Monday, August 31, 2009

Putting Away the Abundance

This is a busy time, a time of great wealth, as neighbour shares with neighbour from garden, orchard and vineyard. I am surrounded by abundance of the fruit and veggie variety. At present there are boxes of peaches, plums, tomatoes, grapes, and three very large squash on the deck.

I realize I have been remiss and not shared a picture of my own tomatoes. These are Brandywines and Purple Princes, both heirloom varieties which I will grow again, as the flavour in both was intense and delicious. My neighbour said they were the best tomatoes he has ever tasted. Also in this picture are cherry-type tomatoes, some of the yellow "Lemon Boy" variety, and some of my green peppers. The Lemon Boy tomatoes are beautiful but not as flavorful as the dark red varieties.

I've had questions about how one dries fruits and veggies, and it couldn't be simpler.

I wash tomatoes well, cut them into quarters and then slice the quarters into slices between a quarter and a half inch thick. As I accumulate a bowlful I sprinkle them with Fruitfresh (or vitamin C powder).

Once I get a bowlful I take the slices out with a slotted spoon and place them in a single layer on the drier tray. In about 12 hours the slices are completely dry. For fruit and most vegetables I set the drier at 57 C (135 degrees F).

Plums are washed and quartered, sprinkled with Fruitfresh and dry in about 16 hours. Peaches and nectarines are halved, quartered, then each quarter is sliced into three or four thinner slices. I go through a fair amount of Fruitfresh, but you can crush a vitamin C pill (or several pills) until you get 1000 mg of vitamin C, mix it with a tablespoon of sugar and use it as you would Fruitfresh.

The squash will be cooked, mashed and dried. With squash, dry beans and corn flour on hand no one need ever be hungry, as these three in combination can nourish you well indefinitely. One of the most delicious winter meals possible is a crockpot of pinto or romano beans, soaked overnight, rinsed, and then cooked all day with a large chopped onion, three or four cloves of garlic, a large can of tomatoes or handful of dried tomatoes and bell peppers, with a side of cornbread and squash. These are all simple and inexpensive ingredients, easily preserved at home when supplies are abundant.

Cornbread Recipe

Ingredients:

* 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
* 1 cup all-purpose flour (I use rice flour for a gluten-free cornbread)
* 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (sweet milk can be "clabbered" by adding 1 tsp vinegar)
* 1/3 cup olive oil
* 1 large egg

Method:
Grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Heat oven to 350°.

Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl or large cup, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, and egg. Combine the two mixtures just until blended and spread in the prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned.
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The grapes I've been given are not quite ripe, but there are a lot more to come in the next two weeks. I will put them through the juicer and make grape cordial to go into the freezer in small plastic jam containers. I've never done this so I'm not sure how much yield I can expect. I may need to buy more jam containers. A neighbour gave me an empty wine bottle with a screw-on top, which will be an excellent vessel for serving reconstituted cordial from.

Ian is here so yesterday was a day of getting supplies for work which needs to be done. New batteries for the DC system, gutters to add to the deck to end the puddle which now forms on the steps and deck whenever we have a rain. This will turn into an ice rink in winter. No thank you.

I also bought another storage cupboard and finally broke down and bought a toaster oven, so I can make cornbread, casseroles, quiches, and small cakes and pies. I have missed baking. The propane oven in this unit has one temperature - cremate. Everything is charcoal on the bottom and raw on top. Plus it gobbles propane at an alarming rate. I borrowed my friend's toaster oven to make sure it would work with our power limitations, and was appropriate for our needs. Having proven that it would work I went ahead and bought one.

Slowly we are adapting our little home to make independence easier.

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