Sunday, July 15, 2012

Playing with Food

I love this time of year. I open the freezer and find it no longer has an echo. The shelves in the cold room are starting to fill with colorful jars. Each morning brings in more herbs than the dehydrator can hold. A trip to the farmer's market is a feast for the senses:  colorful produce, samples of cheese, music played by my husband:)

As I progress through the summer I have to temper my enthusiasm for food preservation with some wisdom.  There  have been years when I have made a couple dozen pints of rhubarb chutney that were not all consumed. In my defense, we used to grow pigs;  rhubarb chutney is really good on pork. Just not that much.  I have learned to grow foods that can be preserved just the way they are: onions, carrots, beets, rutabaga,potatoes and winter squash. These go into cold corners and the cold room. I still do some canning;  jams, jellies, tomato stuffs, applesauce, pickles, I am just more choosey about what I can. Just because something can be canned doesn't mean it should be. We gotta eat it too!

Last year I took a class at Koviashuvik on lacto-fermentation. We like to play with fermentation in our house. Mark makes beer. I make wine, apple cider vinegar and sourdough. We enjoyed some kimchi last winter. This year I want to try making some small batches for consuming in the fall. So yesterday I made some dill sour pickles to try later in August. If the troops like them then I have enough time to make some more in September before the cucumbers are done for the season. By then the cold room should be cooler and I can store the pickles longer. Fermentation is so much easier to do than canning. Cooler too! (Literally and figuratively speaking)

On my kitchen counter I have mustard seed soaking in vinegar. I am going to try making some mustard today.  We have local makers of mustard. They make very yummy mustard. But like   everything these days it is getting expensive and seems like a luxury more than a condiment. If I could cook my own mustard then I could include seasonal ingredients  as the year progresses. Spring mustard could include maple syrup. Summer mustards could include different herbs from the garden. Some mustards could include fruits like cranberry or blueberry..ooh yum!  If it all works out I will share the recipe

There is one experiment that did not work out so well.  I have an abundance of mint. I thought I could try to make some essential oil. John Green, in his book, The Herbal Medicine Maker's Handbook, had instructions for making a simple still from a pot, a steamer basket and a bowl. I ended up with mint flavored distilled water. I was not able to extract the oil from the water.  But I will try again. I thought I could make some mint oil to include in some lip balm. Try, Try Again.

Ultimately, food preservation is about making the best use of the bounty. I love that it is an evolving process of learning.

So what are you putting up with these days? Are you trying some new things this year? Please share!


Cat said...

I hope to be getting some tomatoes in the somewhat near future. But the season was so wet for so long, we have things that would be up and going, just starting! But it looks like it will be an EXCELLENT year for Applesauce. I am going to have lots of blackberries, too. (Depending on how much the llamas get first...)


Heather said...

putting up? absolutely nothing...although in my head i have already preserved half of our jam needs for the next year and put shelled peas in the reality the peas were eaten by my 4 and 2 year olds before I was able to actually pick anything...and strawberries were not available to me this year :-)