Saturday, February 21, 2009

Winter Comforts

Fresh applesauce, Sunshine Jam, and a Faschnacht with molasses to dip it. What's a Faschnacht? It's a Pennsylvania Dutch potato donut, made for Shrove Tuesday. They call it Donut Day in some places, and local fire company Ladies Auxiliaries make huge batches that the volunteer firemen hawk at stop lights as fundraisers. My mother brought us a dozen today, apparently so we can pratice for Tuesday.
Y'know, even 'tho things are a little crappy lately, I am finding comfort in our new food routines. I wondered if we would want to stray back to packaged convenience when stressed, but it looks like the new patterns are really becoming set.

I indulged in a carrot muffin at a Wawa convenience store the other day when I filled the gas tank. I didn't like it. It was too sweet, too oily, and didn't have raisins or nuts or good spices. The fake cream cheese icing was heart-burn sweet. Bland. I've done nothing but think about good carrot cake muffins ever since. Today I peeled and grated the last of the fall carrots, and I'll make muffins tomorrow. I also made pear butter, applesauce, and Sunshine Jam today.

I can't wait for spring, but I really have been enjoying the winter food.

We are now good at making yogurt, stock, pizza and pasta sauce. We make a weekly pot of bean soup, and we are eating more cabbage and potatoes. I've added a weekly batch of applesauce, and a batch of sweet potato puree to have on hand for biscuits. I keep meaning to try other biscuit recipes, but the sweet potato biscuits are so good, and we get extra beta-carotene, too.

I find I am finally getting into the swing of putting together routine meals that come mostly from staples in our pantry. We make a weekly trip to the farmer's market for milk, pasture-fed eggs, cheese, apples, and greens. We hit a grocery store to stock up on a few loss-leaders every other week or so. I have a good idea of what I need to can/plant/store more of for next winter.

The supply of squash and sweet potatoes (all local) have held up well in the cellar this winter, and we still have a few left. The carrots, parsnips, and cabbage did well in the fridge (also local, but now gone). The white potatoes did not do well. There are a few sprouting ones I will plant. I ended up buying 10# bags of taters every few weeks. I didn't grow even a fraction of our onions, and none of the garlic, nor did I find local sources for those.

I have been making 2 quarts of applesauce almost every week. We've used massive amounts of eating and cooking apples this year. I guess that means I would have to make 100 quarts for a year for my pantry, if I went strictly with local apples in the fall, in addition to eating apples. The local ones I bought got eaten before we could test their cellar storage longevity.

But, there is this thing at the market. I've been going on Saturdays and asking one of the produce vendors if there are apple seconds. He usually gives me a box of bruised apples and pears for a few dollars. This week, I got about 10# of apples and 5# of Bosc pears for only ONE dollar! I have discovered that I need to go right home and make applesauce and pear butter, or the fruit flies go nuts. I brought fruit flies home on a pineapple, and they found the worm composting bin, and we have had trouble keeping them down ever since. I've been freezing the peels in a bucket out back instead of composting them, until we get the flies under control. When the ground thaws, I will trench-compost the thawed peelings.
(I found a recipe for apple jelly that boils the peels to
make a pretty rose-colored jelly. I also want to try
making my own vinegar. Then I would *really* be
getting all I can out of an apple.
These apples and pears are mostly not local, a mix of whatever gets culled each week, many from Washington State, a mere 2500 miles away. But they would be discarded if I didn't use them, I think. So, on one hand, I am not buying local, but on the other, I am reducing waste while saving loads of money.

I think the middle ground might be to make some local applesauce in the fall, and supplement it with the weekly throw-away apples. At least until that time in the future when shipping becomes so expensive that Washington apples don't come here anymore.

Anyone have arguments for a different solution? I do buy local produce regularly, and devote part of my grocery budget to doing so every week, directly from producers whenever I can. Should I be turning down produce from afar, as a point of principle? The dollar-stretcher in me would have trouble walking away from this apple deal.


eunice said...

Matriarchy, you are just continuing the very worthy tradition of gleaning which should not compromise your principles in any way. i actually think it's a very environmentally correct thing to do.

have you ever seen the documentary, "The Gleaners and I / Glaneurs et la glaneuse"? highly recommended viewing.

littlegreengardengal said...

I vote for you to continue buying the apples - otherwise they might go to waste and all that transportation for nothing.
I use this approach with bananas. I quit buying bananas regularly several years ago. But I do buy the overripe ones from the sale rack occasionly. Because if they have been transported so far already and now are going to waste, then I figure it is better to use them. And that way I get banana bread and muffins sometimes.

livinginalocalzone said...

I think the apples make sense - as littlegreengardengal said, they have been transported anyway, and will likely be tossed if you didn't take them and put them to good use.

One of the things that pains me most is seeing usable food be tossed by stores, restaurants, etc. I remember when I was about 9, I was walking by a bakery just about closing time. The last customers were leaving, and just after the store closed, the employees began taking the bread from the racks (where customers had been buying them minutes ago) and putting them into huge trash bags and into trash bins. It just struck me, and the image has stayed with me until today. And I think it always will.

Oof, that was a lot of blathering to say that you are doing a smart thing, using food in any way possible, and making something delicious for your family.

It sounds like you are doing really well though, in a good routine and managing your stores well. I did the same thing with onions at the markets and my CSA (traded other veg for storage potatoes) and so far it's worked. Local apples - yep, that's been all the fruit I've had since October/November. I guess we are blessed to have them. I love reading about all your jams, fruit butters, and applesauce.

fullfreezer said...

Oh, I miss faschnachts. I agree with everyone else on the apples- go for it. And what a great deal! I remember when we lived in Bethlehem (PA- not the biblical one) years ago one local store had one morning a week where they set out their 'scratch and dent' produce- if you didn't mind having to cut out some bad bits you could get some great deals. I remember talking to the produce manager- he said that he would rather get a quarter for something than just throw it out. I wish more stores would do something like that. It does make me sick how much food is wasted.

MeadowLark said...

I just want to thank you for making sunshine jam famous. ;)

Gina said...

Agree with all the above in that the produce is simply not letting it go to waste. It seems worse to me, carbon foot speaking, to allow something that used resources to just be tossed out.

I just love your detailed food posts! They inspire me tremendously!

Bridgitte said...

Love your site :) Very inspirational! (things are pretty tough in South Africa too ... every penny saved helps - I dont think one should have to compromise on good quality food. All it takes is a bit of thought and extra effort)

Matriarchy said...

I'm sorry I have been remiss in replying to comments. Lots going on.

Thank you to everyone that agreed I should keep "gleaning" the apple seconds. It felt right do so. I get those over-ripe bananas cheap sometimes, too.

Meadowlark, it seems more like I hijacked your jam! I am forever renaming it "Meadowlark's Sunshine Jam" and linking to your blog recipe. It's one of my favorite newly-found yummy things.

I am happy that everyone likes the detailed posts. I worry sometimes that I just blab on and on about nothing much. I'm enjoying the discovery process that goes with making big changes in our lives.

MeadowLark said...

NO NO NO!!! No renaming!!! You're the one who can make it famous... I just stole it from a cookbook!!!! :)

And I'm down to two jars. YIKES! I'm ready for summer. It's going to suck when the world goes all "peak oil" on me and I can't afford pineapple and lemons. :(

Matriarchy said...

I know! Pineapple, clementines, bananas, lemons and limes, coffee, tea, spices - argh! I know that the "Spice Routes" have been active for centuries, but now we are dependent on petroleum to get peppercorns, cinnamon, and tea to the New World. I'm so spoiled.