So I have this idea. I realized the other day, while I was creating a soup out of the remaining bits of my broccoli plants, that I could write a cookbook… maybe. I mean, I experiment all the time, and I actually made a really tasty broccoli soup out of broccoli leaves and stems- some of which were pretty tough and wouldn’t have been good any other way (other than as compost or chicken food, of course). I’m sure the recipe could use some fine-tuning, but it worked (my uber-picky niece even said it was "really delicious!"). I was able to use my broccoli plants for another (approximately) five meals for my family, when they looked to be done for the season- not a head of broccoli to be found. Creating a recipe like that gives me a really great sense of accomplishment, and I feel a lot of motivation to really make use of everything I can. I mean, I have various labeled bags in my freezer that are all collecting sorted bones for stock- because I am usually just cooking a couple of pork chops here, and a steak there… this way I don’t feel badly tossing the bones in the trash- I just wait until I’ve got enough and make a really nutritious stock that will feed us many more meals (I’d estimate an extra 6 meals for all of us from each batch of stock). Small steps with a big return. Same with veggies that would be good for stock making. I think about things like… if only people knew how to identify purslane and lamb’s quarters, then they’d have a free source for some really nutritious and delicious greens that they could harvest during a five minute walk around their neighborhood. I have favorite ways of preparing these things, why not write them down and share it? At the very least I could turn it into a small book for just family and friends as a little present. I dunno, it’d probably be years away, but I think I’d like to start collecting my recipes and actually writing something down…
Anyway, this week has been busy. See for yourself. Canning galore. I’m getting better at it all the time, and it just generally runs a lot more smoothly- especially now that I can put Asa up on my back in a wrap. At the far end are some of those foraged pears. I’ve probably got another 2-3 more batches like that to go through, but I’m working through them. Then I put up all my green tomatoes into a green tomato salsa (a great way to save them from the frost)- made with our peppers, onions, garlic, a ton of locally grown cilantro… Delicious. I also experimented with lacto-fermenting 9 more pints of it, and so far so good. And then I put up 4 quarts of the broccoli soup I made, and it also fed us that night (and Jeff for lunch the next day).
The vat of salsa. This is a five gallon pot, just to give you an idea. All those tomatoes would have gone to waste, and here we’ve got our year’s supply of salsa! (I hope)
In the same vein, I love my tomato skin relish. Last year I was with my friends putting up a ton of tomatoes at a little canning party we had. While we were straining the tomatoes for some sauce, I watched as all the skins and seeds came out the other end into a bowl, bound for the compost. It occured to me that I always thought tomato skins had great flavor, and that it was a shame to lose them all. I had the idea that if we chopped them up enough to make them more texturally appealing, maybe we could make a sort of tapenade out of them, for crackers or toast or whatever. So I convinced my friend to save all of the skins in a freezer bag, and later we got together and experimented. We chopped it all up in batches through the food processor, added onions, garlic, olives, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, artichokes… and guess what? It’s delicious. I’ve used it as a dip, a spread, on meats and fish, with potatoes and vegetables, with pasta, given it away as presents… it’s awesome. Unfortunately the tomatoes had such a bad year, I didn’t make it again. Otherwise I’d try to have a more exact recipe to share. I’d also love to experiment with a few different versions, one using mostly local ingredients.
If there were any potential problems with this idea, it’d be that people won’t have an interest in going the extra mile to create these kinds of dishes. But, I guess I wouldn’t be catering to them anyway. I’m interested in advocating for a more sustainable, creative way of looking at our food. I’m interested in people without a garden deciding to buy enough tomatoes from farmer’s market to can at home, and even make their own tomato skin relish. I mean, this stuff is about tapping into our creative energies, using our food efficiently with as little waste (both in terms of actual food, fuel, and packaging) as possible, and learning to step out of our old food habits and be open to other things satisfying our tastes. I suppose I’ll need to keep my expectations low in terms of the marketability of such a thing, but I hope that (if it actually materializes into something), it could inspire a few individuals to do the same and spread the love. So, those of you who read this, would you be open to helping me on this journey? I’d hope for honest and constructive criticism, even possibly for some of you to test out recipes (or possibly receive little shipments of goodies to try), or help me brainstorm ideas. What do you think?