When preserving feels like a crime

I am growing way more food than is possible for a small family to eat at one time.   I did this with the full anticipation that I would be “putting up” some of the food for later in the year when we don’t have these in fresh supply on the Almostima ‘farmette’.  

So often we let food rot because we optimistically think we’ll get around to eating it while it’s still good — but life gets in the way.  I’m determined not to let that happen this year.  I know that a fresh tomato or a fresh cucumber is amazing — but there’s only so much of it I can have in one sitting, and one of my plants just exploded with tomatoes.  I’ve already had salad, salsa and bruscetta a few days in a row, and I know many of these will meet a sad fate if I don’t use them now.  (Keep in mind I have 7 other tomato plants that are still largely green.) 

Cucumbers are a trickier item.  I planted a ton of them because I so enjoyed making (and eating) relish last year and wanted to make a lot more pickles this time around, that I was calculating for a big  so that I could eat both fresh cukes and pickles down the road.  But, the plants are under-performing.  The thing is, I crave pickles more than cucumbers, so I went ahead and prioritized the pickling, hoping that more cukes will come my way as the season progresses.  My parents were a little offended that I used two of the cucumbers they gave me from their plants for relish.  Sorry, but I already ate a half-dozen fresh cukes from their plants, and those hot dogs aren’t gonna dress themselves. 🙂

I love how excited Max gets to go produce picking with me in the yard every day.  How many 2 year olds know the word ‘basil?’  I also love that he will eat way more tomatoes directly from the plant than he will if I just put it on his dinner plate.  I remember once last season he commented that  tomato I gave him was too cold to eat — because he was used to tomatoes that had been warmed by the sun on the plant.

Here’s what I’m enjoying preserving:

  • Pickling green beans — love them on their own as  a snack or on sandwiches in place of regular pickles.  Would also be good in a bloody mary, but haven’t actually tried that yet.
  • dehydrating green beans (will put in soups in the winter)
  • dehydrating tomatoes – trying this tonight for the first time.
  • the aforementioned relish (YUM!)
  • fermented israeli-style pickles.  (don’t have a batch ready yet, but will post more on that in a few days/week when I can comment on whether it worked)
  • plum bbq sauce
  • Haven’t done too much jamming lately – but that’s always fun
  • Still to come: tomato sauce!

 Here’s the thing:  preserving, at least as a beginner, requires faith.  I could eat this fresh, nutritious cucumber now, when it’s a known quantity, or I could undertake a complicated process so that I could enjoy it in a different form sometime down the road.  But what if I screw it up?  What if the process fails?  I will have wasted this gift for the sake of imitating something I could have bought at the store for a couple of bucks.  But if I don’t get to eat it and it rots, it’s equally wasted.  Also, let’s face it, our taste buds get bored! 

So, hopefully I’ll master these pickling/preserving techniques and this won’t be such a leap of faith next year.

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