Monday, August 30, 2010

Almost More Than We Know What To Do With

Lately, I've been carpooling with a colleague several days a week. It's working out pretty nicely - each of us saves tolls and parking costs at least 1 day a week, as we take turns driving in, and having company in the car passes the commute time.

On Mondays, the obvious conversation point is what we did with our weekends. This weekend, we went to visit my sister on her farm.. Visits to the farm are always relaxing, as my sister and brother-in-law are great cooks, and it's a peaceful, unhurried place to spend time. My daughter loves the animals- in addition to the usual flock of chickens and other animals, this time there were 10 baby goats to pet and chase.

Almost everything except gas is cheaper in upstate New York. In particular, it's a big farming area - Schoharie County was the breadbasket of the American Revolution . So when we go, we always come home with something. This time it was lots and lots of food. I mean lots.

One of our favorite places to visit out there is The Carrot Barn, a farm with a great shop full of local goods, produce and meat, a greenhouse, and a little cafe. This time of year our trip had purpose - to buy fruits and vegetables in large quantities, for the express purpose of preserving them.

But first we went raspberry picking at another farm. The fall raspberries were just starting to come in, but 90 minutes or so worth of effort netted us 3 quarts. We also picked up some peaches and a butternut squash (the latter being $1, it was hard to resist). Total spent at Boringer's: $15.75.

Then on to The Carrot Barn for lunch and shopping. And we came home with:
1 bushel (52 ears) of sweet corn, complete with burlap sack
1/2 bushel of sweet yellow tomatoes
1/2 bushel of paste tomatoes
1/2 peck of cippolini onions (about 1/4 bushel)
1/2 bushel red peppers
1 1/2 bushels of broccoli
Total: $73.70

In addition, there was a giant bunch of dill my husband plans to dry, and 3 dozen eggs from Sharon's chickens.

To give you an idea of how much food this is, I drive a Subaru Outback. And we had a tough time fitting our small bags of clothes for the weekend in the car once all the food was in there.

And there is still more to come. We have bulk organic flour coming in a couple weeks, and next time my Mom heads out to my sister's, we'll have her lug back more broccoli, more onions, and some butternut squash. Food preservation is serious business in my family.

It's hard to estimate how many meals or servings we're going to get out of this stuff right now, but I'm going to conservatively estimate that the total we spent, $89.45, would be about $250 worth of food in a grocery store, so wholesale is quite a bit less than 50% of retail.. I'll have, and will post, better numbers after we've preserved it all.

So last night once our daughter was in bed, Sander and I hit the kitchen. I made bread, which needed to be made anyway. And then we started chopping, blanching and freezing. By the end of the evening the raspberries (3 quart bags) and broccoli (15 quart bags in total) were in the freezer, and dinner for tonight was prepped and in the crockpot (italian pot roast), and the basement was still overflowing with vegetables. Tonight we have to start on the corn and tomatoes. The next 3-4 days are going to be spent almost exclusively in the kitchen, as we're in a race against time to get all the food preserved before it rots.

I'll take some pictures and post them later. This is something you have to see.

I love to preserve food. Much of it goes in the freezer, but we'll probably can the tomatoes as sauce - there is nothing that is better in the cold months than pulling out some home-jarred tomato sauce. It tastes like summer.

Now, when asked about my weekend by a fellow consultant, I wasn't sure quite what to say.. But I went for it, and told Scott exactly what I did with my weekend. And cheerfully
acknowledged it sounded a little loony. And yet, I'm fairly certain that instead of utterly weirded out, he was interested. Much of the car ride was a discussion of how to preserve the various foods, and ended with a discussion of the appeal of downshifting to farmlife.

People surprise you sometimes. I tend to think that most people I interact with on a day-to-day basis probably think I'm a little odd when I say things like "I have to be home tonight because I need to make some bread - we're out". I mean, most people go to the grocery store. But a lot more people than I expect are surprisingly interested in that sort of thing, and I spend a lot of time sending the link for Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day around to various people (note: you don't need a pizza stone, baking sheets work fine, and the best mix of flours I've come up with so far is 1/2 cup whole wheat, 1/4 cup bread flour, 1/4 cup oat flour, 5 1/2 cups white).

So I need to remember to keep a more open mind about my various oddities when talking to others. And it confirmed that the carpool thing is working out.

How to blanch broccoli:
Cut broccoli heads off the stems. If you like the stems, chop them and blanch separately.

Boil a big pot of water. Drop in the heads for 60 seconds. Fish them out (if only have 1 pot worth, dump it and drain them, but otherwise the water is reusable) and drain in a colander, immediately soaking in cold water so that they stop cooking.

Put in freezer bags in meal-sized servings, and press as much air out as possible. Freeze. Lasts about 4-5 months.

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