Frugality


While everyone has their own reasons for buying locally grown seasonal foods, reducing their carbon footprint could be reason enough. The peaches, nectarines, berries and grapes we find in the supermarket in April might come from as far away as Chile –that’s thousands of food miles.

The benefits of eating seasonally and locally are not limited to reducing the use of fossil fuel in the food chain though.

While eating seasonally and locally can be a way of life that revolutionizes how you eat, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Grow some of your own fruits and vegetables (even if it’s just a few tomatoes), shop at local farmer’s markets (use the RealTime Farms market locator), buy into a CSA, or even continue shopping at your local supermarkets (ask a store manager, many supermarkets carry local produce, but don’t always label it “local”). Even if you do buy out of season sometimes, simply eating seasonally and locally when you are able to will improve the quality of the food you eat and reduce your carbon footprint.

Okay, now I feel as though I’m preaching to the choir. If you’re a realfoodmom reader, you are certainly aware of all the reasons for eating  minimally processed, local and organic foods. Nevertheless, when you’re tempted to buy strawberries in March, remember all the reasons why you wait for them to be locally available:

  1. Local food tastes better. Shipped produce is almost always picked before it is ripe.
  2. Local food is more nutritious. Once harvested, produce quickly loses nutrients. Since local produce is sold right after it’s picked, it retains more nutrients.
  3. Local food supports local families. The wholesale prices that farmers get for their products are low – often near the cost of production. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food – which helps farm families stay on their land.
  4. Local food builds community. Knowing farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the land, and your food. In many cases, it gives you access to a place where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture.
  5. Local food is an investment in the future. By supporting local farmers today, you are helping to ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow. When farmers get paid more for their products by marketing locally, they’re less likely to sell farmland for development. When you buy locally grown food, you’re doing something proactive to improve the way foods are produced.

I try to stock up on all our favorites throughout the growing season. Here, that’s June through September. Freezing produce is so incredibly simple. Of course some fruits and vegetables are better suited to canning. Tomatoes for instance; you can’t freeze tomatoes. Well, you can, but you wont be happy with the result. Simple, step-by-step instructions make canning almost as simple as freezing.

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Now that I have four quart jars of peaches proccessing on the stove, I have time to post pictures of some beautiful Michigan, Red Haven Peaches. We had unusually hot weather in February, (it was 80º-crazy hot) now many Michigan growers are having a pitiful fruit harvest. I feel lucky to have 24 lbs. of beautiful peaches.
Canning instructions never include quantities that I find helpful. Some may say, “approximately 3-5 peaches per quart.” Clearly, size is the variable.
Here’s MY answer to, “how many should I buy?”, start with fifteen pounds. Fifteen pounds should yield 8 quart jars. Unless you’re a canning expert, or can get another set of hands, more than fifteen pounds at a time can be overwhelming.

My favorite resource for everything “canning”: Simply Canning

I keep a bowl of lemon spiked water nearby, for sections and slices of peach that are not suitable for canning; mostly little bruised areas. If the kids don’t eat the slightly imperfect, I’ll puree them and make freezer pops.

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If you’ve never canned anything, consider beginning with green beans. Canning vegetables couldn’t be simpler – provided you have access to a pressure-cooker. The “pressure method” is a requirement when you’re canning low acid foods(1).

What you’ll need:
pressure cooker
canning jars, new/used. You can use undamaged jars again and again.
jar rings, new/used. You can use undamaged rings again and again.
jar lids, must be new.
canning salt or course sea salt

 

A local farm stand sells bushels and half bushels discounted from their per pound price, making canning and freezing produce for the Winter months very economical. Plus, I like going into the cellar and seeing rows of MY preserved fruits and vegetables; beets next to peaches, pickles, tomatoes and green beans.

There are at least two methods for preparing green beans for canning, I prefer the “cold pack” method. I like to retain as much crispness as possible: when you use the “cold pack” method, the beans are only cooked once, in the pressure cooker.
Begin by washing, and snapping off the stem end of each bean. Earlier this Summer a farmer laughed at me for sorting peas by size before freezing them, nevertheless I sort. As I snap the beans I toss the small and broken beans into a separate bowl.

Now “cold pack” the beans into jars. I use wide mouth jars so I can better fit my fingers inside the jar. However today, Stevie has volunteered to pack beans. His small hand has no trouble standing beans upright in the jars.

At this point, it’s a good idea to start heating the water in your pressure cooker. The jars will be hot once you’ve added the boiling water, and you’ll want to set them into hot water inside the pressure cooker. You can set the canning lids in the water so that they’ll be hot when you’re ready to place them on the jars.
Remember the small and broken beans that I set aside? I use some of those broken (or just short) beans to top off the jars.

Add a teaspoon of canning salt or course sea salt to the jars. You can use ordinary table salt, but additives in table salt have a negative effect on the color of the beans. They’ll taste fine, they just wont be as pretty.

Bring a kettle of water to boiling. Pour boiling water into the jars, leaving an inch of space at the top of each jar. Hint: the neck of a canning jar is 1 inch from the rim.

 

After adding boiling water to all the jars, use a wood skewer or the handle of a wood or plastic spoon to help release air bubbles that may be trapped in the jar. Because I pack green beans vertically, air bubbles are not usually “trapped,” they rise to the surface between the beans. Tapping the jars, gently on the counter top, is usually enough to remove air from the jars.

 

With a clean dry towel, wipe the rims of the jars. Set a hot canning lid on each jar and screw on rings. Remember your lids have been heating along with the water in your pressure cooker. The rings should be secure but not too tight. What does that mean exactly? I don’t really know – all canning instructions advise against “over tightening.” Remember the 1 inch of space between the contents and rim of your jars? That’s air; and it should be pushed out during processing. Putting rings on too tightly will prevent the air from escaping during processing.

 

Gently lower the jars into the pressure cooker. (use the directions included with your pressure cooker. You will need to achieve 10 pounds of pressure and a temperature that exceeds 240º) Secure the pressure cooker’s lid. Once the pressure cooker indicates the pot is pressurized, begin timing:

  • General processing times are:
  • 20 minutes for pint jars
  • 25 minutes for quart jars
  • high-altitude times are generally 10 minutes longer

After your cooking time has passed, allow pressure to drop. (use the directions included with your pressure cooker.) Carefully lift jars and gently place them on a kitchen towel. If all the windows are open, I set the jars in the oven, fearing a cool breeze in the kitchen could crack the jars.
Once the jars have cooled, check the seals. The lid should be firm and slightly concave. If any of the jars have not sealed, refrigerate the jar and plan to use it within a week.

(1) Low acid foods, requiring the pressure cooking method;

  • asparagus
  • beans
  • corn
  • cucumbers
  • garlic
  • green beans
  • onions
  • peas
  • pumpkins
  • squash

 

Foods that are safe for water bath canning

  • apple sauce
  • tomatoes
  • berries
  • figs
  • papaya
  • peaches
  • pears
  • pineapple

My favorite resource for everything “canning”: Simply Canning

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