Tuesday, November 8, 2011

14 Carrot Gold

Eating locally grown food helps in the fight against global warming. Rich Pirog of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture reports that the average fresh food item on our dinner table travels 1,500 miles to get there. Buying locally-produced food eliminates the need for all that fuel-guzzling transportation.
Wow, I really cannot believe Thanksgiving is around the corner! I still can't get used to the fact that summer is over, but in just a few short weeks the local farmstand will close for the season. I've been dashing there once a week and buying as many vegetables as Rick and I can handle at a time. I mean, there's just so much space to store everything so it doesn't go bad before we can get a chance to dehydrate, can, ferment, freeze, or cook it all. The stand is maybe 8 miles away, in a direction I rarely travel, so I try and get as much as possible in one trip. Our refrigerator is so packed you can barely see what's in there (probably moldy leftovers from last month hidden somewhere!) and we have baskets of fruits and vegetables sitting all over the counters waiting. I went again yesterday and found bags of radishes, carrots, lemons, limes, (more) apples, and celery on the $1.00 discount rack. Last week I found a 6 lb. bag of bananas, several bags of tomatoes, and two bags of mushrooms—and there was absolutely nothing wrong with them—all for just $1.00 a bag. The mushrooms themselves would have been $5 at the grocery store, and I'm guessing each bag of tomatoes weighed 4 lbs. One week I bought enough cabbage for Rick to make a crock of sauerkraut, kim chi, cortido, and dehydrate the rest.

Rick thinks my underlying scheme is to either drive him totally crazy, keep him barefoot in the kitchen, or something equally as evil. I keep dragging bags out, telling him what to deal with next. His poor hands looked awful after the cabbages were dealt with; red and chapped with a few cuts and scrapes. But, he sure does make a mean ferment. When I hear the pop of the kombucha bottle opening I come running.

But I think yesterday I pushed it too far. I walked in with my handy dandy large sized tote bag so full and heavy I could barely carry it with two hands. Besides all the dollar bags of seconds I had bought acorn and butternut squash, too, so I was struggling. I dropped the bag on the kitchen floor and proudly withdrew all my goodies. Rick looked at me and said, "You're kidding, right? Why did you buy so many radishes? And don't we already have a ton of carrots in the fridge?" To which I pointed out that they were only a $1.00 a bag and how could anyone resist. Besides he needs radishes for the kim chi. But Rick wanted to make some beef jerky, so I decided I needed to give in and actually cut some of this stuff up myself. Rick patted me on the head and said he had trained me well and he was ready to pass the torch. I like it so much better when he deals with the preserving, but I proceeded to peel and chop carrots and zucchini, made jars of lemons, limes, and radishes in salt, and dehydrated three huge bunches of cilantro. As soon as the jerky is done (it's doing taking its turn in the dehydrator now) I'll start on the celery.

All this dehydrating has been fun, though. We've never dehydrated before, but it made sense to try it. We bought the 5 tray Excalibur food dehydrator and it's been amazing. We haven't dipped into anything yet except the previous batch of beef jerky, the dried apples, and the dried bananas. We thought we'd wait until the farmstand closed for the season before we really started using everything. May as well still use fresh while it's here. There's so much talk about buying local and buying in season that we thought, well, maybe we should try and see what we could do. When we first moved into our house 30 years ago our neighbor said she never bought tomatoes out of season. I thought she was a little odd at the time, but it's time to reconsider that attitude.

Our garden hasn't produced excess for years—just enough to eat fresh during the season (well, except the garlic, which has been a huge success)—because we're usually busy performing over the summer. This year, though, gigs were light so Rick did a lot of work to get the garden back in shape. He's got some kick-ass compost going. We're hoping next year it'll be even better, but I don't know, those dollar bags of blemished fruit at the farmstand are hard to beat. 

dehydrated food waiting to get eaten!
Believe it or not, that jar in the photo has 14 carrots in it!! Wow. Rick called it 14 carrot gold. (He's quite the wit.) I'm afraid that when I go to make soup I'll over add the vegetables because they look so darn tiny. Which is why I actually paid attention to the recommendation that you label how much you put in each container and what it weighed beforehand. I even noted how many rounds I cut a large carrot into versus a medium one.

I was also really fascinated by the idea of preserving the lemons and limes in salt. Lemons preserved in salt are often called for in Moroccan dishes. Not sure what to do with the limes, but I'll figure it out. I googled several different recipes for preserved lemons, but this worked best. Now I can't wait for them to be done so I can try a Moroccan recipe!

Lemons Preserved in Salt
lemons and limes a day after salting
1. Grab yourself a bowl and sharp knife
2. Wash the lemons well
3. While holding a lemon over the bowl, cut the lemon lengthwise and then across the width. Don't make the cuts go quite the whole way and do NOT cut through the lemon. You want the lemons to stay intact
4. Pack salt into the cuts
5. Put 2 or 3 tablespoons of salt in the bottom of the jar
6. Pack the lemons in tightly, adding a little salt in between each one
7. Finish with a layer of salt
8. Cover the jar tightly and leave at room temperature for several days. Keep and eye on the level of liquid in the jar
9. If the lemons don't make enough juice to cover themselves, open the jar back up and add some lemon juice until they're covered (seems like I'll have to in a day or so)

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