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Keep summertime in a jar

Come winter, most Americans won't necessarily notice a change in their
diets due to the change in seasons. The supermarket carries ripe
tomatoes and beans right on through the five feet of snow that long
covers our gardens. Restaurant menus reflect no change in the
availability of produce. Life goes on as if it were perfectly natural
to have fresh melon in December. And maybe it is, in some
neo-technological evolutionary way. But when you think about how much
effort and energy goes into making these foods a possibility, it can
actually become a question not about the privilege of morning fruit,
but of the security of our food system. I'm no apocolyptic, but I
believe it perfectly sane and reasonable to consider this idea: what
if the transportations systems that deliver all of our goods faltered?
Where would we get our food?

A friend once told me that she was in Idaho when Mt. St. Helens
erupted in 1980. Ash piled so thick over the region that access was
cut off for many days. She and many other people learned a lesson the
hard way that week: It could take less than a week for a fully
stocked supermarket to sell out of food.

Lucky for us, there are alternatives to supermarkets. And they used to
be not so alternative. Canning, drying, freezing, and root cellaring
have been practiced for many decades, and can be a safe and economical
way to secure part of your food for the cooler months to come.

Start with a PLAN:

The bibles of storing food for the winter include Stocking Up by Carol
Hupping and Putting Food By by Ruth Hertzberg & Company. For methods
of canning using honey as an alternative to sugar, try Putting It Up
with Honey by Susan Geiskopf.
Or ask your mother or grandmother. They'll probably share their secrets.

Then go out and BUY:

First be sure you have everything you need for your method of
preservation. Food dehydrators can be purchased or homemade. Canning
supplies can be found at your local grocery stores, hardware stores,
and Co-Ops. You shouldn't have to pay retail price for fruits and
vegetables that you want to store; most local farmers will give you
a great deal if you tell them you want to buy large quantities for
preserving. Check out your local farmers' market or visit
www.localharvest.org to locate produce grown near you.

Put aside a day or morning to PREP:

The longest step of any food preservation is the preparation. Invite
friends over, pop a bottle of wine, and get washing, slicing, peeling,
and pitting as a group. Make it fun!

Just DO IT:

Ask an experienced friend to help you if you've never made pickles or
dried fruit before. Follow recipes!! They are your friend.

In the cold days of winter, ENJOY:

Company loves homemade food. Relatives love it as gifts. Husbands and
kids love it as snacks. And it's all packed with love, nutrition, and
ingredients you can count on one hand.

Local Food of the Month: Salsa
Note: When canning salsa, it's important to follow a tested recipe to
ensure proper acidity for storage. The following is one such recipe,
and you can get (almost) everything you need at your
farmers' market!

Yield: 16-18 pints
7 qt peeled, cored, chopped tomatoes 
4 cups seeded, chopped long
green chiles 
5 cups chopped onion 
1/2 cup finely chopped, seeded,
3 Tbsp oregano leaves
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
2 cups bottled
lemon juice 
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
2 Tbsp salt 
1 Tbsp
black pepper 
2 Tbsp ground cumin

Combine all ingredients except cumin, oregano, and cilantro in a large
pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce heat and
simmer 10 minutes. Add spices and simmer for another 20 minutes,
stirring occasionally. Ladle hot salsa into pint jars, leaving
1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner:
15 minutes at 0-1,000 feet altitude; 20 minutes at 1,001-6,000 feet,
This recipe works best with paste tomatoes.

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Emily Levine Emily Levine

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