Will Work for Food

Preserving Eggplant

Preserving Eggplant

LAKE MACBRIDE— Two batches of pickles are fermenting in crocks downstairs, the second started three days after the first. The rule is to place cucumbers in the brine and let things get started for three days before checking. There was scum to skim on the first this morning— evidence the pickling process is proceeding as expected. The reason for a second batch is a local grower had excess cucumber seconds which were offered and taken to serve my dill pickle addiction.

Eggplant is abundant. I peeled and cut three into half inch rounds. They were baked for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, cooled and then frozen and bagged for future use, most likely in eggplant Parmesan. By then, the freezer was reaching capacity, and eggplant is not an everyday preference.

Last processed yesterday was two tubs of broccoli. This is part of a work for food barter, and unexpectedly came about while discussing seconds and surplus with a grower. All told, it took me about four hours to process the two tubs with a total yield of 20+ pounds frozen. The first tub, which yielded 8-1/2 pounds, was returned to the grower as compensation for the produce. I kept the second, added two heads I already had in the refrigerator, and that was the balance.

It’s a shame we had to compost the stems, as they are some good eating. If better organized, I would have made a big batch of soup stock using carrot, onion, celery, bay leaves and the broccoli stems and canned it in quarts. Our household uses a lot of stock.

The squash beetles mentioned yesterday avoided the butternut squash seedlings and congregated on the withering acorn squash plants. I need to study natural pesticides before I pull those vines, as the bugs will likely next migrate to the new cucumber plants, and infringe on my plans for more dill pickles. It is remarkable that I had tremendous abundance of zucchini and yellow squash before the squash beetles showed up.

The grower with whom I’m working on the broccoli and tomatoes stopped by to drop off some canning jars. We toured my local food operation which is situated on 0.62 acres. It is revealing to see what other growers notice about a home garden: the apple trees, my compost bin made from four pallets, the healthy Brussels sprout plants, my deer-deterrent fencing, and my pile of cut brush waiting for a fall burn after the garden is finished. She asked if I turned the compost. I won’t until spring when it is spread on the garden plots.

A local food system centered around a single household is both simple and complex. Cooking and preserving food are practices that have been around since hunting and gathering gave way to agriculture and domestication. Fresh food is sourced from a garden and a mix of growers. Specialty items are purchased where they are available at local retail outlets. There is a constant balancing act that regulates types and quantities. The refrigerator contents reflects how things are going, hopefully with the majority of foodstuffs having no commercial label.

While endeavoring to earn money for the tax man, insurance companies and lenders, we have to eat. The question becomes, what takes precedence? We can live without bankers, but sustaining a life requires a sophisticated, ever evolving local food system. The pay is not much, but the rewards are renewable.

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