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sorting-stored-carrots

First off, where have I been? You ask.

Well, in Jan/Feb we took a trip, month and a half of fun and sun in the desert. Hardly looked at a computer while I was gone. It broke the addiction. By the time I got back, I had remembered that I don’t like computers. Took a full month for the twisted hunger to gnaw into my belly again. And here I am.

So yes, I re-hauled my carrots! Much of my garden harvest of these tasty roots got tucked away in damp (okay, actually wet) sawdust, in a five-gallon bucket in our garage, which stays a lovely root cellar temperature in the winter. I put them up in October.

carrot-with-a-rot-spot

Purple carrot with a rot spot, can you see it, dead center?

Lately I had noticed that a few of the carrots I was pulling out every few days had bad spots. When you’re storing vegetables, a little rot can go a long way. So the other day I hauled the still half full bucket into the kitchen and went through my lovelies, one by one, picking out any with bad spots, and repacking the rest.

I guess I had secretly feared that at the bottom of the bucket there’d be a whole layer of rotten carrots, so I was ever so pleased to find only a dozen or so that had to be culled.

The carrots were still in great shape, all things considered. But they were getting fairly hairy with rootlets searching for soil, and some of them were growing 3 or 4 inch long new tops, all blanched a weird greenish-white from growing in the dark. I wonder if the sawdust being wet instead of the recommended damp made them more eager to grow, they did seem rooty-er as I got down deeper in the bucket, where the wetness had settled. Our garage stays quite cool, but

I layered them in a box, with sawdust between the layers

I layered them in a box, with sawdust between the layers

ideal root cellar temps are like 33-35 degrees, and our garage, cool as it is, ain’t that cold. And after all, it is April 3rd today. Those carrots have been in that bucket for more than 5 months. And they’re still crunchy and sweet!

Ordinarily you store root vegetables in a bucket, to keep the moisture in, but mine were so wet, a box seemed a better idea. I’ll keep an eye on them and cover the box with a garbage bag when they start to dry out a little.

So with my culled carrots nicely trimmed, I decided to make some muffins. My little one just learned to say “muffin” (though she makes the “ff” sound by blowing out through her nose, very cute) so of course it’s her new favorite food. I adapted my pumpkin bread recipe, and it turned out dee-lish!

Carrot Muffins

carrot-muffins½ c. white all-purpose flour
1 ¼ c. whole wheat pastry flour
¾ c. sugar
½ t. baking powder
¾ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
½ t. cinnamon
¼ t. each nutmeg, ginger, cloves
2 eggs
¼ c. + 2 T. oil
2 c. lightly packed grated carrots
2 T. water
½ c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk dry stuff together to break up lumps in the whole wheat flour. Make a well in the center and whisk the wet stuff together. Stir it all together and spoon into greased muffin cups (batter will be very thick). Sprinkle nuts on top. Bake 15-25 mins, till nicely browned and a knife comes out clean. If you want to make bread instead, bake at 350, 40-50 mins.

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stock-potI am a huge fan of stock, I can dozens of jars of salmon and deer stock every year, and I use it all the time. Stock is the ultimate thrifty person’s food, there’s probably as much nutrition in the bones of an animal as in the meat, and different stuff too– like loads of calcium, and gelatin (which comes from the cartilage and is supposed to be real good for you). All I know is, I can’t hardly make soup anymore without cracking a jar of stock. Seems on a par with onions. And, hey, I don’t want to brag, but my soups are good. A friend visiting recently became obsessed with some soup I’d made the day before. It was just a bean, veggie and macaroni “oh-this-ole-thing?” kinda soup, but she said she’d never had anything like it. “It’s not my cooking prowess,” I told her, “it’s the stock.”

If you’ve never made stock before, there’s little easier. Just cover bones with cold water, bring to a simmer, and continue simmering for a few hours (just 30 mins for fish, too long gives it a weird flavor). When you’ve cooked all the goodness out of the bones, they’ll look sort of bleached, all the meat will have fallen off and the cartilage dissolved. Then just fish out the bones and strain the stock. That’s it!

You can reduce it to make a concentrate if you want, just return to the pot and keep a boil on it until it cooks down by half or so. But I never bother, I just can it straight up. You have to have a pressure canner to can stock, follow the manufacturers directions and process at 10 lbs pressure for 20 mins (for pint jars). If you don’t have a pressure canner, you can freeze stock beautifully. Pour into straight-sided pint jars, tupperware, or even zip-locks. Slightly less space efficient, but way more handy is to freeze the stock in ice cube trays or any small plastic containers (like yogurt cups) overnight, then pop them out into a big zip-lock for storage. That way you can just grab however much you need, and throw it straight into your cooking pot.

Here in Cordova it’s easy to get bones, everyone here puts up a home-pack of fish, and many more of deer as well, and I’m one of about three people that uses the bones. (I’ve always felt something of a heretical evangelist when it comes to making stock…) But I suspect, with a little research, you too could track down a good bone source. For one thing, butchers usually give ‘em away for free or near to it. Is there any kind of hunting in your area, maybe contact a hunting association…? Or you could just save up bones from your own kitchen.

I ought to mention a few refinements, not at all necessary. One that I’ve never tried is adding vinegar to your bones, before you cook ‘em. Somewhere in the ballpark of ¼ c. for a big stock-pot. It’s supposed to help draw the minerals out.

Another thing, which I sometimes do and sometimes don’t depending on how pressed for time I am, is cracking the bones. Unless you’re getting cut bones from the butcher, all that marrow goodness needs a way to get out. Be forewarned: raw bones are hard to crack, take ‘em outside to your chopping block and use your maul if yer gonna do it.

Lastly, if your stock looks very fatty, you’ll probably want to let it sit somewhere cold overnight, so you can lift the fat off before you freeze or can the stock. I’m usually a big fan of fat, but since it goes rancid relatively quickly it decreases the shelf life of your stock. It also seems to carry flavors in the stock that are less desirable.

Now that we’ve gone over making stock, what about making bullion?

I recently read an article in Backwoods Home by Selina Rifkin about making bullion and I just had to try it. It was a great article, and might be a great idea for somewhere else, but after trying it here I can unhesitantly say, I can’t fucking believe I just did that.

When you make bullion you pretty much just boil the hell out of your stock– boil it down, she said by three quarters, but that was still nowhere near done. I started with about 3 gallons of stock, and ended up with about 2 cups of bullion. That means I just put 2 and 7/8th gallons of water into the air in my house!!!! Considering our humidity in this coastal rainforest is already almost 100%, I might as well have just taken a bucket and poured 2 and 7/8th gallons of water all over everything! What the hell was I thinking?!

In addition to cultivating more mold and fungus in our house than ever before, making bullion took more of my time, and way more stove energy than just canning the stock. I tried it on the woodstove, but it wasn’t hot enough. It took 6 or 7 hours of medium-high heat to turn that much water into steam and distribute it to the nether reaches of our home. Not even remotely worth it.

If you live somewhere really frickin’ cold, keep your woodstove crankin’ and get chapped lips and static-y hair in winter, then it would probably be awesome. If you do, look up her article in Backwoods Home, Issue 114.

I must admit– the finished little cubes of brown, rubbery bullion are cute as hell. And I haven’t tasted it yet, but it smells like it got a nice carmeley-roast flavor.

And now, I’d better go mop my carpet.

you're supposed to store your home canned goods in a dark place, but I like looking at mine too much

you're supposed to store your home canned goods in a dark place, but I like looking at mine too much

A friend of mine made an off-hand remark once about how women love to stockpile food, sometimes to the point of obsession. I had never thought of it as a gender divide before, but I sure do know a lot of women busy proving his point!

It didn’t take me too long living a subsistence lifestyle to realize that my problem would be actually eating all the food I cache away. Dumpster diving is especially dangerous, but also instructive, for people like me. It has (after a few years’ learning process) taught me restraint.

On the other hand, it’s really about knowing which foods you’ll eat tons of, and generally how much of what to put up. I feel that a little anal-ness is in order here. Keep track of what you put up each year, how much you use, whether there was leftover or not enough. You’ll be glad when next year rolls around and you have to decide when to stop picking salmonberries and start with the blueberries.

Here’s my list so far for 2008. The thing not on this list is bits and pieces gifted us by friends. We got a big box of salmon and moose from one couple, on their way out of town and tired of paying to keep a freezer running. Another big box of deer from our good friends who have their freezer in our shed. It took years in Cordova, but finally that magical thing happened to us where food, and good food, just shows up, quite frequently.

But here’s the bulk of our Homepack for the year:

  • 2 black bear, mostly frozen, some canned
  • 30 sockeye
  • 60 half-pint jars kippered
  • 19 frozen packs kipper
  • 40 frozen fillets
  • 31 pints salmon stock
  • 16 pints bear stock

 

  • 16 quarts salmonberry juice
  • 3 ½ gal frozen blueberries
  • 18 half-pint jars blueberry jam
  • 3 pints blu-maple syrup
  • 2 gal frozen cranberries
  • 6 half-pint jars cranberry sauce

 

And a probably grossly inaccurate, because I’m only a little bit anal, most of this was eaten fresh and just can’t think to write down everything I pull from the garden for dinner–

2008 Garden Harvest

 

  • 6 gal baby salads
  • 1/2 gal radishes
  • 3 heads lettuce
  • 12 dinners of broccoli
  • 2 lbs mini-onion bulbs
  • 3 gallons onion greens
  • 5 lbs baby carrots
  • 30 lbs carrots (stored in damp sawdust in our garage)
  • 3 dinners of chard
  • 2 dinners of beets
  • 4 heads cabbage
  • 100 small to xx-small sized leeks, apx 50 dinners, some still in the garden
  • apx 35-40 dinners of kale, most still in the garden

If anyone else is keeping track, please share! Let’s boost each other up!

“It’s a sad and stupid thing to have to proclaim yourself a revolutionary just to be a decent man.”

-David Harris

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