Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Take-Away from the MREA Fair Root Cellar Workshop

My lavender planted in a rocky scree by my deck is flowering nicely. I always plan on harvesting and drying some but never do, an ephemeral pleasure at best, I guess.

I spent the day with the Twins; their Momma and Poppa and the Baby went to the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair. Dear sister-in-law sat in on a couple workshops on solar energy and most notably a root cellaring workshop.

The big no-carpentry takeaway to having a root cellar where you have an existing basement, but it might not be cold enough or has the wrong humidity? Coolers! Like the Coleman chest cooler. She gathered a lot more detail on which veggies to store where and at what percentage humidity and even some species info for better storing cultivars, but the biggest AHA moment really came right down to proper curing/hardening/ripening and storing in a chest cooler. I'm sure I will have additional insights as we implement this process she related to me in hurried detail as she was pumping breast milk to store for son number three.

For example (but we sort of figured this one out...), a good long storing squash is the spaghetti squash. (More about spaghetti squash and the great pizza pie recipe.) Acorn? Puree and freeze. Last year, it was a struggle with Sister-in-Law sick with morning sickness due to unexpected Baby at the slightest whiff of veggie cooking. I canned a lot of tomato sauces and salsa, but rather than pressure can we relied on blanching and freezing and drying a lot of our extra produce from the family garden.

This year, with her pumping and freezing a lot of her breast milk, we will be bereft of as much room, the woman is lactationally-gifted, it seems. So we need to find ways to preserve and store our produce if we want to reap the benefits of our garden labors.

Handsome Son is already pricing out Ramen noodles for college this fall, as we have found an acceptable method of microwave preparation (In a flat bottomed bowl with about a cup of water heated for about 1:30, empty broth packet into hot water, place Ramen square into water for ten seconds them flip and wait a couple minutes). He has also decided pint jars of my spaghetti sauce poured over a large bowl noodles and heated for 30 seconds is an acceptable meal as well. It appears coming home with dirty laundry, a visit with his mom, and homemade tollhouse cookies may be accompanied with grabbing pints of spaghetti sauce.

The biggest thought from last year's garden is storing the food you eat in a form you will eat it in. For example, I like to make jam and jelly, but I'm not a big jam and jelly eater. This might change as I eat more plain Greek-style yogurts, but spreading it on a piece of toast, not so much. Salsa, however much I thought I had made, I have ran out the last two years. It seems I like salsa in and on everything, adding it to tacos as I prepare the filling meat, and breakfast burritos, and sometimes even to dip chips.

I like barbeque sauce, but haven't come up with a to-die-for recipe. Grape juice? Gone in a heartbeat. I am out of tomato sauce, too; however 24 cups of pickle relish, I still have some left. The dried Olpaka tomatoes in olive oil also went quickly, as did the basil pureed and frozen in olive oil.

Eating local, right out of the garden is great, but the dirt is in the details of eating local year round in a northern climate is the challenging. When planting that garden, be thinking ahead on preserving that garden as well.

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