Field Trip in a Can

Meet Sunday night dinner. It’s one of those meals that feels just as nice as it tastes. Knowing that most of the ingredients came from local farmers and our garden is great, but the fact that we’re making it in January is pretty exciting. We can recall the intimate history of each major ingredient, with only the exception of the flour in the pasta, which was grown out west.

The herbs in our sauce were from our garden and dried at the end of the season. The tomatoes (that we canned) and peppers (that we roasted and froze) were grown at Wilsonville Organics. The mushrooms were grown on our shiitake log and then dried. The beef in the meatballs is from the Meloun’s farm, next to my in-laws. And the onion and garlic comes from our CSA food box.

The only downside is that these local winter meals are a special occasion for us. Last summer, we only dipped our toes in preserving (figuratively), but this summer, we’re going to jump right in. As we spend evenings picking out seeds for our garden, not only are we picking things we would love to eat in the summer, but we’re planting for the winter as well. We’ve got big plans, and are adopting a quarter acre for next year.

I am already imagining shelves filled with strawberry jam, dill pickles, and perhaps pickled asparagus. We’re going to freeze more corn and roasted peppers, and at least triple the amount of tomatoes. I’d like to freeze a variety of vegetables to use in soups, stews, and pasta dishes, dehydrate many more herbs, make some fruit juices, and even try making some different pie fillings. It seems like a lot, but if we check each one off when it’s in season, it should spread itself out nicely over the summer.

It’s sort of like planning for a baby. Jesse’s been building some beautiful boxes to store our preserves in and his dad is excited to build a big root cellar in the side of a hill for our vegetables that will store.

If you are new to canning, or looking for a helpful and up-to-date reference, a great book to get you going is “Canning & Preserving with Ashley English.” We’re totally crushing on Ashley’s Homemade Living series – they’re pretty perfect. As in her other books, everything is laid out logically. Charts provide a checklist so all of your tools are in order, interspersed with stories featuring real people, and their experiences and advice, while ideas for each season are organized so you don’t miss anything.

It’s helpful to read up early. We were learning as we went last year, which was frantic at times and didn’t leave time to make the best decisions. We ended up with a few jars of watery tomato sauce and a few others that pour out like molasses. But it’s ok. By this time next year we’ll be pros, and well-fed. And the best part about it is that we’ll be able to enjoy a meal that is uniquely ours. With unique, nuanced flavours that are only in one of our jars.

4 comments

  • Congratulations on the beautiful meal! I am going to follow up on your shitaake log, it sounds intriguing.
    I'm doing something fairly similar to you – out west. Part of me is laughing because my parents are also thinking of root cellars, and I've been considering asking for their help to make one for me too…
    Anyway, I'm going to keep following you, and hope you might be interested in my blog too: wolfandfinch.wordpress.com

    Great photos too, by the way!

  • Thanks!

    Shiitake logs are simple. Melanie bought that one for me for my birthday pre-made, but it's pretty simple to buy some sawdust plugs filled with mushroom spores and make your own out of a salvaged piece of wood. Richters here in Ontario has a few kits (although I haven't ordered anything from them yet) http://www.richters.com Just search “shiitake.”

  • Really enjoyed finding your blog and reading about your adventures on field trips and in the kitchen!

    When I read your tag line, I chuckled to myself because I've been meaning for *ages* to make my own crackers, and I have yet to do it. But I'm pretty confident they're coming soon…

    Cheers~

  • Thanks Bethany, I think homemade crackers are coming soon for us too. Maybe even this year!

    Love your blog and a bit jealous you actually have a choice of where to get your milk.

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