The Milkweed Diaries

Monday, January 24, 2011

Homegrown Foods in the Wintertime

Canned foods and bottled meads and ciders ready for action...

The path from gardening to food preservation is a short and well-traveled one. In the ongoing quest to eat from our garden year-round, I've gone further and further down that path over the past few years. It's been a sweaty journey (standing over steaming pots in August) but a satisfying one.

I loved this recent story on NPR about the home canning renaissance - it made me feel a little less odd, or at least not alone in my oddity, as I perused my shelves and cabinets full of homegrown items.

Christopher finally had to build more shelves for food storage this year, as my jars of canned goods had begun to creep across the floor and down the hallway and our clothes were being squeezed out of the closet by winter squash and sweet potatoes.

We have finally reached the point this year where we really can eat homegrown foods every day in the winter, and where a large part of our winter diet comes from foods we preserved from the garden.

A few heroic vegetables like winter squash, sweet potatoes, garlic, dry beans, and potatoes make it easy - no canning, freezing, fermenting, or packing in oil required.

Greek Sweet Red squash

Cured sweet potatoes in storage.

Of course there are also a few unbelievably hardy vegetables like this chard harvested in mid-January, thanks to floating row cover, make a nice fresh addition to all of the roots and relishes too.

One day we'll get in the rhythm of hoophouse greens in the winter -- all of our lettuces and winter greens growing under cover in the hoophouse now are too tiny to harvest, since we planted them a bit too late.

Bruchetta with local bread (made with NC-grown wheat!) topped with a bunch of preserved spreads -- frozen mole paste and frozen pesto, and canned sweet pepper hash andgreen tomato marmalade.

There is something magical about eating those precious preserved foods in the wintertime - it seems like such a special treat.

I always feel like I'm opening a little gift from myself when I pop open a jar of tomatoes or peppers or dilly beans.

Cherry tomatoes, basil, and pearl onions preserved in salt and oil (recipe and details here) - I sauteed them in olive oil and added fresh greens, garlic, and garbanzos for a hearty winter stew.

Sweet peppers roasted and packed in oil.

Homegrown dry black beans with garlic and preserved sweet peppers, pesto from last summer's basil, and homegrown German Butterball potato "bruchettas" with various homegrown/homemade toppings, including creamy sweet potatoes.

Dilly beans, pickled green cherry tomatoes, and various other preserved things.

And then there is the occasional special winter food gift - Chinese chestnuts from Ali in this case.


Dana said...

HEy, I recognize that spread! I am dogging my prize from my yulicorn situation- the green tomato chutney. I am so glad you put food up and are so generous with sharing it with visitors. You make it look so fun and it always tastes so good and nourishes the body and spirit. I hope all is well out at Red Wing. Love to all. Your pal, Dana

Aimee said...
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Aimee said...

this is such a beautiful post - you should feel proud of yourself, but you've made me feel like a major slacker.

The only canned goods we have left are the things that weren't very popular - green tomato chutney, pickled green beans (the beans were a little overmature) and some beets. Nobody likes beets but me. My root cellar - also known as a few bins under the table on the porch - needs work, because the carrots and beets are starting to seriously mold. In fact, that's the job that I set for myself today and which I am currently avoiding - sort, scrub, and salvage whatever I can from those bins.

The only other foods I have left over from last year are a few jars of cajeta (goat's milk caramel sauce) and some sauerkraut. Once again, the problem is nobody will eat the kraut but me... so how much should I really make?

Anyway. I am envious of your glowing pantry. It's beautiful. Please write more about cider and mead!

Milkweed said...

You two are too kind. Thanks and yes, I promise more on mead and cider! I do have a couple of mead-related's a start:

Herbal Meads:

Autumn Olive Mead:

Crabapple Cider/Mead:

Blackberry Mead:

I'm sure there are more as I am addicted to making wine out of free wild and feral foods....but that's what I found with a quick search. Thanks for reading, homegirl and internet friend!

anna maria said...

What a beautiful and interesting blog.
I just found you because I was looking for info on growing Cherokee Trail of Tears beans (since I did not have much luck with them last year in San Francisco, but am now living in Southern Italy so want to try again) and found your post from 2008. What a touching and lovely piece of writing.
I am reclaiming my parents house which hasn't been lived in since 1987, so at this time I'm focusing on tearing down ivy, but hope to do much more. I'm starting kind of late and doubt I will ever get to where you are with your canning and goat an all, but I'm going to try to go as far as I can.
your blog will provide much reading material.

Milkweed said...

Hi again, Anna Maria~
Oh, you never know where things will lead once you get started! 5 years ago, I didn't expect to have goats and be building shelves to accommodate all of the preserved foods! I'm envious that you're in Italy - I have visited twice and been so inspired by the food traditions and so in love with the land. I'd love to hear more of your story ~ I'll explore your blog, which looks lovely and I heart the alternating English and Italian!