Indooring gardening failures aside, I am quite concious of the challenges that await me during the winter months ahead. Last year we had trouble eating locally and seasonally during the off season. The winter was long and punishing. By January we were seriously tired of winter vegetables. By February our Winter CSA share was over. And by March I had virtually given up. Deeper into the season, it seemed like every vegetable we bought was from California save our apples, onions and potatoes, oh and the occasional butternut squash. Pastured meats and milk are available year round, but instead of a 50/50 farmer's market/ grocery store split to my food spending, it ended up being more 25/ 75. I prefer to buy local, but that wasn't the biggest issue. It was that in an attempt to eat more local, we ate fewer vegetables overall. Winter veggies are hard to prepare. They require chopping and peeling and boiling. And insanity or not, I felt some guilt buying things that were technically out of season for my locality. But eating locally just wasn't working for me 100%.
So this year I am trying to take action now. I only have one fridge and in it a moderately sized freezer. I store all our meat in the freezer which doesn't leave a ton of space for frozen vegetables but I am trying to stock up on items that I know we won't have in a couple of months.
1-Frozen Greens I have mentioned it before, but we have gotten alot of greens this summer at our CSA and I haven't quite gotten through all of them. So I have chopped and frozen much of the kale I got this year. I have made pesto from the basil and spinach. And I have heard that one can even make pesto from swiss chard. I have to try that since I have two bunches of chard on hand and I am going on vacation soon. Pesto freezes so beautifully! That'll be delightful on a pizza in mid winter.
2-Chicken Feet Pastured chicken is a truly seasonal item, available only in the summer and early fall. I have mentioned before that we just don't eat as much chicken these days. Chickens are expensive to raise ethically. I find the pastured varaities for around $8 a pound. That's high, but then you have to buy a 5 pound bird? There you have a special occasion, $40 meal. Then consider that much of the bird is inedible, even if you make stock from the bones. That's the reason we are eating more pastured beef. Beef is cheaper and I can buy a pound at a time as I like. But chicken feet are a wonderous thing! The dairy farm that provides my milk also raises pastured chickens. And while the feet would be throw away parts for many producers, they make the BEST chicken stock! I regularly buy up all of her feet. And at $6-$7 for a bag of feet that produces 4 quarts of stock that stands up as thick as jello, I'd say that's a bargain. But the chickens will only be around a few more weeks. So I need to stock up on feet if I want them during the winter.
3-Pasture Butter I normally buy Organic Valley's Cultured Butter, a great product. But every summer they produce a green foiled Pasture Butter. It became available in June and when I first bought it, I noticed the difference right away. The smell is sublime and the color is a deep yellow like egg yolks when the butter is melted. I don't have access to pasture butter year round. My dairy does not currently produce butter. And while I could make my own from the Milk Thistle cream, $8 for a half a pound of butter seems especially steep when I consider the effort expended. I mean, I do have a full time job and two kids. If I ever win the lottery maybe I will start making my own butter. But until then I don't think it is a viable solution. Even the local butter by Ronnybrook Dairy (another exceptional dairy) is only okay. It is good, but I happennto like the OV Pasture butter better. Since it is a seasonal product I have been slowly stocking up all summer. I currently have 7-8 pounds of butter in the freezer. We go through about 1/4-1/2 a pound of butter every week (who am I kidding, 1/2 a pound) so I figure I have 14 weeks of butter. I think I'd like to get just a teensy bit more. Thank goodness my ice cube maker isn't working because that has freed up space for butter storage.
4-Sweet Corn Corn is such a wonderful thing. This summer it has been especially plentiful and exceptionally sweet. Our CSA has been providing 4-5 ears per week. That's enough to feed our need for corn on the cob, but not enough to store. So I hve started to buy extra ears at the FM. I plan to take the corn, cut it off the cob, blanch it in hot water for thirty seconds and then cool it, bag it and freeze it. So far though all those extra ears of corn have just gone into my family's bellies.
5-Dried Herbs Fresh herbs have been so wonderful to have around this summer! I have enjoyed dill in my potato salad, hottttt cilantro and jalepeno salsa and basil and kale pestos. But all good things must come to an end. So slowly I have been trying to dry the inexpensive bunches of fresh herbs that I can get at the farmer's market, dill, basil and even chamomile. I have saved some small glass spice jars for storage. Though it has been tough. Drying the herbs means that I can't just eat them fresh.
So there you go! 5 Ways that even a city girl with an itty bitty freezer can store local foods to get ready for the winter. Thus far my husband has been very supportive of my 'crunchy' eating habits, but he has been unwilling to buy a stand up freezer to compliment the tiny one we already have. His biggest problem? That the freezer won't fit in the kitchen and would have to live in the living room. Well...I guess he has a point!!
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