Sunday, February 22, 2009

Preserving the Seasons: February, Week 4

February has really flown by this year, and not just because it's the shortest month. The calendar has been filled with meetings, appointments, movie nights, and the occasional dance, all arranged to keep me from going stir crazy as winter plods on.

The most exciting events have been meetings of like-minded people coming together to organize a year-round farmers' market in town. We've only begun to meet and discuss the details, so I don't have a whole lot to share at this point, but the meetings -- unlike most meetings -- leave me feeling incredibly uplifted and energized. Everyone brings amazing gifts and interests and ideas to the table, and the enthusiasm constantly cycles upward as we plan ways to develop our local economy to everyone's benefit.

All this activity, though, has meant that my cooking has often ended up fairly basic, throwing together what I have on hand to make something reasonably appealing and nutritious. Thank heaven I've gotten into the habit of pulling three or four vegetables from the freezer each weekend to help me whip something up during the week!

And yes, this also means that I'm so thankful I spent all that time preserving food back in the summer. What a timesaver (and money saver) now!

One of the things I had put away back in December was a jar half-full of dried lentils and topped with layers of dried vegetables from my pantry. Along with a jar of tomato sauce, freshly chopped onion and garlic from cold storage, selected spices, and the last of the leftover whey, this jar made it easy to throw together a pot of dal yesterday in the midst of my house work.

Then, as the Indian spices filled the air, I ended up back in the kitchen to make samosas with potatoes and another onion from cold storage, edamame from the freezer, and whole wheat flour from the local grist mill.

For the first time ever, I used all the filling in all the dough since I packed extra in every little turnover. You can see the difference: these samosas turned out nice and plump!

Last night's meal, then, was an almost entirely local meal -- and came entirely from the food I preserved last year. (I even served the samosas with homemade blueberry-ginger chutney, also from local produce.) No wonder it tasted so good!

In fact, those samosas were so tasty that I took a large portion of what remained to today's potluck, along with the chutney, where they earned rave reviews.

Slowly, slowly, I'm watching my stores of produce dwindle. I'm on my third box of empty jars, repacked for this year's canning, and the freezer is definitely looking more roomy. I've still got plenty to carry me through spring, but it's satisfying to be able to go through so much preserved food each week and not worry about running out. That's a first for me!

Though the snow still dances in and out every few days, we can tell that spring is approaching. The sky is lighter in the morning on my way to work, and daylight lingers until past 6 PM now, making me feel like I have more time and energy for evening projects. Only three months left of eating from the pantry -- and then the whole cycle starts all over again.

That's worth waiting for!

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