10 July 2013

Chow Chow!

A friend called me up, the applesauce one, to say she had received half a garbage bag of yellow squash. We quickly made plans to tackle it together. The next day, we had quite the haul. We basically just cleaned out the fridge. In addition to the squash, we had cabbage, onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, peppers, and garlic. Now, this is one of those recipes that is very loosey goosey. Just use what you have. It may be more sweet or tart or stout than your last batch, but that's kind of the joy of it.

1. Trim and seed as necessary. We seeded the squash, as they were a little big, and the peppers, so the heat wouldn't be too much.
2. Shred up everything. My friend has a food processor, which made this bearable and pretty. Even if you don't, an extra set of hands will help it go quickly, and there is something special about conversation in the kitchen.
3. In a pot, bring 9c vinegar (I love ACV), 6c sugar, 6Tbsp pickling spice to a boil. Cut the heat and let steep. It's always better to have too much liquid than not enough. You could definitely experiment with different spices, but we were noobs to chow chow and played it safe.
4. Sprinkle 1/2c salt over 8c shredded veggies and cover with water. Let sit for 1 hr. We had 3 bowls going at once.
5. Rinse and drain vegetables. Fill jars about 3/4 full. Here you can add extra garlic and/or peppers. We did habaneros! Use chunks just to infuse. Chop it up for full flavor. Taste your liquid first, so you can adjust the sweetness if needed.
6. Fill with pickling liquid, leaving 1/2" headspace.
7. Process for 15 minutes in a HWB. We ended up with 8 quarts and 6 half pints. It is tangy and sweet with a hint of heat. Some jars were extra spicy though! ;)

What do you do with chow chow? My friend eats it right out of the jar! But others use it to top burgers, hot dogs, bbq, or on top of pintos or greens.

We had a really great day, and now I like chow chow! Yay summer!

03 July 2013

Food Storage

While I am busy squirreling away food, I realized I needed to address food storage. It's a boring but necessary topic.
First and foremost, you should make sure your appliance are in good working order. Keep a thermometer in both the fridge and freezer. Deep freezers usually have one installed. I clean my fridge once a month with diluted vinegar, followed by a spritzing of hydrogen peroxide. This removes any odors and keeps the interior bright and germ free. Any ice build-up should be chipped away. If you have a serious problem, defrost the freezer and soak up the melted ice. I have no other tips as far as maintenance. We are renters, so I don't have to worry about that. Yay!

I find that the easiest method is to store properly right away. As soon as you return from the store, market, or your garden, wash all produce. I find it very convenient to keep one large container in the fridge of prepped veggies for snacking and tossing together a quick meal. Meats and dairy products should go in the coolest area, which is the bottom shelf as far away from the front as possible.
Since our run-in with mice last winter, I store all dry goods in glass jars or heavy duty plastic bins. Bakeries and restaurants go through a lot of packaging, and these are perfect for storing your food at home, especially if you buy in bulk. It never hurts to ask if they have any you could haul off. Similar bins and buckets can be found at most stores though.Store your dry goods in a dry, dark, cool spot that is convenient. Visibility is crucial. If everything is jumbled together, who knows what lurks on the bottom shelf? Note: Store water in glass containers. Mice will chew through plastic, and the glass doesn't leave a funky aftertaste. I tend to group items together in categories. Smaller items are grouped together in topless boxes. Rotation is key, and I find a quick survey before a trip to the store does the trick. If your home came with a pantry, great. If not, freestanding pantries and cabinets can be purchased. I first used an old bookshelf, until I upgraded to a metal rack. The rack cost me $60 at Home Depot, and it has been worth every penny.

When storing additional food supplies, it is fun to get creative. Our space has been plenty, but I want to highlight some others' ideas. Create side tables by putting a tablecloth over milk crates or a cabinet. The same can be done for a sofa or coffee table. Under the bed is pretty perfect. Unused closet space. Garages are a good idea IF they are connected to your home AC. Attics are terrible. Sheds are terrible unless there is an AC unit. Cellars! Great idea. One which I have no experience but lots of curiosity. I have heard some odd variations, such as burying old appliances sideways so that they can be opened from the ground. I even read of one innovative homesteader who buried a boat.

I'll expound on another day about specific items and preserving methods. Kids are bickering!