The best part of the harvest is usually only available for a few weeks or months each year. It is an illusion to think that it is sustainable to fly apples from New Zealand or truck lettuce in from California. Along with the pollution and global warming gas emissions come real concerns about industrially produced food product's quality and healthfullness. Some writers suggest that such foods often lack as much as 90 per cent of the trace minerals present in the organically grown version of the food. This is because in using pesticides, herbicides and artificial chemicals the microorganisms in the soil that make the trace minerals available to the plant are destroyed.
Our recent ancestors had the solution - grow your own food and preserve the harvest by canning, drying and freezing. By employing organic gardening techniques we can be sure the food does not contain poisons. By growing heritage vegetables which are open pollinated, we can select varieties for taste and wholesomeness, not their ability to sit in a truck or on a shelf for three months, and we can save the seeds for the future crops.
Recipes for chutneys and preserves abound. When you prepare your own food you are able to use what is cheap and available from either your own garden or from a local farmer who will look you straight in the eye and certify that the food has been grown organically.
So after collecting a bounty of quality produce, what is the best way to preserve it so it can be enjoyed over the next ten months until the next harvest is available? Some crops, like tomatoes, are easy and can simply be put in a container in the freezer. As concerns are now being raised about chemicals leaching out of plastics, another option is carefully washed wax lined milk and cream containers. Do be sure not to put hot food in the containers, as the wax will melt and you will have a mess on your hands.
We collect our milk and cream containers all year long, carefully washing them in hot water and storing them until they are needed. This year, in two twelve hour sessions, we prepared and froze sixty five liters of salmon and vegetable chowder, thirty liters of bean and vegetable soup, thirty liters of ham and pepperoni and bean and vegetable soup and thirty liters of corn and vegetable chowder.
One hundred and fifty-five meals (for two to four persons) prepared in twenty four hours works out to about twenty minutes per meal. Each meal contains an abundance of the best of the harvest, mostly organically sourced , at a remarkably modest cost. We use only top quality ingredients, like butter or olive oil, and no fillers or by-products. About one third of the time is spent shopping for the best price on the best ingredients. Don't feel stuck with this recipe, feel free to substitute whatever ingredients strike your fancy and pocketbook.
The secret is to half cook all the ingredients in butter (my favorite) or extra virgin olive oil, before measuring portions into the milk cartons, covering the mix with a cup of seasoned soup or sauce and freezing in a deepfreeze.
Begin by assembling the ingredients: (to make sixty five liters):
80 cobs of corn (I like to be the first one in line at the farm or store at the peak of the season) Cut the corn off the cobs and half cook in lots of butter in small batches. This will yield about 18 liters of corn. Collect the corn in a very large pot or bucket and allow it to cool.
20 lbs. of purple onions, lightly caramelized in butter and olive oil, will yield about 4 liters
10-15 lbs. assorted peppers, cut in spoon-size pieces and half cooked in butter
10 lbs button mushrooms, fully cooked with slices of garlic. I half cook the mushrooms in butter and add a cup of sliced garlic cloves per batch and finish cooking. This yields about 4 liters of mushrooms and garlic, and quite an odour in the neighbourhood!
5 lbs. celery, lightly cooked until changes colour,
5 lbs zucchini, cut in pizza wedges and lightly fried in butter
2 lbs fresh shitake mushrooms well cooked in lots of butter. If you like, dried shitake can be substituted, reconstituted in water or broth, but not cooked.
This prepping and cooking process will take about six hours. As you cook, the salmon can be baked and cooled and deboned by a helper. I buy frozen pink salmon and hold it over in my freezer. As soup time approaches, I defrost it slowly in a fridge or cooler. For this batch I used eight 3lb. salmons, barely defrosted. I cooked the fish in two roasting pans, stuffed with onions and sliced cloves of garlic and lots of butter. For seasoning I used fresh basil and a branch of rosemary in each fish. This yields 20 lbs. of salmon. Any extra salmon butter can be used to cook the mushrooms.
You will now need sixty five milk cartons. I sniff and visually inspect each carton to ensure that it is very clean. Into each carton goes one cup of salmon, one cup of corn, a serving spoon full of onions, celery, peppers' mushrooms and garlic, shitake mushrooms, zucchini and whatever. This will fill the carton about three quarters full.
I then combine 4 giant cans of mushroom soup, water, milk or cream to make the soup, and lots of cilantro, freshly ground red and green pepper, curry, sea salt, and whatever other seasonings you enjoy. Each milk carton full of salmon and veggies is going to get one cup of soup to seal the contents off from the air, so make sure that the sauce is well seasoned. You can at this point add more soup, but I prefer to add a can of soup, or two, to the salmon and vegetable mix when I reheat it. The cartons can now be wiped clean, stapled shut and labeled with sticky labels, that will stick to wax paper in the freezer. The cartons can then be frozen in the deep freeze, being careful to leave room for the cartons to expand as they freeze. Enjoy - you have just done your cooking for sixty five delectable feasts. I defy anyone to tell that each batch has not been cooked from scratch.
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