1.29.2012

Planning to Preserve in the Coming Year - Part 3 of 3


By putting up more food I will reduce the miles our food travels, I’ll know exactly where the food came from and what’s in it. This will contribute to a lower food budget and a healthier diet. All good things right? And it's easy. I usually put up what I want as the season progresses. I wind up with four times as many pickles as we can eat and not enough tomato sauce. This year I'm making a plan.
I have broken my plan to preserve into several parts:
  1. Decide what we would actually eat by looking at my notes from what we put up last year and what we would have used if we had it
  2. Calculate quantities that we would conceivably consume in a year’s time
  3. Check and see that we have the capacity to can, freeze or store all this bounty
  4. Make a chronological list of when these foods are ready to preserve
  5. Put it all together and make a calendar of foods with their quantities and check it every couple weeks as the season progresses to make sure I’m on track
In the first part of Planning to Preserve I went into detail into for steps 1 and 2. I considered what I put up last year and what I want to put up this year. The second part is steps 3 and 4.  This is the final part step 5. 

Step 5:  Put it all together and make a calendar of foods with their quantities and check it every couple weeks as the season progresses to make sure I’m on track.

I decided to put all the information together in a spread sheet that I can keep on my refrigerator.  Then as the summer progress I will be able to make adjustments and save additional notes on my computer.  I've got lots of ideas brewing over on my "How does your garden (and pantry) grow" board on Pinterest too. 

(Click to see the full size)

I'm feeling really good about this plan.  It is ambitious, I'll admit.  It's more of an "if I had my druthers" this is what I'd put up.  We'll see if it all happens. 

I'm also seriously considering buying a deep freeze.  Between the freezing more produce and saving breast milk, I think it could be a good investment.  I've also read several good articles on why to go the chest freezer route for energy consumption and managing a stable temperature. 

I can't wait to share my next post with you.  It's going to be on an organic family farm I visiting this week.  On just 1.5 acres of land one man with the help of his 80 year old parents, wife and children produce enough food for themselves, as well as food for the local elementary school, all the folks who drop by and two restaurants.  He's getting year round produce from three plastic hoop house style green houses and multiple cold frames.  All in the Midwest (zone 5).  There are some innovative ideas being used.  I'm secretly hoping they'll adopt me and teach me everything they know.  I'll share with you what I saw and learned when I visited.  Stay tuned! 

Planning to Preserve Check In - Mid August 2012
Planning to Preserve - End of the Season Update 2012

And then from years later here's how I'm doing:
Planning to Preserve 2014
Putting by the Harvest 2015
Annual Report on the Vegetable Garden and Harvest 2017


This post is on Simple Lives Tuesday.  You should check it out. It's a neat blog hop. And if you came the blog hop, you already know what I am talking about. 

1.16.2012

Planning to Preserve in the Coming Year - Part 2 of 3


By putting up more food I will reduce the miles our food travels, I’ll know exactly where the food came from and what’s in it. This will contribute to a lower food budget and a healthier diet. All good things right? And it's easy.  I usually put up what I want as the season progresses. I wind up with four times as many pickles as we can eat and not enough tomato sauce. This year I'm making a plan. 

I have broken my plan to preserve into several parts:
  1. Decide what we would actually eat by looking at my notes from what we put up last year and what we would have used if we had it
  2. Calculate quantities that we would conceivably consume in a year’s time
  3. Check and see that we have the capacity to can, freeze or store all this bounty
  4. Make a chronological list of when these foods are ready to preserve
  5. Put it all together and make a calendar of foods with their quantities and check it every couple weeks as the season progresses to make sure I’m on track

In the first part of Planning to Preserve I went into detail into for steps 1 and 2. I considered what I put up last year and what I want to put up this year.  The second part is steps 3 and 4. The third part is now up covering the last step. 

Step 3: Do we actually have the number of canning jars, freezer and cupboard space to hold all this bounty?

Here’s what I calculate I’ll need to hold all this stuff:
69 Quart Freezer Boxes or Bags (6+5+3+15+6+6+12+6+6+4 = 69)
35 Pint Jars (34+8+1 = 43)
26 Quart Jars (12+8+6 = 26)
Dry storage for 16 squash, 24 heads of garlic
Here’s what I’ve got on hand:
Freezer boxes 6 pints, 2 quarts
17 pint jars
2 half pint or jelly jars (I always give away the small jars it seems!)
18 quart jars

I’m going to need more jars.  I don’t think I've ever put up this much food plan or no plan. Looks like I will need to be watching garage sales, thrift stores and church sales for canning supplies. Canning jars generally run about $1 a jar new; if I can find any for less it's a good deal.  Granted, when facing a bushel of apples I'm willing to go purchase at full price. 

I’ll need to acquire:
49 quart freezer bags (for the dehydrated food and pesto I prefer freezer bags and for the fruit and corn I like the plastic freezer boxes)
15 quart freezer boxes
21 pint jars
14 half pint jelly jars
8 quart jars
 Step 4: Make a chronological list of when these foods are ready to preserve.

There is a chart in the back of my Ball Blue Book of Canning that shows when to expect fruits and vegetables to be peak season. I used that plus my own notes and the lids of cans (I always write the date) to create this list below. This is for the Midwest specifically north east Indiana.

May: Beets, Kale
June: Beets, Strawberries, Blue Berries, Peaches
July: Cucumber, Corn, Apples, Cherries, Cherry Tomatoes, Peaches
August: Cucumber, Corn, Apples, All Tomatoes, Herbs, Wild Grapes
September: Beets, Corn, Apples, All Tomatoes, Kale, Herbs
October: Beets, All Tomatoes, Kale, Winter Squash
November: Beets, Winter Squash
I'm getting closer to finishing the plan.  One more step to put it all together; that will be in Part 3 of Planning to Preserve which will go up later this week. 

How's your plan to preserve shaping up?

This post was featured on Simple Lives Thursday

1.12.2012

Planning to Preserve in the Coming Year - Part 1 of 3


Last year I didn’t have a plan when it came to putting up food. I also had a full time job. This year with more time, at least for now until the peanut comes in June, I’m making a plan. It’s going to be a flexible plan as who knows what fun birthing plus baby will throw in the mix.

I would like to put up more than I did last year. By putting up more food I will reduce the miles our food travels, I’ll know exactly where the food came from and what’s in it. This will contribute to a lower food budget and a healthier diet. All good things right?

I have divided my Plan to Preserve into five steps:
  1. Decide what we would actually eat by looking at my notes from what we put up last year and what we would have used if we had it
  2. Calculate quantities that we would conceivably consume in a year’s time
  3. Check and see that we have the capacity to can, freeze or store all this bounty
  4. Make a chronological list of when these foods are ready to preserve
  5. Put it all together and make a calendar of foods with their quantities and check it every couple weeks as the season progresses to make sure I’m on track
Over the next three posts I'm going to write up my plan.  It was getting a little long for a single post.  If you are putting food by in the coming year, I'd love to hear how you think about preserving.  Let me know in the comments what you are going to can, freeze or dehydrate in the coming year.

Let's get started.

Step 1: Make a list of what we would eat if I take the time to put it up.

I guess I’m getting a little ahead of myself. First I should look at what I did last year:
5 dozen ears of frozen cut corn (frozen in September gone by November)
6 pints of frozen sliced strawberries (we’ve got 1 pint left in January)
3 pints of frozen wild raspberries (untouched, I think the seeds are throwing me)
8 cups of sour cherries (Put up in June, made into 2 pies for dad over the summer)
8 pints of grape jelly (made in September, mostly gifts we kept 1 quart)
15 meals worth of pesto (put up in August and September, we have 10 left)
12 pints of tomato sauce (using about a half pint a week for pizza sauce)
12 quarts of dill pickles (down to 8 quarts)
4 quarts of dehydrated cherry tomatoes (3 quarts remaining)
Now for the wish list, what would I like to put up that I didn’t last year? I’m consulting the Ball Blue Book of Canning as well as my Freezing and Canning Cookbook by Farm Journal. It is from 1964 and smells like mold but it is still highly useful. Then I visited Punk Domestics, a website that show cases home food preservation and Spain in Iowa.
Sweet peppers, frozen chopped
Apples, dehydrated
Peaches, dehydrated
Dill pickle relish, can
Kale chips, dehydrated
Beet chips, dehydrated
Butternut squash, dry store
Garlic, dry store
Limoncello, Italian lemon liquor
Mustard, can
Enchilada sauce, can
Herbs (Basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley), dehydrate
Apple sauce, can
Wild Grape Jelly, can
I am beginning to wonder if this plan is a little overly ambitious, but that is what the next steps are for; to make sure I have the time, space and jars to put up all this food.  Part 2 and Part 3 can be found here.

This post was featured on Simple Lives Thursday.

1.08.2012

Fennel, Tomato and Sardine Linguini - Omega-3 Rich Fish Recipe


Have you ever actually tried sardines or anchovies? Many Americans have never given sardines a chance. I have to admit my only childhood exposure was that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ate anchovies and blue cheese pizza. Then I did Peace Corps and we happened to live in a community that had an NGO with volunteers living a village away. Not only did English Becky and Italian Daniel teach me about risotto, they taught me about canned fish other than tuna. They didn't convince me to go out and buy tins of sardines, but they opened me up to the idea.

Then, last month, I was reading about how humans evolved big brains when they had access to seafood and thus omega-3 fatty acids. And how our brains and nerves function better with omega-3s. Our bodies will substitute omega-6s if that's all that available. According to Dr. Terry Wahls at the University of Iowa 80% of us aren't getting the omega-3s we need daily.

I started to research good fish options. By good I mean fish that have more than 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids per serving, are not in danger of being over fished and are low in mercury like sardines and anchovies! One 3.5 ounce serving of sardines will give you 1.4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids and less than 0.09 ppm of potential mercury, the lowest category the USDA has for mercury contamination in seafood. It's time to give sardines a chance.

I went to my favorite recipe hunting grounds: tastespotting.com and foodgawker.com. There I found a recipe for Linguine with Sardines, Fennel and Tomato on Food52.com.


Sardines are a common Mediterranean food. The practice of salting and preserving sardines has been part of their culture for centuries. Huge schools of sardines migrate along the coast of Greece, Italy, France and Spain in late spring. Salting and canning is a way to preserve the bounty; kind of like a salmon run. The result is generations of experience cooking with sardines. If there is a place to start learning about sardines, Italian Cuisine seemed good.

This traditional Italian recipe is a strategic balance of flavors to make sure the sardines aren’t over powering. The fennel adds a nice crisp element; the light anise flavor helps brighten the dish. Tomatoes and lemon add the acid necessary to cut through the oily fish and a dash of hot pepper flake brings some heat. The most genius part of this recipe is the bread crumbs which help absorb the oily sauce and make the noodles less slippery. This recipe is absolutely delicious enough to make a regular rotation in our menu.

Yes my kitchen and apartment smelled like hot sardines while I was cooking. I expected that to bother me, but it really didn't. Although I suggest refraining from bringing the leftovers to work and reheating them in the communal lunchroom, especially if it is right next to the reception desk. 

Give sardines a chance.

Fennel, Tomato and Sardine Linguine

Salt (I like raw natural sea salt) about 1/4 teaspoon
1 tin sardines packed in olive oil (about 4 ¼ oz.)
Extra virgin olive oil
2-3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed, and roughly chopped
1 small or ½ large bulb fennel, fronds reserved
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes, or more to taste
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or 1cup canned tomatoes with their juice, gently crushed
2 ounces white dry vermouth, I used dry sherry
1 medium lemon, juice and zest
1/3 cup toasted bread crumbs
3/4 pounds dry whole grain linguine (1 box)
  1. Bring a large pot of water for pasta to a boil on the stove. Add a couple tablespoons of salt.
     
  2. Clean and cut the fennel bulb into thin slices. A mandolin would be ideal, but I don't have one so I just used a knife. I am a rebel and used more than just the white bulb. I also chopped up the green stalks, saving the ferny leaves for garnish at the end. Nothing goes to waste! Zest all of the lemon and reserve a tablespoon of zest to add to the bread crumbs. The rest of the zest and the juice from the lemon can be combined to be ready for the sauce.
     
  3. Open the tin of sardines and drain about a tablespoon of the oil into a large skillet. If you don't have enough, add olive oil to reach a tablespoon. If you happen to have bought sardines in water, like I did, use a tablespoon of olive oil.
     
  4. Over a medium-low burner heat the oil. Then add the garlic and continue heating until fragrant. Use medium or lower heat because olive oil and fish oil denature at higher temperatures. Add the fennel and cook until it starts to brown and caramelize. Then add the tomatoes and their juices and continue cooking until the liquid is thick and reduced. Pour in the vermouth or sherry, stir and let that reduce quickly.
     
  5. Add the sardines to the mixture in the skillet and any remaining juice or oil. Break up the sardines so they are in more bite sized chunks. They will break up a little as you stir the sauce too. Add the lemon juice and zest. Taste the sauce and see how it is doing. It should be very potent. Remember you will be serving this with a lot of linguini. Add a little salt if needed. Turn off the heat.
     
  6. Cook the linguine according to the directions for al dente. The pasta I had said to cook 7 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, mix the breadcrumbs with the reserved tablespoon of lemon zest.
     
  7. Once the pasta is just short of al dente, add about a half cup of the hot pasta water to the sardine sauce, if things get sticky add up to a cup. Then add the pasta to the skillet. Combine the sauce with the linguini. My skillet wasn't big enough to toss in, so I used a big Pyrex bowl.
     
  8. Serve up your tasty fennel, tomato and sardine linguine. Sprinkle generously with the lemon zest bread crumbs and garnish with fennel fronds. (If you are feeling decadent an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil is in order.)
This recipe makes four large dinner servings. If you have leftovers, refrigerate them without the bread crumbs. Wait to add the breadcrumbs until after reheating.

What do you think? Are you willing to give sardines a chance? Have you already? How do eat them?

1.05.2012

Gone Fishing

I wrote a 1,400 word post about omega-3 fatty acids a couple weeks ago.  I have been debating with myself if I should post it.  It got a little preachy and new age sounding.  It was my attempt to explain why I'm adding fish back into my diet after four years eating mostly vegetarian.  In the end, I don't think this blog is the place to put all that information.  It's out there if you want to find it.  Here's a couple links if you want to know more:
Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck
The Human Brain, Nourish-Fat from the Franklin Institute
The long and short of it is I’m adding fish back into my diet for my health and my kid’s health.

I've been experimenting with sardines, anchovies, and mackerel recipes. From what I've been reading those are the lowest in mercury and least in danger of being over fished.

So far I've found an excellent anchovies, fennel linguine pasta that I'll share with you all next.

How do you all feel about this? Do you eat fish? Am I going to completely alienate my audience with this change of direction?