Sunday, December 18, 2011

What's in your larder?

It used to be a common skill--not just knowing how to put up food, but also a sense of how much you'll need.

I've got plenty of fruit to get me through the winter, I think, and peppers, and eggplants. But I don't think I put up enough tomatoes, and I definitely haven't solved the root-vegetable thing. I still just buy them from the year-round CSA which tends to have local veggies well into early winter. I don't have room to grow the beans I know I'd eat-- about 45 square feet yielded just 3 quarts of beans.

Reading the sustainability blogs as one of the managers of this year's Dark Days Challenge, I'm also amazed at the amount of preserving people do. Do they have a million kids or something? People talk about 40 jars of pickles, and 200 jars of tomato paste. People kill, butcher and freeze 5 and 6 and 7 deer.  I start to think that I'm not doing it right.

Last year I made it all the way to May without buying vegetables. This year, I'm not so sure.

Everything in the meal below was made from food I grew, except the seasonings and bacon.

White bean cassoulet with chard
4-6 thick bacon slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch-thick) slices diagonally cut carrot
1 cup (1/2-inch-thick) slices diagonally cut parsnip

3 cups white beans (I used Hutterites)
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3-4 fresh sage leaves, chopped very fine

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1-2 large tomatoes, skinned, seeded, then roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese (not for vegans, natch)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


    Cut up some bacon and fry in a large sauce pan until very well done. Drain and set aside. Using the bacon grease, add onion, carrot, parsnip, and garlic; cover and cook 5 minutes or until tender. (Add a little olive oil, lard, or preserved bacon grease if you need more).  Add stock, beans, enough cold water to cover, sage, and thyme. I'm told you shouldn't add salt to the beans until they are fully cooked because they won't cook correctly, but I don't know what that means. Plus, there's salt in the bacon.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer covered for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring about every 20 minutes.

Add next 4 ingredients and bring back to simmer.  When the beans are just about done, add the bacon, parsley and garlic, and simmer another 10 minutes.

Remove the stems from some chard and blanch the leaves. Place these in the bottom of a bowl and ladle in the cassoulet. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and top with a little garnish of extra parsley.

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