Plumbing My Pantry: Food Preservation Pays Off

For four days this week, 10 women are coming to my house to play apprentice. We're going to milk goats, make sauerkraut, knit socks, talk about depletion and climate change, make teas and syrups, cook on a woodstove and figure out where to go from here and basically have a four day slumber party ;-). This is going to be exciting and fun, I think. It is also pushing the limits of my pantry.

You see, I knew that there would be 11 of us eating at my place for four days, but what I didn't know was that we had a brake fluid leak. Our car went into the shop for snow tires (yeah, I know, we should have done it a month ago) and stayed there for four days, waiting for a part. A neighbor kindly loaned us her car for a quick emergency run to do the most pressing errands, mostly involving animal bedding, and I had gone to the farmer's market on Sunday, but otherwise, I've got 14 vegetarian meals for varying populations, including 11 for 11, and it had to come entirely out of the pantry.

This is one of the great virtues of a well-stocked pantry. Other than that we'll be eating a lot of cabbage and brussels sprouts over the next few days (the greens that keep), and I've got a little bok choy that is looking ok, but the whole thing isn't really that bad - this is the virtue of home preserved, root cellared and stocked up food - it is there when you need it.

A few things had to come off my planned menu list - no cranberry bread, I'm afraid, since we're out of frozen cranberries and the four that my bushes produced are gone too ;-). It'll be either pumpkin bread or cinnamon buns instead. Frozen pesto is my friend, as are jarred roasted peppers and sprouts which make sandwiches taste sandwichey. I've got tons of root vegetables and we'll be having roasted vegetable enchiladas and vegetable massaman curry. Black bean soup is easy to do, and with homemade, home-ground cornmeal in the cornbread. I've got mein noodles that will make a great stir fry with that bok choy. And I can give you thirty ways to cook cabbage that will knock your socks off.

So we're good. I am the descendent of my great-grandmother, whose mission in life was that no one ever went away from a meal hungry. I have her genes to call upon - dinner will be waiting.

In the meantime, here are some recipes for things to do with cabbage. The beauty of cabbage is that it keeps. And if you think you don't like it, try it after a freeze - the sweetness is delightful.

1. Stir fried cabbage with black bean sauce

1/2 head cabbage, chopped
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tbsp oil
3 tbsp black bean paste diluted in 1 tbsp water
2 tbsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)

Heat oil in pan, and toss in cabbage and garlic. Stir fry until softened and starting to brown. Add remaining ingredients and stir until coated. Serve hot.

2. Cabbage and carrot salad

1/2 head cabbage
3 scallions
2 large or 4 small carrots,
3 tbsp roasted sesame oil
4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
salt, to taste

Chop cabbage, scallions and carrots together. Stir together sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. Add salt to taste, toss with vegetables to coat. Allow to sit 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Any other favorite cabbage recipes?

BTW, won't be much posting after this - but I'm back on Monday!


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What we call "Southern" cabbage...
Cut roughly 1/3 to 1/2 head of cabbage(heaping mound in a 12" cast iron skillet) as for cole slaw, or a bit thicker.
Saute in 1/4 cup butter until tender. As it begins to lose crispness, add roughly 2 heaping TB brown sugar, stir it in, then add a generous splash of apple cider vinegar.

We serve this as a side dish with soup and cornbread, and at breakfast with sunnyside up eggs and grits or toast and honey.

Wishing I could be a part of the 4-day slumber party. I need goat milking practice, want to make sauerkraut and should learn to knit...

Have fun!

I want to hear about the sock knitting! We purchased a 150 yo farmhouse 15 years ago with all hardwood floors which means if you want warm feet in the dead of winter, you have to wear wool socks. Thankfully, socks are my favorite things to make--from fine socks to wear in shoes to bed socks to heavy barn socks. I reinforce with fuzzy nylon I picked up at the fabric store or in a pinch plain old sewing thread with a polyester casing I get at thrift sales. Worn soles are refooted to save time and heels and toes darned, Your sock rant is one of my favorite posts!

Deb in Wisconsin

My favorite way to cook cabbage is Haluski. Shredded cabbage,sliced onions sauteed in butter add cooked homemade egg noodles and voila - comfort food of the easiest kind.

"thirty ways to cook cabbage that will knock your socks off."

I would buy that book!

By kattenihatten (not verified) on 06 Jan 2010 #permalink

I know exactly what you mean --- our power went off for 13 days last month during a snow storm, and for the first four days our driveway was too iced over to get out. Suddenly, we were stuck cooking with only food on hand (and on the wood stove.) But we stock up so much every summer on produce from our garden (and also buy flour and oats in bulk) that we didn't feel any pinch at all!

Learning to cook on a wood stove that wasn't meant to be cooked on was another matter. :-)

How about beets? Anybody got any drop-dead good recipies for beets that isn't Harvard Beets or Borscht? (I'm trying to branch out here. The red orbs are good for us, and they grow here, but I don't know what to do with them and Harvard Beets take forever.)

I'm so excited to be one of the 11! :) And pumpkin bread and cabbage sound amazing!!

Cabbage is my favorite vegetable, but most of my recipes are meat-flavored, so probably not appropriate.

Have you ever made your own kraut? I'd like to hear your experiences, if you're interested in sharing.

I'm dying to try bacterial fermentation, but I live alone, and have no idea what I'd do with 5 gallons of living, breathing saurkraut. I'd probably wind of giving it a name and declaring it on my taxes.

For Raven,
This isn't especially fast, but: Roast your beets in a covered container, cool them just enough to not burn your hands (or work carefully with pot holders and forks). Peel them, slice and drizzle them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and minced parsley. Darn good â and I'm not crazy about beets. Although I did rather like borscht the one time I made it.

Raven, beets make a fantastic middle-eastern style dip. Roast them, then puree, and blend with finely chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and thick yogurt thinned with lemon juice to taste. You can substitute a mix of tahini, lemon juice & water for non-dairy eaters.

Raven, I slice them very thinly and marinate them in a dressing of oil, sugar, vinegar and lots of dill weed for a day or two--beet pickles! Yum.

HP-on making 'kraut- I make it in small batches of 1/2 to 1 gal at a time using widemouthed canning jars. I live alone too, and the 5 gal measure put me off for a while too.

Then Sharon posted on fermented foods a while ago at the old blog and I've been fermenting ever since.....

Cabbage/Nut Salad
Try one part finely chopped nuts (hazelnuts work well) to 3 parts finely chopped cabbage. Toss with vinegar/honey dressing (1 part to 2 parts, or to taste).

Or shredded cabbage mixed with shredded apples and other veggies (broccoli, carrots, etc.). A regular or yogurt vinaigrette works well.

The pantry has been a real safety net for us as well, ranging from snow (we didn't even bother going to the store when the last snow was announced - didn't want to fight the crowds) to being too sick to feel like shopping or working too many hours at work to have time.

Similar to your lament on the cranberry bread vs. pumpkin bread - I might not have had everything that I WANTED but I sure had everything that I NEEDED.

Another vote for 30 ways to cook cabbage that would knock my socks off. So far we've had sauerkraut prepared various ways (sour with white wine and turkey sausage, sweet with apples and pie spice, braised with winter squash chunks, onion and brown sugar), slaw, in soup, in stir-fry with faux-Szechuan "(protein of choice)-with-orange-flavor." And if my poor spouse sees another leaf of it on his plate, I will have a mutiny on my hands.

The downside of eating locally is really getting past the first year or two. After that, you've got your recipe repertoire built up, you've got plenty of different ingredients in storage, you're used to eating a glut of one thing until you're positively nauseated. Whatever you think, "Oh, I could build a ten foot wall of (food) around me and eat my way out and never get tired of it," let me tell you: Yes, you most certainly CAN. But if you can make it through that first year or two, you'll get past the "not ANOTHER effing strawberry" stage.

Lori, you make a great point about making it first the first year or two of eating locally / being tired of only what's in season.

Every step I take toward more sustainable living follows a familiar cycle.

First, there's: I Couldn't Possibly (Give up year round imported berries / manage hanging out my laundry in this climate / get things really clean the green way / cut my power usage in half)

Then, there's: Well Maybe. Stick my toe in. Give it some thought. If she can do it maybe I can try. Just a little.

Followed by: Ugh. This is hard. I don't know what I'm doing. It's not working right. Is this crazy?

Then, hopefully: Well OK. It's sort of working. A little. Not bad. Kinda proud. Maybe go a little further.

Now: Kick It Up. New solutions. More success. We can do this. Go all the way. Maybe.

But then: Argh! This is too hard. Really a pain. Sick of it. Don't wanna. People think I'm nuts. It's irritating to people around me. I see why no one wants to do this. What was I thinking. Am I really going to hang in? Is it even making a difference? Not Another Effing Strawberry :)

And: Slogging. Hanging in, after all. Not thinking about it too much or I might quit. Would be a little crazy to go backward, but then let's not examine that too closely.

At last: Automatic. Coasting. Integrated. It's just what we do. Why can't everyone do it this way? As Lori says, You Most Certainly Can.

If only more than a couple of those stages was any fun!

Raven, here's an orange and beet salad recipe that blends flavors not normally put together.

3 - 4 medium beets, boiled until tender, peeled and sliced.
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
Olive oil
juice from 1/2 orange (or any citrus)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine garlic and beets in salad bowl. In a small jar shake together oil, orange juice and seasonings, pour over beets and chill. This actually tastes great right away, but is better after a day in the fridge!

Raven, we eat our beets just plain old boiled with butter, salt and pepper - the same way one would eat cooked carrots or another side veggie. Then again, we all love beets. :)

Skin, slice, and boil until fork-tender, drain, serve with butter. That's it! I'm not sure what "harvard beets" are, but we do like borscht. :)

For cabbage, when I was little we ate it much the same as the beets - just boiled, served with butter & salt and pepper. Some of the recipes I see here look much more appetizing!