Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pantry Spring Clean

I need to clean out my larder.

That sounds a little gross doesn’t it? Maybe it’s because the word “lard” is in larder and images of globs-o-grease come to mind. A larder is any storage space used to keep food for a long time, usually a cool space in the basement or cellar. These were big before the days of electric refrigeration, but not so much today. Most people go to the grocery store and keep fresh food week-to-week in the refrigerator or in their kitchen pantry. There weren’t any “leftovers” in the old days either.

For those who home preserve, a larder is a place where you keep your canned goods, which just so happens to be that most people do this in the basement. Not too many people have room for 80 quarts of tomato sauce in their kitchen or pantry, so down to the basement they go. It’s also best to keep home-canned goods in a cool space because the rubber seals could weaken in a hot environment.

For me, I turned a small storage closed in my kitchen into a canning pantry. I guess you’d call it my larder since I don’t have any other place I keep my canned goods for now, plus I find that I’m more apt to use what I have when I can see it every day. I’m on the low side of canned goods, as last year’s canning season was a bust due to us buying a house and moving. But this year….THIS year I have big plans. I plan to make additional shelving in the basement for the overflow that will inevitably happen.

In the meantime, I need to cull out the items I’ve canned a year or so ago that we haven’t liked. I’m also doing this to make space for the following goodies I have my eye on for this year:

Salted Cranberry Grapefruit Jam – Doesn’t this just sound amazing!

Fire Roasted Tomatoes – Every year I can tons of sauce and plain pureed tomatoes, so this would be a perfect addition.

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars – Another great use for all those jars of jam!

Annie’s Salsa – A staple and we never seem to have enough. Last year I only made ONE batch.

Beekman 1802 Blaak Onion Jam – Onion jams are so versatile and this just sounds so complex and delicious.

Pickle Quest 2013 – A never-ending story…last year’s batch of fermented pickles went bad before I could put them up (due to the move). We still have jars from 2011 and they weren’t crisp. FOILED AGAIN!

Roasted Red Pepper Spread – AMAZING with goat cheese, some crackers, and a bottle of wine. Sigh.

Pickled Pepperoncinis – My husband loves these, but for some reason I’ve never made them. That will change…oh, yes.

Quick Pickled Fennel with Orange – In the past two years, I’ve decided that I LOVE fennel. I think this recipe would be fantastic if you mixed it with some shredded cabbage for coleslaw.

Habanero Gold Jelly – Another favorite I haven’t made in eons.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Super Bowl Sunday

I’ve been cooking a lot of Paula Deen’s recipes this past week, which are hit-or-miss with me. I made her Chicken Brunswick Stew, substituting smoked pulled pork, and it was perfect. I made her Banana Pudding for an office pot luck, which I am on the fence with how it turned out. I used 2% milk versus whole and I felt the recipe called for too much corn starch, which made the pudding “starchy” tasting. And last night, I made a modified version of her Naked Chicken Wings for Super Bowl Sunday, which were wonderful. I caved in and bought a deep fryer. Baked wings are NOT the same; I don’t care what they say!

This is what we woke up to yesterday morning. It was gone (mostly) before the game started. It made for a nice, sleepy, chilly Sunday indoors:

I love the snow. It’s so pretty and I love how everything is so quiet and bright. I love how the snow allows you to look deep into the woods and see as far as your eyes will let you. We haven’t had very much this year, but we’ve had more snow days than we’ve ever had since we’ve been up here.

We are in the process of building our veggie beds for this year. It’s not been easy, since we’ve had to cut down a few trees and build a small retaining wall because the area is on a small slope. Once we finish the wall, we will bring in some fill dirt, level the area, and then build raised beds on top of that. My goal is to have it all done by the end of February so I can plant any cool weather loving seeds in March.

I’m looking forward to this year’s adventures in gardening. This will be a first for me. When we were renting, we didn’t have the opportunity to experiment with many of the plants up here, but now nothing can stop us except this awful clay soil. Gotta learn how to play with that!

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