Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring Cleaning the Root Cellar

I have been busily cleaning out my root cellar. Okay, I don't really have a root cellar. I have a garage where I store vegetables for the winter. My garage keeps things cool all winter, and if I package things properly, they don't freeze. The problem is, I store as much as I can for the winter so we have plenty. Then when spring comes, I nearly always have food that hasn't been used yet. I don't want to waste that food, so I have to find a way to either use it right away, or preserve it for longer term storage. So here is an overview of what I stored for the winter, and what I have done with it this spring.

Pumpkins--I had 4 pumpkins I just stored on a shelf for the winter. They would have stored better if I had wiped the shells with clorox water (1 Tbsp. clorox to a quart of water), but I fully intended to can the pumpkins last fall, so I didn't wipe them off. And then I didn't get them canned, either. They were starting to show a little mold on the bottom, so I cut that part off, and canned pumpkin chunks. (Pumpkin puree is considered not safe for home canning, due to inefficient heat penetration. You can freeze pumpkin puree.) I use the pumpkin as an oil substitute in baking. I dump the chunks in the blender and puree them, adding only enough of the liquid to make the blender puree the chunks well. This is especially nice in cake mixes in place of the oil called for.

Garlic--When I harvested my garlic last fall, I braided it, and humg it in the garage. But my garlic was starting to sprout, so I knew it wouldn't last much longer. So I sliced it and dehydrated it. I will grind it in a coffee grinder I keep for grinding spices and herbs, and make my own garlic powder.

Potatoes--I store my potatoes in a clean garbage can lined with crumpled newspaper, with the top ajar to let moisture out. I way overbought potatoes last fall. I canned 7 quarts of plain potatoes, and 7 quarts of potato soup starter. The soup starter was just potatoes with some onion and celery and chicken bouillon added. I still have more to preserve, but I am low on jars, so I intend to dehydrate the rest. I will stem them until nearlly cooked, then dehydrate. I haven't dried potatoes before, but have read hints on how to keep the potatoes from turning dark. I will report on how they turn out.

Onions--I usually buy a 25 lb. bag of onions in the fall, and store them hanging in pantyhose. I cut the legs of the pantyhose off, and drop an onion into the toe, and tie a knot, then drop in the next onion, and so on. This year I used nearly the whole 25 lbs. of onions, using almost the last ones for the potato soup starter. Other years, I have dried extra onions, but they also freeze well.

Carrots--I stored carrots 2 ways for the winter. The best results came from the ones I picked and put in a bucket, then covered them with clean, damp sand. This is the first year I have tried this, and I was very happy with the quality of the carrots. The rest of the carrots I overwintered right in the garden. My daughter dug them up for me last week, which was maybe a little late in the spring, but we kept hving rain and snow storms, so I hadn't gotten it done earlier. I am not much of a fan of canned carrots, so I decided to dehydrate them. I washed and sorted all the carrots I had left, and saved out the very best, un-blemished ones, and put them in the refrigerator crisper. I peeled the rest, and half I cubed and then blanched, then dehydrated. The other half I blanched whole, then shredded and dehydrated. The cubed carrots will work nicely in soups and stews, and the grated ones will be good for carrot cakes and in certain salads. They won't be as crisp as fresh, but rehydrated, they will be nice in pasta salads, etc.

By preserving these foods, I have eliminated waste, and thus saved money. I decided a long time ago, that even if I had to throw away half the potatoes I stored, I would come out ahead moneywise, over buying higher priced potatoes in the winter season. By preserving the potatoes I otherwise would have had to throw away, I have saved their cost. And it is so convenient to have canned potatoes to use in making quick meals. The dehydrated veggies will store for years when packed properly. I love salvaging foods that would have otherwise been wasted. That, my friends, is called provident living. And my goal is to live providently.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


My friend, Kim Tibbetts, gave me this recipe for BBQ Ham. This has been popular for church group dinners, it is something a little different, but it is good, and cheap, and serves a crowd. I have 2 comments about the recipe. First of all, it turned out really runny for me, so I would wait and only add the cup of water if the sauce seems too thick and seems to need it. The second comment is that it seemed a little salty to me. I may just be over-sensitive to the salt, I find that some things taste salty to me when others think it tastes fine. I am considering giving the ham a quick rinse next time, to reduce some of the salt. But the real test of this recipe is how well the family eats it. My 2 adult daughters who live with us have gotten into the fridge to eat leftovers. (They seldom want leftovers of our meals.) In other words, this is a winner. I am thinking leftovers of this will do well in the freezer, also, if you are not trying to feed a crowd. Or you can cut the recipe in half. I didn't, because I thought the half a can of tomato soup would likely go to waste, but you could have tomato soup for lunch with that half a can if you want to try that. The sauce has a really good flavor, and I think it would go well with other meats as well.

5 lbs. shaved boneless ham (have the butcher shave it for you)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 c. chopped celery
1 c. water (I would only add this if it seems too thick without it)
1 c. ketchup
1 can tomato soup
2 Tbsp. vinegar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Sautee onion and celery in butter in a large pot. Add remaining ingredients except ham and mix well. Add ham, cover and simmer for an hour. (Or simmer in crockpot on high for an hour, or on low for 2-4 hours.) Stir occasionally. Serve on hard rolls. Good recipe for a crowd. Serves 20-25.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Dessert

We had a lovely Easter, with most of our children, my mother, and my brother visiting. My brother is autistic, and we moved him to a group home last summer. He had an overnight visit with Mom for Easter. He can be a little funny about food, but dinner was a success. My brother approved of the ham, and he REALLY loved the homemade rolls. When dessert time came, he at first refused any, then changed his mind and took half a piece. He finished it all, which I took for high praise, after all the food he had already eaten.

Dessert was Soda Cracker Pie. It sounds a little wierd, but it turns out almost like a chewy meringue. It is very elegant looking and tasting, but it is a frugal dessert to make, and very easy.

Soda Cracker Pie
18 soda cracker squares, crushed finely (in blender, food processor, or in a ziplock bag and crushed with a rolling pin)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chopped nuts, optional (I always skip the nuts, because youngest DD is allergic)

Beat 2 egg whites until stiff. Slowly add:
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Fold soda cracker mixture into egg white mixture. Put in a greased pie pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes til light golden brown. Cool.

Top with 1 cup whipped cream (1/2 cup cream whipped with 2 Tbsp. sugar) or whipped topping (I have used both, and both work well) Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight, up to 5 days. Serve as is, or topped with sweetened fruit, pie filling, or chocolate sauce. Our favorite is strawberries. Serves 6

Friday, April 2, 2010

Uncle Jack

My husband has done my aunt and uncle's taxes for several years. Ever since their house fell into the river. When he heard about the tragedy, my DH kept saying, "tell them to make sure they get the tax benefits from that." They finally asked what he was talking about. Their tax preparation firm didn't know what to do for them, so DH finally just did their taxes for them, getting them substantial benefit from the loss of their house. DH has done their taxes ever since then.

Uncle Jack was extra generous this year. He paid about twice the amount DH normally charges them (to help us out because DH lost his job), and then invited DH and I to lunch. We went to a nice seafood restaraunt and had fresh halibut. We had a lovely visit.

I bring this up because Uncle Jack once told me his motto for life, which he lives so well.

Be Frugal
Work Hard
Be Generous

I hope I can learn to follow this motto as well as Uncle Jack has.