Last weekend was a very productive weekend for me, and the snow brought in last night has proven to be helpful as well. Since blogging last, here are some of the projects I have completed. Of course, since I have been working on these things, there have been no new things to post on, so I will link each project to previous posts and pictures about it. I was a little slack in taking pictures this time around.
Friday night I thawed a quart of frozen strawberries from last spring to make a batch of fruit leather. Strawberry fruit leather is one of our favorites, and during the winter when there are no fresh local fruits available it is one of the things we eat. When my workplace started a weight loss program pushing increased fruit consumption, I did actually start buying bananas and grapes from the grocery since not many local fruits were available, but I just couldn't continue. Not only does it go against my goal of eating as locally as possible, I also don't visit the grocery often enough to consistently have these things on hand. Our grocery visits are usually about three weeks apart since most of the things we purchase from the store are staples like flour, sugar, grains, and beans (things that can be bought in bulk and keep well). It was one of those personal decisions that I had to make for myself. I would rather eat less fruit and know where that fruit came from rather than purchase something from South America or Mexico for the sake of so-called "health". So, dried and frozen fruit are important to us in winter. I don't mean to sound preachy here. Each person must do what seems right for their particular situation and set of circumstances.
|Strawberry fruit leather being wrapped in wax paper and tied with baker's twine|
Even though we have tried to eat local meals at home in most cases for several years now, one thing I have just recently started buying locally in its entirety and on a regular basis is meat. I had always purchased some meat at the farmer's market, but for the past several months, we have not purchased any meat at the grocery store. All of our meat is sourced locally at this point, and it feels great to know that what we are eating was raised humanely and responsibly. If you are wondering what made me change, it was a combination of things including several books I have been reading (Food Matters by Mark Bittman and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver) along with my connections to people at the farmer's market and the increased availability of local, pastured meats in my community. Also, even though I have obviously known how animals in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) were raised, I (like so many others out there) tended to push it to the back of my mind when planning meals to save money. I have now made the conscious decision to bring that knowledge to the forefront of my mind each time I eat which can really make things seem less appetizing. I'm not saying it's always possible to eat local meat. Sometimes you are in situations where that is not feasible, but making the effort to do it as much as possible can make a big difference in your personal health and attitude about food. Also, even though it is more expensive, that just leads us to eat less meat which is also healthful in itself. Again, I'm not intending to sound preachy, but I think it's important that we know where our food comes from and how it was produced, and I think it's important to keep as many of our food dollars in the local economy as possible rather than spending them to support big industry.
Our meat/cheese comes from a combination of the following farms/sources:
Beef/Chicken from Baucom's Best
Beef from Martins' Charolais Farm
Pork from Grateful Growers
Cheese from Ashe County
Cheese from Goat Lady Dairy
With that being said, I am trying my hand at producing some of my own cured meats. I currently have a pork loin curing in the refrigerator which will be similar to Canadian bacon. When it is finished, I will take pictures and share the results.
I also used the last of my frozen lard (rendered months ago) to make two batches of pie crusts using this recipe. The all lard crust was exceptionally flaky, but we did miss some of the buttery flavor of my regular crust. From now on I will use a combination of lard and butter which I have done in the past and really is the best of both worlds. Either works well and all freeze beautifully. One crust went into making a quiche with local breakfast sausage, local cheddar cheese, potatoes from storage, and backyard eggs. You can't get much better than that.
|Pie crusts ready for the freezer (these are all-butter crusts)|
Since I used the rest of the previously rendered lard, I purchased and rendered another 2 pounds in the slow cooker resulting in 2 pint jars for the freezer.
We were also down to one jar of pickled beets from the year before last, so when I saw beets at the market on Saturday, I purchased enough for a small batch to tide us over until we can grow some. I cut these into wedges rather than slices, but I used my usual pickled beet recipe. We got two jars of red pickled beets and two jars of golden pickled beets (which we are excited to try).
Last but not least, I organized the chest freezer and took an inventory of what remained so I can make sure to use what we have when planning menus for the upcoming weeks. We still have several bags of lima beans, field peas, green beans (although our stock is low), corn on the cob, corn kernels (only a few bags left), pesto, and roasted tomatoes. We also have four bags of frozen peaches and one quart of strawberries which will most likely go to make more fruit leather in the very near future.
All in all, productivity can be very rewarding and in this case will go into making it easier to produce wholesome weeknight meals with real food.