Archive for December, 2009

Canning Food

Click for tigress can jam food blog challenge

I just found out about this canning challenge.  Every month a seasonal food will be announced and you will have to find a way to can it. I am going to try and if you are interested in canning, you should try it out also.  There are only a few more days to sign up, so click the button above, check out her blog, send her an email and let her know you want to be part of the fun.

I learned to can at a young age. My mama did it every summer because we had such a large garden and that was what you did back then. I have come back to it this year. As I try to eat more and more locally, I realize that canning and freezing are going to have to be part of that. It’s hard to find a good local tomato in January. I don’t want to eat a fresh one in January but I do want canned, locally grown ones to put in my chili. So I will set aside more time to make that happen.

I do have some concerns about the BPA in the surface of the canning lids. I hope that the Ball people will address that soon. I have written to them and I urge others to write to them also. The link to their contact page is http://www.freshpreserving.com/pages/contact_us/10.php. But still with home canning, your food is not in constant contact with that lid surface like it is with the cans from the store.

Tomatoes I canned in the summer, along with a fall pomegranate that just looked pretty with them.

I only have a few jars of tomatoes left from the summer and they are precious to me now.  I only use them after careful consideration.  I also canned some muscadine juice that I am going to use spiced for the the holidays.  I’ll simmer it with spices, just like you would with apple cider.  The muscadines came from my neighbor to the back, so they are even more local than north Georgia apples.   Those apples are less than 100 miles away so they are not too bad either. 

I am going to spend the rest of the winter looking for used canning jars at the Goodwill and at yard sales.  I will need a lot more if I am going to make this work and can even half of the vegetables that we will use in a year.  They are so pretty sitting on the shelf.  I can’t wait to get started.  So bring on that January challenge.  I wonder what lovely winter vegetable it will be.

Local Food and How to Cook It (Carrots)

My winter vegetable bed in front of the porch.

I’ll get to the cooking in a minute, but I wanted to share this bit of news, to me at least.  Because of my discovery that someone was using my debit card number to buy weird things on the internet, I have discovered that my food could even be more local than I had thought.  Saturday, I placed an order for polenta from Anson Mills.  Saturday afternoon, I looked at my bank statement and discovered that there was a problem.  I called the bank and had them cancel my card and stop all charges to it.  Well, then I remembered that I had ordered that polenta.  So I called Anson Mills and left a message about my predicament.  I didn’t want them to think I was a ne’er do well charging stuff to a card that did not work.  Anyway, to my amazement, on Sunday, Glenn Roberts himself called me back and told me that they would cancel my order, and that I could just order again when I got everything straightened out.  Then in the course of our conversation about the merits of local food and where he grows the corn for the polenta, I found out that right here in my neck of the woods were growers he knew and used, namely Nicholas Donck of Crystal Organic Farm, among others.  Wow!  So my polenta and grits and cornmeal from Anson Mills are possibly even closer to home than I had thought.  The corn is grown in Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as in the Northeast to avoid total loss if one area is hit by weather issues or other problems.  He talked about how this area of Georgia, from Covington up to Athens and Washington, Georgia  is a wonderful place for small farmers who grow organically and sustainably.  So take advantage of living in this wonderland of sustainable farming and growers who go beyond organic.   

Pulling up the first carrot I have ever grown.

   One of the yummiest foods of the winter in the south is carrots.  To the left, is me just a few minutes ago pulling up the first carrot I have ever grown.  (You can click on the small picture and see it much larger.)  I planted carrots and beets and green onions out there in front.  Green onions are the only one of those crops that I have ever grown before.  The carrots took forever to come up, but they did.  The beets are probably still too close; I have been thinning them for weeks.  They haven’t made much in the way of roots, but this first purple, forked-root carrot looks pretty good.  I will have it in my salad tonight.  Sometimes the simplest way with food is the best.  I’ll just wash it and slice it up.  If I had more than one, I could cup them in chunks and toss in a little olive oil and roast them in the oven.  That really brings out their sweetness and is really good. 

There is a lovely carrot salad in The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters.  It goes like this:

Peel and grate 1 pound of carrots.

Make a vinaigrette of 1 tsp red wine vinegar, 2 tsp fresh lemon juice, sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  Whisk in 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1 T fresh orange juice

Toss the carrots in the vinaigrette and stir in 2 T chopped parsley.  (I actually put about twice as much parsley.)

It's almost out.

In Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen I found this especially yummy Roasted Carrot Soup.

1 pound carrots cut in chunks, 2 small potatoes cut in chunks, 1 large onion cut in chunks, 5 garlic cloves peeled, 2 to 4 T of olive oil, sea salt and pepper, 2 hefty sprigs of thyme,and one bay leaf. 

Toss all above together, and spread in large baking dish.  Roast at 425 degrees about one hour, turning 3 or 4 times.

Transfer to soup pot along with 1 quart of vegetable stock or water.  Simmer about 20 minutes.  Puree until smooth.  Return to pot, season with salt and pepper if necessary and stir in 1/2 cup cream.  When you serve, stir in a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream.  Put a little chopped parsley on top.

And, it's out!

When you need a crunchy snack, what could be better than a carrot.  They are good all by themselves, fresh out of the garden, but this recipe for pickled carrots makes them even more interesting. 

Bring 2 cups apple cider vinegar, 2 cups water, 1/4 cup sugar to a boil. 

Add 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch sticks, 1 T dill seed, 4 cloves garlic, peeled, 2 tsp mustard seed, 2 tsp dried dill weed, 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes.  Cook, covered on low for only 5 minutes.  Pour into glass canning jars, place lids and rings on them.  Let them cool and refrigerate at least 24 hours.  They will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

My first carrot, whee!

Roasted carrots are really good.  Here is a variation on the basic roasted vegetable theme.  This could work for any root vegetable, like beets, turnips or parsnips, as well as carrots.

Slice one pound of carrots thickly.  Toss with 3 T Balsamic vinegar, 2 tsp italian seasoning.  Let marinate for 1 hour.  Spread on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

So, now you have a few ways to cook your carrots.  If you grow them yourself or find some attractive bunches at a farmers market, give these recipes a try.

How This All Started (part 2)

So, the holidays kind of cut into my attention to the blog.  But anyway, back to what I was talking about.  Now I had a powerful motivator.  But I had lost weight and gained it back before, this time that was not an option.  I had to find a way to keep my interest and commitment going.  Since my interest in organic and now local food has continued unabated, I knew that that would be the way to keep me going.  I went back and read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver again.  I concentrated on finding sources of local food and organic food in the area.  We already had our own chickens, inspired by Barbara Kingsolver, and had a good supply of very local eggs.  I expanded my vegetable gardening into areas that had been used only for shrubs and flowers.  We had various kinds of squash and okra in the bed in front of the front porch.  I thought it was pretty, but then I have a new appreciation of the aesthetics of food.

Me, on the right, with my cousin, Mary, at Jazz Fest a couple years ago.

I began indoctrination, by reading all the books I could find on the evils of industrial food production and on the benefits of local and organic food production.  I had already been highly motivated, but this made me even moreso.  Some of the books that have been useful to me are The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan; In Defense of Food, An Eater’s Manifesto, by Michael Pollan; Second Nature, A Gardener’s Education, by Michael Pollan; Real Food, by Nina Planck; Coming Home to Eat:  The Pleasures and Politics of Local Food, by Gary Nabhan;  The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, by Alisa Smith; Plenty:  One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally, by Alisa Smith and J. B. MacKinnon; Slow Death by Rubber Duck:  How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health, by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie.  I’m sure I will think of more but will add them to my books to read page which I will learn how to create sometime soon.

On my list of books to read are Food, Inc., edited by Karl Weber; the new Michael Pollan book, Food Rules, an Eater’s Manual; Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser; Renewing America’s Food Traditions:  Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods, by Gary Nabhan; The Taste of Place:  A Cultural Journey into Terroir, by Amy Trubek; Jamie’s Food Revolution:  Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals, by Jamie Oliver; Where Our Food Comes From:   Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine, by Gary Nabhan, The Myth of Progress:  Toward a Sustainable Future, by Tom Wessels; Eat Where You Live:  How to Find and Enjoy Fantastic Local and Sustainable Food No Matter Where You Live, by Lou Bendrick.  I guess that’s enough for now.  It will take me a while to read all of those.

Books that have helped as far as growing and choosing food and cooking food are How To Pick a Peach, by Russ Parsons; The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters; Jamie At Home:  Cook Your Way to the Good Life, by Jamie Oliver; The Backyard Homestead, edited by Carleen Madigan; Local Flavors:  Cooking and Eating From America’s Farmers Markets, by Deborah Madison; Vegetable Soups From Deborah Madison’s Kitchen, by Deborah Madison; and Month by Month Gardening in Georgia, by Walter Reeves and Erica Glasener.

And to the right is me a few weeks ago.  At that point I had lost 70 pounds and was talking to my good friend Debbie and making the 0 point soup that has helped me to do that.  That is a Weight Watcher recipe that has several variations that we have at the beginning of lunch and dinner every day at our house.  It is a rich source of vitamins and fiber and is tasty to boot.  I have lost 80 pounds now and have a little more to go to get to where I want to be.  But this is only the beginning of the food adventure.  I have recipes yet to be tried and vegetables yet to be grown.  There are enough new food experiences to try to keep me on track and eating locally and healthily for a long time to come.  I will let you know how this continues and give you some of the great recipes that I have found and will continue to find and keep you updated on the expansion of Pat and Carol’s Backyard Farm.  Our neighbors have cut down some trees, so now we have lots more sun in the backyard and lots more possibilities.