HOMEGROWN

Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

Because Wasn't Your Childhood Also Filled With Pretending To Be Orphans Preparing For The Rough Colonial Winter? False, Because You Were Allowed To Play Videogames And Aren't A Pussy? Fair Enough...

When you grow up in the greater Hartbeat vicinity, showing that 860
love and enjoying conehead sundaes at a wonderful restaurant called The
Friendly's with regularity, you are pretty excited about the
Revolutionary War and other colonial things. Apparently my friendship
bracelets from the South tend to focus on the Civil War or whatever,
and like to spend hours talking about how "The North Wanted Robert E.
Lee Really Badly But He Had Too Much Loyalty To Virginia." We mostly
didn't even get that far in history class. I mean, my State In A Box
(this was pre-Dick In A Box, naturally, so I feel like we really missed
out on some awesome comedic potential, but at least we had "Amish
Paradise?") project was on West Virginia, so I did get to learn about
Stonewall Jackson and glue a piece of coal to a box, but such things
were largely non-influential on my childhood games.

What was important, clearly, was pretending that me and Tiny (aka
Bunni, Bunni Smalls, Tiny Balls, Small Sister, etc...Brian was around,
but as he was little, he was probably eating sand or something) were
orphans, and fuck me if it wasn't imperative that we store up berries for the winter. Snow was coming, bitch! It's hard out there for a New England colonist, son! This is not an option, if you do not gather up rations we have a problem.
We had one of those wooden swingsets that Dr. Stache built with the
little tarped fort and the slide, and this was before there were
tax-incentives for winterizing, so we had to do all that shit based on
our own eighteenth century resources and know-how if we wanted to make
it through what would probably be some epic blizzards. We had to
gather up the buckets from the sandbox, go around the yard picking
those weird sticky red poisonous berries off the yew tree, and bunker
the fuck down. AND we had our faithful chocolate lab as our guard dog,
because apparently, we grew up in Connecticut in a sheltered 1950s
existence that virtually guaranteed I would grow up to be a sloppy,
vulgar bag lady.

Suck on THAT, kids who were allowed to play Super Mario Brothers and
had cable television! Jealous? I bet it was REAL FUN being permitted
to play with toy guns and watch The Simpsons and Saved By The Bell, but as fun as educational toys and reading the dictionary? No way, Jose!

All of this prepared me quite nicely for the day, a couple weeks ago, when I stole the book, Putting Food By
from my Grandpa's house. True, he did make a point of saying, Heather,
That Book Is A Loan, Not A Gift, but he can't move that fast, and I'm
two states away by now. YA BURNT Grandpa. The book is "The
best-complete- of old and new ways to preserve food right (from
canning, freezing, jelly-making, pickling to smoking, drying, even
root-cellaring) with recipes for using it." I found this to be quite a
helpful book, considering the fact that I still live in the Northeast
region of this great nation and live in a neighborhood that
necessitates hoarding for the winter if I ever want to eat fruits and
vegetables (food desert blah blah blah). Technically, yes, duhsies, I
could take the B 26 to the Trader Joe's or the subway to some kind of
bougie grocery store or order Fresh Direct, and I do such things,
obviously. But in the interest of various environmental/social
justice/broke ass objectives, learning how to preserve food to enjoy
during not the typical growing season can be incredibly important.

There are a number of considerations to...um...consider, like:
1) What region you live in and what your local climate is like
2) What kind of foods you have available nearby
3) What kind of foods you like
4) What technologies you have in your hobo den
5) How much room and land you have in your hobo den and its environs
6) What kind of light and resources you have in your hobo den and its environs

If you live in California and you have a backyard, you're probably a
chickenhead with numerous lemon and exotic citrus trees, and olives and
avocados and shit, and I'd hate you because of your extended growing
season if I didn't so enjoy living here where people are at a level of
surliness and cantankerousness I'm comfortable with, rather than being
so unsettlingly casual and laid back about things. But I'm pretty sure
that no matter where you are, there are seasons, right? And sometimes
you'll have a tree full of lemons, and you can't eat them all at once
because then you'll get lemon regret. The point is, now is a good
time, especially for those of us with winters below freezing, to think
about what you'll need, so you can plan out what you'll grow
yourself/buy at farmer's markets and preserve so that you can eat as
locally as possible all year long.

The book I filched from my curmudgeonly grandfather lists these methods:
1) Canning
2) Freezing
3) Jelly-making
4) Root cellaring
5) Pickling
6) Curing/smoking
7) Drying

I would add to that preserving fruits in alcohol/using them to flavor
spirits and wine-making, as well as in sugar or honey, and indoor
growing. The curing/smoking option doesn't super interest me as I do
not eat beef jerky enough to assemble the robots needed to make my own-
it really seems to be most practical for someone who owns livestock
like beef and hogs. Those of us in apartments who don't eat a ton of
red meat can most likely just get fresh meat from the farmer's market
for those cases in which we want it. I mean, maybe, as my latest
preoccupation is becoming One Of The Guys and just Hardcore Broing It
Out Nonstop, Just Drinking Beers And Looking At Titties I'll actually
start to go fishing and then I'll catch so many fish I won't be able to
freeze any and will have to purchase a barrel in which I'll keep my
salt cod rations, but this seems implausible at best. Not quite as
implausible as the scenario created by Mirm's boyfriend Joe in which my
side hustle is working in the Holland Tunnel and selling rides on the
machine on the side that takes you through while wearing some kind of
mining hat, but unlikely nonetheless. So I'll focus here on the other
ones.

CANNING
One of my goals for last summer was to can things, but as I was super
busy being depressed, not having a job, binge drinking, and not making
use of my summer YMCA membership, I sort of didn't get around to it.
This was a bummer when winter came, because I think we all know how
much tomatoes BLOW in the winter (at least in northern climates...maybe
if you're closer to production sources, they're fine, but the tomatoes
we have to ship up from Mexico circa January taste so, so unbearably
sad. You can get some palatable cherry tomatoes, but even so, they
have to be shipped from far away, which is an irresponsible use of
fossil fuels, not to mention that the labor standards are probably
quite horrid. So yeah, I've pretty much only been able to use whatever
diced tomatoes and cooked tomato products I could purchase from Whole
Foods or Fresh Direct, but these also come from far awayish locations,
and they're much more expensive than growing/making and then canning
your own.

Point: there are a few fruits, like tomatoes, that are high acid
fruits, can easily be canned using a big ass pot and some canning jars
and lids, and make good financial, nutritional, and environmental
sense. Most foods lose some of the nutrients in the cooking/canning or
canning process, some fruits are tastier preserved in other ways, and
some are just easiest to buy already canned at farmer's markets or
farms, since they'll be available in the winter anyway, so the ones I
suggest canning are:

1) Tomatoes (and myriad tomato products)
2) Pickles (and son of a bee's nest, there are more vegetables you can pickle than I ever realized)
3) Kraut (according to the book, "fermented cabbage or turnip"- you can ferment turnip? Who knew.)
4) Jellies, Jams, MARMALADE (it's a food and a handy expletive when you can't remember the word "bumblebee"), Conserves, Preserves
5) Relishes
6) Applesauce
7) Peaches/Apricots
(Although I like to use apricots for liqueur making, and technically
you can use the alcohol-soaked apricots in pies and stuff afterwords,
so I think it depends on what you use either of them for. The book
suggests that peaches are better canned than frozen, though, so if you
want mad fruit salad or something, rather than peaches for pie and
dessert applications, hey, I'm not going to be the one to stop you from
your dreams.)

I know what you're thinking. First, what about vegetables? Second,
what about my rhubarb, for all you rhubarb pie enthusiasts. Vegetables
are generally low acid, and you need to use a pressure canner for
them. If I had stolen a pressure canner from my grandpa, then I would
maybe think more about it, but I'm unemployed, and that shit costs
money, and besides, since I mainly eat vegetables for the healthiness
factor, rather than the taste, it's better to choose a method that
retains more of the vegetable's nutrients. As for other fruits, the
ones I didn't mention are generally better frozen, dried,
root-cellared, or liquored up so that they think it's a good idea to be
like hey white boy, what's your name what's your sign let me talk to
you for a minute- is there room on that air mattress for two? And
there's basically no reason why any of us in apartments would can meat
or fish...

FREEZING
Because Melly Mel and I don't have a microwave and don't generally buy
frozen dinners at the grocery store, our freezer is pretty empty.
There's ice for those crunk times, some bread crumbs, and maybe
leftover coffee for iced coffee if the lemon tree isn't that thirsty.
If you want to eat sustainably, the freezer is an excellent place to
store berries, vegetables, pre-cooked foods, meats, and obviously,
rhubarb. Your space is limited, of course, so you'll have to
prioritize. A lot of meats and fish can be purchased year round at the
farmer's market, but hey, maybe you really succeeded at being super
manly and you caught a bunch of fish, so you need the space for that
rather than berries.

I think it depends on what foods cost you the most out of season and
not grown/acquired by you. For example, most berries are unberryably
(JOKES!) expensive around here- raspberries were $4 a cup at the
farmer's market last summer. They are, however, a superfood, so you
should technically be eating them several times a week, and if you pick
your own over the summer, conscripting your younger sister into the
enterprise and, as per usual, placing the money in an old coffee
canister within an old timey milk container, they're more like $2 a pound. Even if you buy organic frozen raspberries from Fresh Direct, they're $4.39 for 10 ounces.
So if you think ahead of time, you can probably save a buttload of
money, all while purchasing local foods that are respectful of the
environment and human workers. Not to mention that your gooseberry
hustle will be secured for the winter months, because where the fuck
are you going to buy gooseberries in January?

With this in mind, here are my picks for freezing:

1) Berries. I kind of got into it already, but since
they're so expensive and you're supposed to be eating so many of them,
it really makes sense to devote a large amount of freezer space to
berries. You probably don't have your own cranberry bog, (although I
know you can make a small scale one in a tiny backyard, if you were
sufficiently impressed by your yearly Ocean Spray factory tour when
your parents took the family to Plymouth Plantation to see your Pilgrim
ancestors Come To Life) and it's unlikely that in most parts of the
country you'll be able to acquire all the myriad berry types from local
producers, so grow/buy whatever you can locally to put by, try to
acquire the non-native ones in conjunction with a vacation you were
going to take anyway, if you have the room and you can safely skirt the
law if it's illegal, and try to reduce your consumption of the
non-local berries whenever possible. Like, if you're going to Cape
Cod, save room in your suitcase by not wearing underwear so you don't
have to pack it, and use that spot for cranberries.

2) Rhubarb. Listen, I'm not saying I'm interested in the
rhubarb pie of a certain young woman who unfriended Steven, Garrett,
and I on the facebook machine, so don't get it twisted just because I'm
referencing inside jokes from 2003 that use this dessert item as a
sexual euphemism. I do, however, think rhubarb makes delicious juice
if you mix it with apple in a juicer, and, come to think of it, a
rhubarb vodka or some combination thereof could be on point (and by
that I don't mean the one with Tom Ashbrook- more NPR jokes!). I think
it's worth freezing a few stalks for juice, but actually, it's probably
better to preserve it in vodka, because you can probably make an
alcoholic rhubarb pie after you've macerated (infused) the pieces in
the vodka.

3) Cherries (although, again, I fully support them in alcohol as well)

4) Apricots/Peaches (or canned or in alcohol, whichever)

5) Melons

6) Plums and Prunes (also in alcohol)

7) Vegetables EXCEPT tomatoes, which aren't a vegetable anyway, salad greens, white potatoes, and cabbage
(according to the book, this is because of the high water content).
Some need to be blanched before freezing, so I would google whatever
vegetables you're thinking about to check the best way to put it in.
And yeah, I did say put it in. Because that's what bros do, am I right
fellas? Up top!

However, there are a number of vegetables that you can preserve in
other ways, which is especially true for root vegetables like carrots,
beets, and potatoes, which you can root cellar or even keep in the
ground until it gets too hard to pull out (NAILED IT AGAIN [?]).
Actually I'm not sure if the innuendo I just threw down is even
possible, because if you can get it in, you can probably get it out.
Unless you mean like hey, you don't want to pull out, so it's
emotionally hard for you, but you shouldn't be using that as a
contraceptive method anyway. It's only like 60% effective.

8) Pre-cooked meals using seasonal local ingredients. For example, tomatoes don't freeze well, but you can freeze a number of dishes with tomatoes in them, like lasagna.

9) Breads, bakery type things, and dough. This one
probably depends on how much freezer space you have. There's probably
no reason to keep like 57 loaves of bread in your freezer, but some
pizza dough isn't a bad idea. Cookie dough is a bad idea because that shit will never get made into cookies, and you know it. You will come home drunk, sad, or a combination of the two, and you will eat all of it. But, yes, it's technically possible.

10) Meat, Fish, and Dairy. I would have a conversation
with whoever your meat purveyor is, and ask them if you can get their
meat year round, any time you want it. Meat on demand, know what I'm
saying? That way, you can test out some of your slick dating moves in
a safe zone where the conversation can painlessly turn back to butcher
talk if they're not buying what you're selling. For example,
at McCarren Park there is a dude who once sold me turkey while wearing
a camouflage fanny pack and smoking cigarettes. I could try it out on
him. Maybe he's not the dreamboat farmer that gave me the free golden
zucchini (sadly not a euphemism- Get Out Of My Dreams, And Into
My Car, indeed!), but I'm curiously not mad at people handling my food
and Marlboros simultaneously. I'm not sure why my life lead me to a
path of thinking, hey, I'll pretty much do anyone with a fannypack, but
that world's a crazy place.

Oh, so anyway, you should see if you can buy, say, ground turkey year
round. There's no sense filling your freezer up with it if you can get
it anytime. But some fish are probably seasonal, I'm guessing, and I
know historically you would butcher certain animals at certain times of
the year, so if you are a serious meat enthusiast, you might have to
freezer up. I've stopped eating meat at home mostly, since Melissa is
a vegetarian and it's easier to cook meals and buy groceries together,
(plus it's usually cheaper, and it's much more environmentally
friendly) so I will probably just...um...go out for my meat? Too
much. When I'm working again, I'll probably get back on my I'm
Employed It's Ceviche Time Hustle, but I hate cooking already frozen
seafood, so it'll probs be refrigerator territory anyway. You
definitely can freeze oysters and lobster and mussels and the like, but
unless you're collecting or trapping them yourself and have a giant
surplus, you may as well buy tiny amounts as needed or just order them
when you're out. (Full fish disclosure: to be honest, salmon is one of
my top non-local luxuries that I'll be returning to, since it's so easy
to cook and it's so good for you, and it's something I'll never be able
to get at the farmer's market...one can't eat entirely locally...guilt).

You can also freeze dairy products and eggs, but you probably don't
need to. If the farmer's market is far from your apartment, like me,
it would seem like a good plan to freeze milk, but if it's not
homogenized, the fat apparently, "separates out as flakes, and these
won't blend again when the milk thaws." The Ronnybrook farm milk that
a lot of us get in New York isn't homogenized, (it's pasteurized, since
raw milk isn't legal in New York, but not homogenized) so it's not
really worth it. Butter is fine in the refrigerator, and I can't
imagine having cheese around long enough that it would need freezing,
but you can throw these in the freezer too. If I ever get the pet
quails and ducks I've been wanting, I could freeze the eggs, but again,
unless you have these and the others I've mentioned in large quantity
because you have a baby farm and you're producing them yourself, there
isn't really a reason.

JELLY-MAKING (and jam, preserves, conserves, etc)
I'm not going to lie- I've never made jelly before, and I fear I'm
slightly too lazy to make much of it. Depending on the fruits you want
to use, it might be easier, cheaper, or both to just buy some at the
farmer's market, especially if you are buying all the ingredients,
rather than having grown your own. The Haus Of Flan has a blueberry
bush, so my mom always used to make blueberry jam, and I bet those of
you who have a full-fledged citrus in your yard sometimes have way more
fruit than you can use as is, so some marmalades are probably smart.
It really depends on what resources you have handy, and how expensive
produce is in your area. And also, hey, how much you like jam. I'm
more of a Nutella person, myself.

Either way, there are number of food products in this category that are
related, but have some key differences. According to the book:

"Jelly. Made from fruit juice, it is clear and tenderly firm...
Jam. Made from crushed or ground fruit...
Preserves. These are whole fruits or large pieces of fruit in a thick
sirup [is that another spelling or a mistake?] that sometimes is
slightly jellied.
Conserves. These glorified jams are made from a mixture of fruits,
usually including citrus. Raisins and nuts also are frequent additions.
Marmalade. This is a tender jelly with small pieces of citrus fruit distributed evenly throughout.
Butters. These are fruit pulps cooked with sugar until thick."

There are so many kinds of jelly it's just bananas. This book includes
a ton, including the dubious sounding "'Make Do' Corn Cob Jelly," so if
you're super jazzed about it, I don't know, read a book or something.
Okay, full disclosure, I just feel like jelly is lame compared to jam,
so it doesn't interest me that much. There are also a fuck ton of jams
listed- some of the more interesting ones include rose hip jam (I mean,
if you have a bunch of rose bushes in your yard, go for it), "Old-time
Chokecherry Jam" (what the fuck is a chokecherry?), and ginger-pear
"honey," which isn't a honey at all. Confusing. With butters, the
book suggests apple, apricot, crabapple, grapes, the Joanna Newsom triumvirate,
and quinces (and there are probably more). With marmalades, there are
also a number of surprising ingredients you can use, from tomatoes
(green and red) to carrots to pumpkins. The whole breadth of these,
and preserves and conserves, are really beyond the scope of this baby
post, so if you're expecting a windfall, think about what flavor
combinations and textures you're going for, and shoot for the moon. If
you miss, you'll land among the stars. Or, without gravity holding
onto you, you'll drift further and further outward into space and never
been seen again. But that's what you get for being an asstronaut.


PICKLES AND RELISHES
When Steven and Garrett and Dan (and technically all the other NYU
hoodrats who lived at Lafayette, where Steven once tried to take a
chair in that he found on the street alleging that it was a "messenger
bag," which somehow did not fool the guards, so that he had to hide it
outside in the park across the street, which we also tried
unsuccessfully to cover with a suitcase, a plan that was also foiled,
until once I found a comically oversized box and decorated it to look
like a birthday present, although I mean it was actually his birthday,
and then I went to the park and put the chair in the box and FINALLY WE
WERE VICTORIOUS) lived in a neighborhood that some call "Chinatown" but
those in the know call "Octebro"- Octagon East Of Broadway (I think
it's really going to pick up soon), I had a particular stand I like to
go to for okra, and I was not trying to pay a penny over $1 a pound.
If another Chinatown vendor tried to charge more, I would reject them.
Now that I think about it, that okra probably had lead. The point is,
guys, you can pickle okra. And carrots. And beets. And beans. I
feel like you can pickle anything. Including pumpkin. WHAT? I know.
The world is far crazier than I had any idea about.

Relish is not just a noun to describe the manner with which I like to
do things. Basically, relish is just pickles that got tore the fuck
up. Relish is shredded, whereas pickles are whole are in big pieces.
You might sometimes put it on a hamburger. But did you know that you
can pickle a watermelon rind? You can. Again, 2012, shit is getting
crazy here. I'm intrigued by this since it uses a part of the
watermelon you wouldn't usually eat, and I'll kind of try anything, but
this sounds...peculiar. There's pepper jam, and having once purchased
a ridiculously delicious coconut pepper jam, I'd advocate trying this.
Then there are chutneys, and mincemeat, which isn't really meat at
all.

When it comes to pickling, since there are so many options, think about
the fact that often when you eat pickles, it's because you have a weird
craving, and maybe you're pregnant because you didn't take my advice
earlier to not use pulling out as a contraception method. Or, there
just isn't much in your refrigerator. Chances are you will just eat a
few straight out of the jar whenever the mood strikes you, but for
goodness' sake, don't use your fingers if you are in a high school
faculty lounge, because, as we've all seen, bitches will not let that slide.
Point being, vegetables that you freeze will end up in cooked dishes,
and vegetables that you pickle will be snacks (or sometimes added to
salad, like pickled beets). As someone who is lazy, when I get hungry,
I will often just eat whatever requires the least effort, so having
vegetables available at the twist of a jar lid could function as a key
defense mechanism against Utz Chip Bodega Regret.

ROOT-CELLARING
I know what you're thinking- you're afraid of your basement, so how on
earth are you going to store potatoes down there? And also, it has a
weird smell. Also also, you live inside a comically undersized dresser
drawer, and don't even kind of have any subterranean access. There are
a ton of interesting "root cellars" you can build, like a barrel
outside on your lawn banked or buried, or the stairs leading out from a
cellar hatchway, but the best is, I think, your refrigerator, since
urban refrigerators are notoriously barren anyway. Sometimes I like to
get backup information from websites, so on a website, I found these guidelines:

"COLD & MOIST – The following foods should be stored as cold
as possible, between 32 and 40 degrees and in moist conditions:
potatoes, most root vegetables including turnips, beets, carrots;
cabbage, apples
NOT QUITE AS COLD BUT DRY – The following foods need to be stored in a cool and dry area: onions, garlic
LEAST COLD REQUIRED (BUT DRY) – Winter squashes
The key to storage is to 1) find some place in your house/apartment
that has those conditions 2) create those conditions 3) construct those
conditions.
  1. Some place in your house – Maybe you are lucky enough to have a genuine root cellar in your house. Maybe all you have to do is pry open a long sealed door to find it. Maybe. Still, many
    houses without true root cellars have spaces that can serve as very
    serviceable root cellars. Look to your attics or crawlspaces first,
    you may find they meet your needs. Does your basement have unheated
    areas? Canning rooms? Be creative. What about a window well, which
    works well? Remember, store based on your conditions. If you have a
    space that is a bit cold, but not that cold, store only onions and
    squash. If you have colder areas, you can store potatoes, apples, etc.
  2. Create a root cellar – There are several ways you can create the conditions of a root cellar. The two easy ways are to put your food in your refrigerator and put your food in coolers. A
    refrigerator has the cold part down, yet fridges tend to be dry. Find
    ways to keep stored food moist such as wrapping in wet cloth or keeping
    in sand. A cooler can be kept outside, like on a deck or in a garage.
    Find a place for the cooler that lets it draw some heat from your
    house. You do not want to food to freeze. A cooler can also be
    dragged around or dragged in depending on outside conditions.
  3. Construct your own root cellar – A little googling will find you plenty of design options for building your own root cellar on your property. Survivalist sites are good places to start!
    If you have the land and tools, it’s not a bad idea. Still, there are
    also designs out there for quasi-root cellars that amount to mostly
    digging a hole in the ground. I especially like this idea of burying a garbage can."
Refrigerators need to be kept at under 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you get an appliance thermometer, you can check to make sure it's
around 32 degrees, which is the correct temperature for storing some fruits and vegetables (all of which keep for varying amounts of time):

1) Apples
2) Grapefruit
3) Grapes
4) Pears

5) Beets
6) Cabbage
7) Carrots
8) Cauliflower
9) Horseradish
10) Kohlrabi
11) Leeks
12) Onions
13) Parsnips
14) Salsify
15) Turnips
16) Winter radishes

Some of these need to be kept moist, some dry, so check what the
produce requires to figure out which way you package them for the
refrigerator. I know the idea of crazy outside homemade root cellars
is probably more exciting, but it seems that they are problematic if
you live in an area with wide temperature fluctuations or the potential
for a lot of snow. For me, since I live on the third floor of a
brownstone in the Northeast, it seems like my only option. I should
note that pumpkins and squash and the like, along with sweet potatoes,
are in the 55 degree range, so I'm not sure where I can store
them-maybe the hallway that leads to our door? When we get sweet
potatoes from the CSA, we just leave them out, but they're only around
for a month, since we've been getting some in each box and we enjoy
them too much to let them stack up.

A lot of the foods that you can root cellar can probably be purchased
at the farmer's market during the winter, particularly potatoes,
carrots, beets, and onions, so your space might be better used for
squash, which I haven't tended to see. I'm a little nervous about
apples, because they're so wonderful when you pick them off the tree,
but when I've had stored apples, even from local farms, they haven't
been great, so I've generally dried them when I got them in the CSA
box. I will probably try to root cellar some apples, beets, carrots,
leeks, onions, salsify (if my seeds that I got for Christmas
germinate!), and horseradish (which can also be left in the ground if
you grow it yourself) in the refrigerator, and squash and sweet
potatoes somewhere outside it, and if I want the other ones on the
list, they'll still be available locally until spring vegetables come
in. I haven't decided whether I'll grow potatoes or not- I know you
can do it in a garbage can, but I'm not potato-obsessed. However, I
kind of wonder if potatoes just got a bad rap in the anti-carb craze,
and potatoes are at least a starch I can produce myself, rather than
grains, so in a way it's more eco-friendly...it's tough to say.

DRYING
I have a dehydrator that my mom had lying around the basement, and it's
one of those machines, like the bread machine, my food processor, and
the juicer, that I think is worth having. With leafy herbs, you can
hang them to dry during warm months, and depending on the climate you
live in, there are other foods you can dry machine-free. You can build
fairly simple solar dryers and the like, too...or, you can pay probably
$20 or under at a yard sale or on Ebay and get a dehydrator. If you
live in a humid summer climate, it's probably the only way you can
accomplish actual dryness.

Besides leafy herbs, I've dried apples, tomatoes, onions, apricots, and
a couple other things, I think, but not in bulk. Can I just say, apple
chips are the best. They are crisp and wonderful in a salad, and are
another handy food to have around that you can just open a jar and eat,
sans any prep work, and they are full of fiber. You can dry apples and
other fruits so that they're pliable and still have some moisture in
them, but with apples I like them cracker-like. With tomatoes, the
time I did it I went all the way, and they were tasty, but I'd like to
try to get them more like the sun-dried tomatoes in the store, which
appears quite possible.

Like with some of the other methods, what you dry depends on what you
can get locally, the prices, and your preferences. So, I like dried
apricots, but if I'm going to pay whateversies a pound, since I don't
have an apricot tree, my first choice is to use them for liqueur,
second choice would be frozen, and third would be dried, which I eat
when they're around, but don't really buy that often. For you, that
order might be reversed, if, for example, you don't have, okay, let's
call a spade a spade, binge drinking tendencies. With tomatoes,
however, I want to gay marry sun-dried tomatoes, so I'll probably make
a lot of them, and fuck the price, since it will certainly be cheaper
than buying them in the store, which I would be doing anyway for like
$10 a pound.

I have to investigate this more, but you can also dry vegetables to
make yourself little prepared soup mixes, besides the fact that you can
just rehydrate them for myriad cooking applications. I'm still working
on healthy additions to breads, and I haven't tried dried vegetables
yet, but I definitely will soon, and like I said, various dried fruits
and vegetables, at whatever dryness you like them, are excellent in
salads.

SUGARING
This was weirdly harder to find information on. Here's what Wikipedia has to offer:

"Sugar is used to preserve fruits, either in syrup with fruit such as apples, pears, peaches, apricots, plums
or in crystallized form where the preserved material is cooked in sugar
to the point of crystallisation and the resultant product is then
stored dry. This method is used for the skins of citrus fruit (candied peel), angelica and ginger. A modification of this process produces glacé fruit such as glacé cherries
where the fruit is preserved in sugar but is then extracted from the
syrup and sold, the preservation being maintained by the sugar content
of the fruit and the superficial coating of syrup. The use of sugar is
often combined with alcohol for preservation of luxury products such as
fruit in brandy or other spirits."

I can say from my own experience that I took fresh mint leaves last
July and layered them in demerara sugar, and I just peeked into the jar
today to uncertain results. It smells minty and wonderful, but I'm not
sure how usable the mint is at this point. The sugar definitely feels
like it has absorbed the moisture of the leaves, at least the ones
closest to the top, but I need to check the ones closer to the bottom.
Either way, it seems like preserving with sugar most often comes in the
form of sugar syrups (courtesy of another Wikipedia article) to make
candied fruits:
"Recipes vary from region to region, but the general principle is to boil the fruit, steep it in increasingly strong sugar solutions for a number of weeks, and then dry off any remaining water.[4]
The high sugar content of finished glacé fruits inhibits the growth of
microorganisms, and glacé [candied] fruits will keep for a number of
years without any additional methods of preservation."

One of the interesting things about candying fruit is that you can make
use of usually discarded parts of a fruit, like citrus peels and
watermelon rinds. There is a beautiful how to on this blog I found
called The Hungry Mouse. You can also preserve flower petals in honey or sugar- check out this blog post
on how to do this as well as a slew of other culinary tricks with
flowers. I've put dried apricots in honey before, as well as vanilla
beans, to flavor honey, but I think anything with a high water content
would need to be dried before you add it because of contamination
risks. I seriously recommend playing around with flavored honeys-
there's something so lovely about them. I haven't tried other
sugar-based methods yet, but you bet my fat ass is going to.

ALCOHOL
Besides using fruit to make various spirits, there's also just throwing that shit in some vodka. Donesies.

INDOOR GROWING
This one is also probably a larger discussion, but if you have some
sunny windows, there are a number of plants I think of as helpful for
when it's February and you want to cold-cock a carrot because
you're sick of them. My cherry tomato plant did just fine inside until
I was away for a month around Christmas time and couldn't water it, and
it's a nice antidote to winter tomato struggles, particularly if
you...like it raw? Oh manzies. Also, salad greens and herbs that work
in salads are an excellent idea, because it seems virtually impossible
to preserve them in a way that still renders them saladable. The major
cooking herbs, like basil, the Simon and Garfunkle quadrilateral, maybe
mint, and fuck, did you know you can even grow the kind of crocus that
saffron comes from, are good to have fresh, and I really like to have
chives for salads too. In terms of other indoor growing choices, I
obviously love having my meyer lemon tree, and I'd like to get jasmine
and maybe a baby rose, but anything beyond salad greens and cooking
herbs all have to do with personal preference and how you use them.
I've started using aloe on my face every day from my plant (thanks
Emily for the tip!), but maybe you really love chamomile tea, so it
makes more sense for you to use your space for that so you can always
have some fresh.

In general, unless it's a plant that's particularly precious to you,
indoor growing might be best for plants whose leaves you use, because
it fills up a limited amount of space entirely with what's edible,
versus an eggplant, whose fruit grows slowly and whose leaves and stem
are inedible. Think in terms of what you can get locally, how the
prices are, and how having that plant in the window will increase your
chance of eating it, if you tend not to be a frequent consumer of
greens but know you should be for your health. For some reason, going
to the window and snipping enough greens for a salad makes me way more
excited to eat it than pulling a bag out of the refrigerator, and I
tend to think they keep longer as well.

So think about both your general eating habits and then what healthy
habits would be, and plan accordingly. Yeah, maybe we should all be
drinking less, but you know you'll be doing it anyway, so you might as
well preserve fruit in alcohol, since it will cut down on your need for
mixers as well as maintain a stock of fruits to turn into dessert
foods. But also, hey, freeze a bunch of raw berries so that you can
start making yourself some kind of healthy smoothie in the morning. I
know it's pretty daunting to look at this all at once, but every little
bit you can put by from the farmer's market and from growing yourself
helps bring back food traditions, strengthens local economies, and
helps us deal with our environmental crises. Game on?

Views: 76

Comment by Cornelia on March 16, 2010 at 3:49pm
Next time I'm in the neighborhood, I expect a rhubarb martini!
Comment by Heather Flansworth on March 26, 2010 at 12:47am
Cornelia, done and donesies! And, excitingly, after I disappeared to the Midwest to visit a cousin last week, I came back and the half-off garden fruit bushes I bought last fall, despite me leaving them in the plastic containers from the store all winter sans fertilizers or tender care or anything, all survived! So if there's a sudden rhubarb shortage, dare to dream, I'll have your back with sour quince martinis! If/when you're in Brooklyn (and the conference has to be coming up soon, right?), drinks all around! Yay!
Comment by Cornelia on March 30, 2010 at 2:41pm
Saweet! I thought that the Brooklyn Food Conference should be coming up soon, too, but found out that they're taking a year off and reorganizing for 2011. I'll let you know when I'm in town :)

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