Tutorial Tuesday #11–Stocking a Winter Pantry

English: High Resolution Image of Kidney Beans...

Stock your pantry with dried beans for a winter of high protein soups, stews and salads!

We recently participated in a food drive with our Girl Scout troop, which gave me a great opportunity to clean out my pantry and do some restocking for winter. I haven’t been very good at stocking the pantry–choosing instead to buy what we need just for the week. Part of this is that we’ve been tracking our weekly spending along with our weekly menus. This feature (the budget component) will be going away with the new year. As we stock up on local ingredients and freeze/can for the future, it’s harder to capture those budget amounts in what resembles a weekly budget.

So this all gave me a great opportunity to plan for several months worth of clean eating. We will still purchase our local fruits, vegetables, breads, eggs, cheese and meat from our farmer’s markets or CSA. But what about those staples that can take a collection of veggies from isolated ingredients to a meal? I created a list for us to live on over the next few months and turn some of those holiday leftovers into delicious dishes.

This is a list of everything I want to have access to over the winter. This is a big list and I had to divide it up between two shopping trips.

  • Dried, organic beans (white beans, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans)
  • Dried, organic peas (red lentils, green lentils, green split peas)
  • Dried, organic vegetables (mushrooms, tomatoes, hot peppers)
  • Dried, organic fruits (dried tart cherries, cranberries, figs, ginger, raisins)
  • Dried, organic pasta (hearty shapes like bucatini, casarecce, galleti)
  • Raw nuts (almonds, cashews, black walnuts, pepitas, pecans)
  • Dried, organic seeds (chia, flax, sesame)
  • Organic stock (vegetable, chicken and beef)
  • Organic whole grains (steel-cut oats, rolled oats, barley, rice, quinoa)
  • Ground grains (whole wheat pastry flour, coconut flour, almond flour)
  • Sweeteners (organic cane sugar, organic coconut sugar, maple syrup, molasses, local honey)
  • Spices (cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, smoked paprika)
  • Baking supplies (organic baking powder, baking soda, dark chocolate, raw cacao powder, chocolate chips, yeast)
  • Canned foods (coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato paste, sustainable caught sardines, sustainable tuna)

What would be on your winter pantry list? Do you stock up or buy as you need it?

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Simple Strawberry Jam

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I am not a fruit jelly person.

Fruit jellies are those lovely, clear, sparkling creations prized for their lack of seeds or fruit pulp. They take time, patience and (to me) they are a bit fussy. Give me a hearty, rustic jam with chunks of tender fruit to spread all over my morning toast any day. Homemade jam reminds me of sticky, jam kisses from your children. And lazy, summer mornings. And one of my favorite children’s books, Jamberry by Bruce Degan.

By next week, we will have blueberries…

One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry
Hatberry, shoeberry, in my canoeberry

But right now, we have strawberries…

Three berry
Four berry
Hayberry
Strawberry
Finger and pawberry
My berry, your berry

So this weekend, I made strawberry jam, thick with pieces of strawberry and absolutely, berry delicious. This recipe is a slight derivation from a recipe in Sherry Brooks Vinton’s book Put ‘Em Up. Just slight though. I use a stick blender to really mash up the berries and I also add 1 tablespoon of organic, unsalted butter to the cooking berries. I seem to have a problem with strawberries producing a lot of foam and the butter is a Ball recipe suggestion for reducing foam (it works!).

And if I haven’t said it enough, the Put ‘Em Up canning/food preservation book is really the best one I have. It is the only one that is thoroughly sticky, splattered, dog-eared and well-loved. For the record, I get nothing for saying that, just the satisfaction of sharing with you something I appreciate.

Got strawberries? Go make this jam!

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Strawberry Jam (makes 6-7 half pints)

  • 8 cups of organic strawberries, rinsed and hulled (tops taken off)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted, organic butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Pomona’s Universal Pectin
  • 2 teaspoons calcium water (included in the Pomona’s packet)
  1. Cut the cleaned and hulled berries into quarters (or into halves if the are small). Put cut berries into a non-reactive stock pot.
  2. Mash the berries with a potato masher, then blend together with a stick blender for about 1 minute.
  3. Mix the sugar and pectin together in a bowl.
  4. Fill your canning pot with water and add the rack and your jars. Heat over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Put lids in a bowl and set aside.
  5. While you wait for the canning pot to heat, bring the berries and the butter to a boil over medium high heat, and stir to make sure they don’t burn.
  6. Stir in the calcium water and lemon juice. Then, add the sugar and pectin mixture, stirring to prevent lumps.
  7. Return the berry mixture to a boil, heating through. The mixture should be thick and coat the back of a spoon. Remove pot from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Skim off any foam.
  8. Turn the heat off of the canning pot. Remove hot jars from the canning pot CAREFULLY and empty the hot water inside the jars back into the canning pot. Put some of the hot water in the bowl with the jar lids. You want to cover them in the very hot water.
  9. Fill the hot jars with the hot berries, leaving 1/4″ of headspace. We use our trusty blue canning funnel. Use a spatula or the gadget that comes with your canning kit to remove any excess air in the jars.
  10. Wipe jar rims with a clean paper towel, take the lids from the hot water and top each jar with a lid. Screw on bands just to finger tightness (don’t over tighten).
  11. Add the jars back to the canning pot, add the cover, and bring water to a boil for 10 minutes.
  12. Cut off the heat, remove the pot lid and let jars sit for 5 minutes.
  13. Remove jars from the canning pot and do not tilt them! I use a clean tea towel to dab excess water off the jars, but keep them straight.
  14. Let the jars sit I disturbed for 24 hours. Check seals and store all sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Note: If you have any extra jam that doesn’t quite fill a jar, you can ladle it into a jar or cup and refrigerate it for up to 3 weeks!

This is the basic technique that applies to all berry jam making. The proportion of acid and pectin may change, but if you can do this, you will be able to can almost anything! Ready? Give it a go!

Raspberry, jazzberry, razzamatazzberry,
Berry land, merryland, jamming in berryland

Preserving Strawberries

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I love strawberries. Love, love, love them. Strawberries and asparagus are my two harbingers of spring. When you see them at the farmer’s markets, winter is over fo’ sho’. Like many of the most precious things in life, strawberries are fragile and temporary. Fresh strawberries are so far superior to their hard, dry grocery cousins that I will usually forego buying strawberries at the grocery and instead, wait until I can eat them to my heart’s content, fresh from the fields. But if you are eating (mostly) local as we are, how do you continue the strawberry love all year? There are lots of ways to preserve your berries so you have some wonderful flavor all winter long. Canning preserves, of course, is a great option, but don’t forget freezing and drying as well!

Your freezer is probably your most overlooked ally in reducing food waste and stalling the effects of time on your precious berries. Last year, we purchased a second freezer and we used it all summer to pack away berries, peaches, tomatoes, figs, corn, beans, okra–pretty much anything that was plentiful and at the peak of the season. Our freezer is running low now, but we’ve had a winter’s worth of wonderful meals and we’re getting ready to stock it up once again! With strawberries, you can make freezer jam or just freeze the whole berries for use later.

One of our favorite restaurants, Lucky 32, has a great Farm-to-Fork blog about preserving strawberries HERE. Check it out! I’m definitely trying the vinegar idea this year–not only does it sound delicious, it uses up those bruised berries that sometimes get put in the compost (well, not in our house–they usually end up in my mouth).

Here are some other ideas and resources:

Put ‘Em Up and Put ‘Em Up Fruit by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Put ‘Em Up was my canning and preserving bible last summer. My copy is so dog-eared, stained and sticky that it’s a surprise I can still turn the pages. One aspect I really like is that her jam recipes use Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which is a bit more expensive, but allows you to decrease the amount of sugar you use without compromising the texture of the jam. I just ordered her new fruit book and can’t wait to try the recipes. Strawberries are so fresh and sweet, why mess them up with more sugar than needed? I love this book so much more than the Ball canning books because the recipes are creative and absolutely spot on with measurements. Also, she includes other preserving methods, such as drying and freezing, so if you don’t can, you can still find lots of useful ideas.

Consider buying a dehydrator. This is my summer project. Have you ever had dried strawberries??? Holy moly! They are amazing and last a good long while. Wonderful on cereal, in granola or just as a snack–nature’s candy, indeed! You can dry strawberries in your oven as well–just takes a little more attention on your part, but completely do-able!

Make fruit leather. Once you make homemade fruit leather, you will never touch that pre-packaged stuff from the grocery again. And you kids probably won’t want to either. We made homemade strawberry fruit leather last spring (read about it HERE)and we all agreed it was so strawberry-delicious that we needed to make more. Immediately. Except then, we ate all our strawberries. Oh, well, we will try again this year!

I’ll be sharing more of our berry recipes as we head into high season! I just need to remember to sock some away for November and December, when we are feeling deprived of fresh berries!

Get Your Smoothie On!

Low-Fat Strawberry-Banana Yogurt Smoothie 1 cu...

If you’ve followed us for a while, you know I scored a wonderful VitaMix blender by getting the last year’s model on sale on amazon.com. I love that blender. While it was still about $250.00, that was far less that the $400 commanded by the new model, so you know, it seemed like a bargain. And since I’ve used it almost every day for three years, I feel I’ve gotten some good use out of it! That thing will crush, pulverize and liquefy just about anything in seconds flat, I tell you. Because of that, we have smoothies pretty much every morning. I’m wondering now with the new year if I should vary our smoothie offerings a bit. I’ve read about oatmeal smoothies and kale smoothies, but I just haven’t committed to making any smoothie menu alterations.

Today, I found this great Smoothie Flowchart on the Eating Rules blog (www.eatingrules.com). I love it because it takes some of the total guess-work out of the process (and guessing is not good for me before coffee). Feeling sweet? Go with fruit and other ingredients. Feeling savory? There are menu ideas for that, too! I printed a copy and will post in on the fridge for quick smoothie making.

Here is our tried and true recipe for awesome, thick fruit smoothies that are really like having ice cream for breakfast without the guilt 🙂 Using frozen fruit definitely works better than using ice cubes–I think they really water a smoothie down. If you are using small berries, use the 3 cups. For frozen strawberries or frozen mango, go with 2 cups. You can play with the proportions to see what you like best!

Mitchell Family Fruit Smoothies (makes 2 smoothies)

  • 2-3 cups frozen organic fruit
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 cups of organic soy milk or almond milk
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (optional)

Put all ingredients in a blender. Blend until creamy. Add more soy milk if the mixture is too thick for your blender. Scoop into glasses and enjoy!

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