Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Putting Up or Putting By- Canning & Dehydrating

The worst part about the "putting up" season is that it is usually the hottest time of the year and slaving over a hot water bath isn't the greatest of pleasures, but the product is. I'm sure that if I thought about all the time I put into making something, like salsa, it alone would not be worth the cost versus going to Walmart and buying a jar of it, but since I'm paid nothing it ends up being cheaper to make my own. Then there are things to consider: the migrant farmers who get paid crap, while being sprayed with pesticides, the picking of unripe fruit to travel across the country to my local store where someone with E. coli touches the fruit and it spreads all over everything, etc. Even if none of this were true I'd still want to make my own because 1) it's better 2) I did it all by myself (which has pretty much been my mantra since I took my first breath (by myself).

So it is that time and I'm happy to say after a grueling summer we are in the low 80's and I've never been in more of a mood to put by some food. Today started with dehydrating some green beans, which were past their prime and a load of Thai Basil. I LOVE thai basil and I can only get it fresh in the winter at Jay International grocery in St Louis, which I don't get to enough since leaving my job in the city. Oh well. Dried is pretty decent. Since my tomato crop is dismal I had to BUY (ugh) tomatoes at the local farm. Oh well, they are local at least. So, salsa is going to be a smidge more expensive this year. I figured it ran me $1.07 per jar. 8 quarts of tomatoes, 6 red onions and 28 Fish peppers yielded 12 pints and 2 quarts. I followed a new recipe this year, which called for ground cumin seed, but I put it in whole. I'm always on a quest for a better canned salsa recipe. But nothing beats fresh. I also am trying a new hot sauce recipe, which calls for a mash of chilies to be fermented for 4-5 weeks. It better work, because I cleaned the garden and put every chili I had into it and including some sweet varieties: Bulgarian Carrot, Fish, Mustard Habanero, Corno di toro, Hot Portugal, Sweet Cherries, Jimmy Nardello frying peppers, Pasillas. Ground them all up and salted the heck out of them and put them in under glass to ferment. I'm using the directions in the August/September issue of Mother Earth News. I'm not sure if a link is up yet, so here's a pic of the recipe:

Chilies pre-chop.

Chilies chopped, salted, covered with cheesecloth and weighted with a plate to ferment.

The latest canned salsa recipe said to salt and allow to drain the tomatoes, which sounded like a good idea since my canned salsas tend to come out to watery. The salt drained away with the juice so I ended up having to add more to the recipe. Here are the maters salted and draining and stuff dehydrating. This is what 8 quarts of chopped roma tomatoes looks like. You need a large stock pot to cook this in.

I hired this small migrant worker to pick the Fish peppers for the salsa. The recipe called for a pound of chilies, but knowing that I would be feeding it to said migrant worker I only used 28, which I figured would be about 2 chilies per jar. It is between mild and medium hot. 

Here are the gorgeous Fish peppers. The plant is variegated and the chilies are a rainbow of striped colors. I just love the way they look.

End product:

The small migrant worker has requested lunch made from home this school year so I'm making lots of peach jam, as I figure PB and Jam are going to be my go-to quick sandwich many of days. A 1/2 peck of peaches yielded 11 jars of jam or 59 cents per jar. I decided to cover my butt I'll make another batch. 

Since we're talking food, I struggle with this idea of cost of food, food stamps, eating poor in poor communities, lack of access to healthy food, etc. I'm just not totally convinced that you can't find a way to get healthier food and I AM convinced that eating cheap food will make you pay for expensive medicine later. Some people in urban areas are using abandoned lots to grow gardens. You can grow a tomato in a bucket you find on the side of the road. I have. This is what $25.00 in fresh, locally grown food looks like: 

Making and eating salsa is an unnecessary pleasure, but I could have easily used some of the same ingredients and made pasta sauce and at a cost of $1.07 per jar that beats any dollar store. It would have cost pennies if my own tomatoes had produced better. My jam costs under $1.00 per jar too. Neither are high in protein, but that is where peanut butter steps in. It's a cheap protein or I could use my salsa to add to beans and rice, which make a complete protein. It isn't a stretch for me to eat cheap. I think more people could do it. 


Magne said...

Awesome! Glad your migrant worker is a worker, the 2 I have are not very good workers! I just watched a show that followed a group called Food Not Bombs, they dumpster dive at restaurants and markets, get an unbeleivable amount of fresh fruits and veggies, cook it up and take it out to the streets for the homeless or anyone else who wants some fresh good food!!! It was amazing, the food looked so good, I was mad I couldn't get some.

Laura said...

Not sure if the group still exists, but there was a similar group in Soulard that scavenged the market after the end of the day and made big pots of stuff for the hungry or homeless. ha ha- you're gonna have to crack the whip on those boys!!!