stocking the larder

Well, no calf yet. Ruby is looking absolutely glowingly healthy but not enormous, and so I texted the guy I bought her from to see if he saw any breeding date I could use, he said no, the bull went in with the cows last November and so…it could be whenever. Oh boy. So let me talk about my other obsession right now, packing my pantry. I stole this book unintentionally from a friend a long time ago, called Stillroom Cookery. It is full of all kinds of unique ways to put food up, and also to use the “put up.” I adore books like this!

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A” Stillroom” is more common in the eastern part of the US, basically it’s a naturally cool space off the north side of a house, preferably and traditionally made of stone. Because it’s never hit with the sun, it would be naturally cool. I’d never heard of this before, only root cellars and such, but it sure makes a girl dream. Meanwhile, I have my kitchen in the old house which is sort of like a Stillroom, and I have a very wet basement, my cupboards, and freezers to fill with deliciousness. I strive to eat as much from my farm as I can, to reduce my carbon-footprint and to live as cheaply as possible. Buying groceries is an expensive endeavor. It is convenient, but you do pay for that.

A couple years ago, I really overdid it on canning with almost 800 jars put up, using the excuse I would be selling all these products at a farmer’s market. While I did sell a fair amount, all the hauling of these ridiculously heavy things back and forth wasn’t quite worth it when an end of the year review was done. I mostly took last year off canning so as to finally use up the pantry-ful of leftover canned goods. This year I don’t need to can tremendous amounts of a couple things, I just need to put up smaller amounts of what it is I actually use and like to give as gifts. I am fermenting kimchi, pressure canning green beans and salsa, fermenting apple vinegar and canning tomatoes. I dried nettles and herbs, and have a huge batch of my awesome herb salt curing. I’m also trying a new idea of making larger suppers out of the garden ingredients and freezing the leftovers, things like herb roasted cherry tomatoes, garlic and zucchinis, with chunks of chicken of the woods mushrooms my sister Melanie and I found growing in profusion off a tree in someone’s front yard when we were out on an errand. We also went and picked 10 dozen ears of sweet corn and blanched and froze about 20 lbs of sweet corn kernels. I found a cool recipe for frozen cucumber salad, which will allow me to have that fresh cucumber taste (not a pickle) in the winter and hopefully keep me from spending $5 on a non-local cucumber in February -I get serious cucumber cravings in the winter.11914887_10152971595087751_4335125206323462264_n

I still had some lingering jars of jam I’d made quite a few years back. I don’t really eat jam or jelly, and if I have bread, it’s usually toasted and topped with a fried duck egg, not eaten with something sweet smeared on it! So, those jams are being turned into something much more useful to me: alcohol. Besides the jams, I’ve been using all the seasonal fruit to my advantage in making hooch. I say hooch because this is not really even wine I am making, it’s just fermented fruit-infused water, with organic sugar or honey, and baking yeast. Just bring the fruit in water (or jam) to a boil, add sugar or honey to dissolve, then let cool overnight. (I used to try “wild-fermenting” my wines and it always made for really weird flavors and most were barely drinkable. By boiling and then adding yeast and sugar, you are much more likely to get a product that isn’t a waste of your time and resources.)  Then strain into sterilized bottles and stick a balloon on top. When the balloon deflates, it is ready so take the balloon off, taste, drink and loosely cork or cap the leftover bit. That’s all – hooch is not high-falutin’! I think I have like 15 gallons of various hooches going! There is so much fresh fruit available right now. I picked wild plums, my friends shared pears with me, and I have a summer apple tree which was loaded with fruit ripening over the past couple weeks. Hooch hooch hooch!!!

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Then there are the fall apple trees, of which there are MANY. I’ll be canning honey cinnamon applesauce with that coming bounty. I don’t really eat much applesauce out of the jar, but it is SOOOOO good when baked slowly in the winter, in a thin layer on parchment paper, transformed into apple leather.   A perfect way to double duty using the oven and warming the house in the winter.

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The easiest and best way I have found to put up applesauce is to just cut the cores and any blemishes out, leave the skin on. Save the cores and trimmings in a separate super-clean bucket to make apple vinegar. Simmer the cut up apples with a just a bit of water to get their juices coming out, stirring frequently. When it’s all mush, add honey, about 1 quart to a 5 gallon pot of simmering apples. Stir in cinnamon to taste, then get ready to can. I use a blender to make my applesauce silky smooth and transfer it straight from the hot pot to the belnder and then into my canning jars. I become a factory, an assembly line. You can put up a LOT of applesauce this way, and if you have buckets of apples, this works really well to get them all put away for later use. To make vinegar, just cover the cores and trimmings with water, add some raw vinegar if you have it, and cover with a plate and then weight it down (with a jug of your wine fermenting?!) to keep the bits submerged below the surface of the liquid. Cover the whole sheebang with a big dishcloth or a pillowcase, watch out so the cloth covering doesn’t dip into the liquid, which can wick the liquid onto the floor. Said from experience. Wait for about 4-6 months and then strain into jugs. So yummy in all sorts of applications (salad dressings especially) and also probiotic!

I’d love to hear your favorite and most useful products that you put up, and how you do it!

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16 thoughts on “stocking the larder

  1. Khaiti!! Dang girl those recipes sound so wonderful! Can I have your recipe for the apple sauce with honey and the freezer pickles?
    This whole article makes me think of when you told me you had tons of jars of jam that you didn’t know what to do with…and I told you to put it in with vodka and make flavored vodka!!
    I love this time of year since there is so much amazing, bountiful food. If we have a good season with lots of tomatoes, I make homemade ketchup and tomato paste. My mom and I do pickles, pickled beets, salsa, and jam…all canned and water bathed. One of my new obsessions is pickled corn relish that i like to eat as a salsa! I’ve never actually eaten it with meat like you probably would with a typical relish or chutney. We eat it like a salsa in our house with chips or on tacos…its so amazing on tacos.
    I also have a friend who has 3 large mulberry trees. He calls me every year when they’re ready. This year we only collected from 1 tree and I got 10lbs! I’m tempted to make mulberry wine or hooch like you. 🙂 Or i’ll just end up making a lot of jam to give as gifts.
    Homemade food gifts are the best. What kind of goodies do you make to give as gifts?
    Keep up the amazing work Khaiti!! I always look forward to your posts.

    1. You are adorable Maren! Your family is so good at putting food up, and making it fun together time too. I would love to have some mulberry trees someday, I remember we had one in our yard whn I was a kid and loved seeing all the purple bird poops staining the sidewalks during those weeks in the summer. The way I described making the applesauce is really the only recipe I have, the freezer picle one is here:http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/frozen-cucumber-salad, and my favorite thing to give as a gift is herb salt, I’ll make sure to get you some this year!!! I’m making TONS of it this year since it turned out so yummy and well loved last year.
      Can I get that corn relish recipe you use? That’s sounds fantastic!

  2. Impressive! I’m a new gardener and beginning canner. I use to simply freeze everything and then thought…. What if the power to freezer go down. I would lose it all. So I began canning jams and jellies. Then pickles and chow chow. Graduated to tomato sauce and salsa. I want to learn sauerkraut and elderflower and berries but I think I recognize them in the wild but too scared to pick. Your items you can are spectacular! My friends would love the hooch. (Lol). I’m saving now for the purchase of a pressure canner. I’m a little nervous to use but wish me luck. Fingers crossed. Thanks for the read. -Wen Smith

    1. Thanks so much!!! I was terrified of the pressure canner too, but as long as I stay in the kitchen and do not multitask outside, it is totally safe and fine and almost as easy as water bath canning, but it does take a lot more time. I’s hard for me to stay in one room ever, so I usually write on the blog when the pressure canner’s going. I have canned dried beans, meat, stock, salsa that’s not acid enough for water bathing—it is so incredibly versatile! And, I’d highly recommend you do the sauerkraut, I learned a lot of tips from my friend who makes it for a living- make sure to keep everything VERY clean as you make it to reduce risk of weird bacteria competing with the good ones, keep it entirely submerged as it ferments, let it go at least 2 weeks and taste, if it’s to your liking, jar up and pack into the jars tightly and make sure that’s covered with brine and refridgerate. It’ll then stay at that point of tangyness for about a year in your fridge.

  3. Wow, there’s lots of great ideas here. Awesome stuff. I have a very very old apple tree in my backyard, it produces tons of apples, but they don’t look as good as yours. I canned lots of apple pie filling last year, but this year I don’t have as much time. I’ll probably make hooch 🙂 That will be very useful too!

    1. Yes!!!! Try it out and let me know how it goes! I am also trying a batch of sun dried apple chips, I discovered the peeler gizmo I have can be set to slice and NOT peel, so that should be delicious!

  4. I have a pressure canner I have yet to try out – so glad you mentioned salsa as something you pressure can. I have grown lots of tomatillos in the past and love to make Salsa Verde. I mostly use it to make Chile Verde, but most of the time it was so tart from the amount of lime juice I had to use for water bath canning that I was constantly doctoring it up to compensate for the extra acid.
    I love the hooch idea! We’ve been making sauerkraut, hard cider and kombucha, but a crock of hooch sounds pretty good. Whoa! I think I have a new saying “what a crock of hooch”!
    A friend dropped off a 5 gallon bucket of plums and I made spicy pickled plums (so amazing served with pork!), plum syrup (most excellent over oatmeal pancakes), spicy plum BBQ sauce (great with pork, beef, chicken and as a glaze for fish) and my very favorite -Asian style plum sauce that we use for mushu pork, stir fries and just last night as a glaze for ham.
    A couple of ideas for using up your jam – add little bit to the pan after cooking meat with a splash of vinegar, maybe a little Dijon mustard and voilà- a lovely pan sauce. Homemade pop tarts or fruit empanadas – just pie dough with a jam filling. A little bit with oil and vinegar to make a fruity vinaigrette for salads. Stir it in some fizzy water for homemade soda.

    1. oh my goodness all your plum uses are wonderful ideas!! And the pan sauce thing- I’m still so new to eating meat I don’t know about all these cool ideas, so thank you! As far as the jam—I just don’t have much of a sweettooth to be making pastries, but fruit empandas sound like something to make me change that, maybe next time I have dinner guests!

  5. Good Lord Khaiti, this sounds good!!!!
    Are you taking interns any time soon 🙂 Glad you updated on the cows in the first sentence that put my mind at ease.
    I had not canned for winter in decades. My mom was like you canning like crazy sometimes we would lose track of all the stuff we had. We would store it in the cellars of the four story soviet apartment building. Nice to go down 5 flights of stairs in January and haul up back 5 flights a sack of potatoes and gallons of jarred sruff. 🙂 recipes passed from friend to friend. Neat on the stillroom. We just got back from historical wisconsin museum the old wisconsin, lots of good info there and many still rooms and root cellars to look at.

    1. How cool is that museum, where in WI is it?? Thinking about people who HAD to put up, there were no grocery stores with produce of all kinds all the year round, really puts things in perspective and is my inspiration. I can’t imagine the pressure to live off of ONLY what you grew and put by, my goodness we are so blessed.

      1. No kidding. We just watched a movie about mountain climbing in 1890s with kids and talked about ‘safety net’ that we all enjoy now, climbing mountains with cellphones and radios knowing we would be saved by helicopters if in trouble. Not so back then. Same with food and other stuff. I will post some info and pics on that museum on my blog in the next couple days, check it out.

  6. The book looks wonderful. I always fall for pictures like the one on the cover – I want my kitchen to be like that. Instead, it’s just cluttered :). I am dealing with buckets of apples after a big windstorm – trying to give the pigs the worst ones and save the useable ones for me. I usually make applesauce (unsweetened) and freeze it – in a variety of sizes – small to go with pork roasts, bigger for desserts. I also do apple rings in the dehydrator, and I used to do fruit leather, but the only person who really likes it also has braces, so it’s not a good one for right now. I will probably end up making apple chutney eventually, as there really do seem to be an awful lot of apples. The pears have been dropping for a couple of weeks – the pigs love them, and I’ve dried quite a few. I was supposed to do canned pears, which we all like, but time and pears haven’t coincided. And then there’s tomatoes…oh my goodness. I shouldn’t even be sitting here, I should be out in the kitchen prepping them for tomato sauce! I’ve never tried making apple cider vinegar, but your recipe sounds so doable, that maybe I’ll give it a go this year.

  7. I don’t handle the canning duties around here (luckily for us) so I can’t speak with authority, but Cherie has been putting up lots of tomatoes and jams. Right now we’re swimming in cantaloupes, so she’s been freezing some of those. The freezers and pantries are stuffed, so we should have plenty to eat this summer.

    I’m really intrigued by the hooch. At our sustainability gathering last month we talked about wine making and two of the guys who led the discussion are expert wine/mead makers, very serious and meticulous about it. Honestly, it was a little intimidating (although once I get started it probably won’t be). I like the hooch idea! It’s so simple and low-brow I don’t even have to call it “wine.” 🙂

    Maybe I can use some of these cantaloupes….

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