Monday, August 30, 2010

How much should I preserve?

At this time of year the blogs are full of pictures of 40 jars of tomatoes that some uber locavore just put up. You read about people's 20x20 foot hand-dug root cellars, and the 200 cucumbers that they turned into pickles.

I just read a comment from a friend that she "doesn't have enough to save right now"-- but what does that mean? How little is too little?

I mostly eat as I grow. I don't really have the space, or I'm not willing to devote the space, to grow enough for the 8 months of preserved food that you need in this northern temperate climate. But even so, for most of my gardening life I've grown just a little too much to consume.

Now, I'm a somewhat selfish gardener. I don't give much (ahem, any) food away. I'm always impressed, and slightly guilt-ridden, over people who bring their baked goods or overflow tomatoes to work. If I've got 10 extra tomatoes, that's a quart of sauce. Too many zucchinis, peppers, or eggplants? You can roast and freeze those. (Or pack the roasted peppers in olive oil. They won't keep quite as long, but they give the olive oil an amazing flavor). And you don't need either the time nor the storage for dozens of jars. Put up 3 jars, and for all I know, eat them next week. This year for the first time we got a small chest freezer, just 5.5 cubic feet, for freezing fruit and blanched vegetables, and I use my son's tiny old dorm room fridge for about 20 jars of heat-canned sauces and relish.

So if you've only got enough tomatoes for a little extra sauce, well, you're not feeding an army, and there's a grocery store down the block for January (for now, anyway). It's great to save a lot.

But you can also save just a little.

Fried squash blossoms with chorizo stuffing

12 large freshly picked squash blossoms (any type-- I've got Butternut, Pumpkin and Zucchini)

The stuffing:
2 chorizo sausages
3 small potatoes
1 large sweet pepper
3 small zucchini or 1 medium eggplant
2 egg yokes

Fill a sauce pan with light oil (canola or corn) to at least 3" depth (do not overfill- top of oil should be no closer than 1" from the top of the pot). Heat to 400F.

If using eggplant, dice it, place it in a seive over a bowl and lightly salt. Let it sit about a half hour until it drains, then rinse it. Discard all liquid. Drench it with olive oil and let it sit 10 minutes or until the olive oil is absorbed. Peel and grate the potatoes, dice the pepper and zucchini or eggplant. Remove the casings from the sausages and fry in a little olive oil, breaking them up into a ground meat texture. Place all ingredients together in the frying pan and continue frying until the eggplant is completely cooked, adding olive oil if necessary. Add egg yolks and quickly mix it. Saute on low until vegetables are soft (about 20 minutes). Allow to cool.

For vegetarian, clearly, leave out the sausage, replace with wild rice or toasted pine nuts.

The batter (from Cape May Magazine, although I thought theirs was too thick, and added a second egg white):
½ cup flour
½ cup rice flour
Salt, pepper
2 egg whites
½ cup club soda

Mix flours and spices and add to club soda. Whisk lightly to incorporate. Lumps are better than over mixing. Whisk egg whites until foamy. Add to batter.

Gently spoon the stuffing into the blossoms, folding over the ends to hold it in. Hand dip into the batter and immediately submerge in hot (400F) oil. Deep fry until the batter is golden brown. Serve immediately.

These were so good that by the time I got the camera, 6 of them were gone.

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