NEWS - Their products are available for sale in and near the San Luis Valley and can also be ordered online. Gosar Ranch Natural Foods - gosarsausage.com - 719-852-2133.

Next blog up - Going local is better than going loco! Making homemade dough for pizza using the Gosar Ranch Mountain Mama whole wheat flour, local Haefeli Honey and Three Barrel Brewing's Hop Trash IPA. Makes wonderful bratwurst buns also!

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