Thursday, September 22, 2016

I'm Back! It's Preserving Time!

Hello Everyone.  First of all thanks to everyone who “checked in” and asked about my Blog absence for a number of weeks.  

Yes - I did take a few weeks off.  I even cut back a bit on my hours in my other life as a behavioral health consultant.  It was glorious, and I am so grateful to have been able to do it. Let’s face it when you are a grower/gardener, you never really get a lot of time “off” during the growing season!  Along with a bit of relaxation and reflection, I did have the chance to consider a bit more deeply what I was observing, had some interesting debates, and heard from folks their thoughts about food, the attempt to access real food, and trying to change life styles in general.

Here’s some of what I think I have learned:

*Many people really don’t want to “know” - people do not want to hear how bad fast and easy “food” is for them - now and in the long run.  These are the folks who, when the discussion turns to certain topics, a sort of glazing over occurs.  I wonder, though, if this is the first step in a change process for them? 

*Happily, there are lots of people out there seeking to down size, slow down, find creative outlets and eat real food.  As we try hard to follow Urban Homesteading practices, I love to see that. There are a lot of younger folks doing really amazing entrepreneurial things - with food, with life style products, and with consuming less and enjoying life more.

*Personal downsizing is a challenge!  I have disappointed myself by not finishing our huge downsizing job.  We have boxes and boxes of things from our catering years and I have not yet finished preparing them for donation.  I have done pretty well with clothing; I just keep tossing or donating things as I go. This seems to be working. We continue to hold onto the practice of, “nothing comes in until something goes out”.  I’d give us maybe a B- so far with that.  

*There is a decided information overload and we have to figure out how to get true, clear facts to people about food, food production, threats to real food, etc.
For example, terms like, “Farm raised fish”; “free range”; “organic”; “farm to table” - all are often, misused, misunderstood and deliberately abused.

*Many of us see a real step forward and that is, the growing movement to keep food - as much as possible - Local and Seasonal, Humanely Raised and Clean. I do believe that this growing initiative will lead to serious backlash from the international factories and conglomerates, as well as causing glaring lies in advertising, so keep your eyes open for that.

So, following my lovely, temporary slow down, it’s Food Preservation time!

Tomato Canning Production 
Canning, pickling, freezing, drying - whatever and however - it is time to capture some of the glorious deliciousness of the growing season before the cold sets in and the wonderful flavors of spring, summer and fall are just a memory. 

As with growing, we have learned something every year as we have, “Put food by”.  For example, I learned that the 6 huge canning jars of beautiful "Giardiniera" - the pickled vegetable mix that is Italian in origin - was way too much. It’s delicious.  But you chop it up and use it sparingly on sandwiches and salads.  I still have some left!  I also learned that, as gifts go, our Zucchini Relish and our Strawberry and Blueberry Jams get the biggest response. And while we love pickles, we only have a few friends who are pickle fanatics, and we can only go through so many jars - so maybe a few less pickle jars will be on our larder shelves and in our refrigerator.  Except for favorites that we will use as gifts at the holidays, we are working much harder on stocking our larder for ourselves - and for dinner parties and the holidays - this year. 

Blanching and freezing the beans, hearty greens and okra that we grew will keep us in wonderful side dishes all winter long. We grew a lot of various kinds of peppers and they are being pickled or kept in olive oil and vinegar in the refrigerator for sandwiches, omelets, etc. We are canning some chunks of eggplant for the first time this year.  We already use eggplant when we can in our "Melted Eggplant Tomato Sauce", so this will be another way to have this delicious vegetable during the winter. Our Herbs had a great year, so after drying, freezing and making lots of pesto, we have started sharing big fresh bunches of herbs with our neighbors, which always makes me happy. And of course, tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!  Passata - tomato puree - and whole plum tomatoes are canned and on the shelves. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest canning some fresh corn.  We have always frozen fresh corn and it is delicious, but the flavor of the canned corn is fantastic and makes the most delicious chowders and dishes.

Lastly, we have learned that we adore home made, canned stocks.  So this year, along with lots of turkey and chicken stock, we are canning pork stock, beef stock, and corn stock.  If we can we will also can some lobster stock - we did a bit of that last year and wow did that go quickly!  Along with a Black Bean soup base that we make and can, I am well prepared for my favorite cold weather food, Soup!

Learning how to do Lacto-Fermentation has been an eye opener and fun. We have a big jar of whole pickling cucumbers sitting in my Grandmother’s “kitchen jar” now - fermenting like the barrel pickles of old.  These will be delicious, keep for quite a long time in the refrigerator, and are very good for you. 

Lacto-Fermenting/Barrel Pickles
I’d love to hear from some of you who do food preserving at this time of year.  What are you putting by?  What are your favorites?  Do you use some of your preserved food as gifts?

Next time:  Recipes galore and My new adventures working with CSAs!