Diary & Evolution of a Localvore: Preserving for the Winter

By: Kay Sokolovic
By: Kay Sokolovic

Kay Sokolovic reflects on a family tradition that she is bringing back today.

I have been reflecting on summers spent with my grandparents planting and harvesting the garden. Canning, freezing and making sauces over the summer have brought back many memories. They had a huge garden every summer - there were times I thought the rows of peas and beans would never end. We always had fresh vegetables and put up a lot for the winter. I started planting in the field with my grandfather and moved on to the canning/freezing phase with my great grandmother and grandmother. I followed them around learning all I could. Now I'm so glad I did. One year, I even wrote everything down on note cards so I would know what to do on my own. I still have those cards 30 years later.

More and more people are starting to again cook and can at home. As noted in a recent CNNMoney.com survey, 54% of the US is cooking at home more. The numbers have also increased for home canning. A whole lot of love goes into each can/jar/container. It is a lot of work, but well worth the efforts. Did you know that a licensed food service operation is not allowed to can and preserve items for use in their own restaurant? Thank goodness you can still do this at home!

Not everyone has the freezer or pantry space for canning/pickling/freezing. But for those that do, quite often buying produce in larger quantities can be less expensive. You can still purchase smaller quantities to freeze fresh vegetables for the winter.You should try to know the current price of fresh produce at the large national chains. I always try to negotiate with the local provider for the best price for larger volume. I buy "culled" tomatoes by the bushel and freeze them after cutting in quarters or making sauce first. Known to my family as "Tomato-Man", Mr. Futtrell at the Pitt County Farmer's Market sells "culled" tomatoes at a reduced price. These are not first quality as they have bruises and marks, but they work fine for soup and sauces. I will spend this week freezing late season green beans and making fig preserves.

I have noticed local seafood vendors around Greenville with ample quantities of shrimp. Pitt County Farmer's Market has several including Washington Crab & Seafood and Capt. Jim's is at the Cornerstone Market. Capt. Jim's was even featured in July's Southern Living magazine. The more you buy, the less per pound you pay. This is another example of purchasing in bulk. I bought 50 lbs. of N.C. shrimp from Li'l Snapper in Ayden. We rinse the shrimp in water, remove the head (bury them in the garden) and place them in freezer bags adding a little cold water to each bag (approx. 1/4 cup for a quart size bag as this helps prevent freezer burn). If you can get three families to buy bulk seafood, 50 lbs. of shrimp is reduced to just under seventeen pounds per family. If anyone has other contacts, please feel free to share.

We celebrated my dad's birthday this week with a local meal of NC boiled shrimp, homemade cocktail sauce, garlic green beans, grilled corn on the cob and Mary Margaret's whole wheat & spelt bread. Share with me your experiences and your local meal efforts.


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