Saturday, March 29, 2008
Last winter and early spring, after my first year with a CSA, I determined that my goal for the upcoming growing season was to put a concentrated effort into food preservation. I felt a little overwhelmed by the amount of food we were given at each pickup, and having absolutely no previous knowledge of canning, freezing and drying food, each week was a kind of trial by fire with researching, buying freezer bags, trying to remember what needed to be blanched, what should be shredded, what couldn't be jarred, etc. That, on top of my eyes being larger than my family's collective bellies (sure, we can eat two pounds of greens, sixteen tomatoes a bunch of basil and a twelve summer squash in six days!), meant that a little bit too much of our bounty ended up as compost fodder.
I had tried my hand at canning a jar of tomatoes the previous summer, mostly as an experiment, but it was enough to instill confidence that I could do it on a larger scale. I also knew from previous experience, that during the height of growing season, when I'd be bringing home gobs and gobs of veggies from Blooming Glen on top of harvesting our own garden, I needed to leave my pickup day open. Taking a couple hours on that day to sort through the produce, make a decision as to what I'd be likely to use before the next week and immediately preserving the rest was something that I'd have to commit to, as well.
Overall, I'd say I did pretty well. I had several canning days at my dads, during which we canned straight-up-'maters, spaghetti sauce, salsa and applesauce. I committed to memory what veggies didn't need blanching and would therefore be the quickest to get into the freezer. I I learned how to dry herbs. I stocked up on freezer bags and even received a FoodSaver as an early birthday gift, making preservation that much easier.
Yes, last season, I was a produce-preserving queen. How I loved stacking jars of tomatoes and applesauce on the cellar shelves, lining them up like little soldiers, their brass rings gleaming like a sergeant's stars. Putting onions and potatoes to bed, covered with cloth and tucked into a quiet corner. I'll even admit to "checking in" my preserved veggies and fruit, opening the freezer door simply to admire the piles of vacuum-packed bags, each filled with bright green broccoli, vibrant red peppers and glowing orange butternut squash. As one might imagine, this attachment to preserved food has a predictable downside: I don't actually want to use anything.
I realize this is a problem, especially now, on the cusp of a new CSA and garden season. I've begun to force myself to plan meals around the food we have stocked. Most recently, I added some spicy vegan sausage to a sauce made with the tomatoes, thyme, basil, onions and peppers pictured above, and served it with rice. The meal was fresh and fabulous -- a fact that I'm hoping to parlay into more using of the preserved food in my house. Fingers crossed!
> Cross-posted at www.farmtophilly.com.