Let’s face it. If you eat at all, you know there is a difference between dishes prepared from fresh versus frozen ingredients. There’s nothing worse than dining out and being served something obscurely resembling what you ordered and chewing like an overdone piece of plastic. I can think of several places where the dessert menu sounds delectable enough to order from and disappointment ensues when the frozen, mass produced dessert square arrives. BLECH.
Local food – local anything is trending right now. There are no less than 20 restaurants listed on The Guelph Wellington Local Food Map that feature food grown in Guelph and Wellington County. Scanning the list, I believe there are a couple that no longer exist, but I’m sure more are constantly being added.
The map is part of a branding initiative called Taste Real. It’s been around since 2011 and was “developed to support local businesses, farms and producers who are passionate about the way local food is grown, prepared, presented and enjoyed, and how real it tastes!” (from their website).
Taste Real is a brilliant marketing name. When I say those words, I actually start to salivate as visions of local sugar-plums dance in my head!
Now is the time of year when many shop the markets and local fruit and vegetable stands to stock-up on all things fresh and local. While dining out with friends this week at a wonderful local fresh-food joint, we were discussing who bought what for canning and preserving this year.
Bushels of tomatoes and peppers topped the list. A couple of us did not contribute much to the canning conversation, but I’m hopeful for some awesome local preserved treats this Christmas!
Growing up on a dairy farm with a one acre home garden, I know a little about the local, preserving process. There’s not much that beats the feeling of accomplishment when you hear those red pepper jelly lids pop. Way back when I was a kid, there was no such thing as red pepper jelly. We planted, ploughed, picked and preserved anything and everything for day-to-day consumption. There was no thought to creativity or the potential presentation options when served. Red peppers were red peppers; picked; cleaned and frozen as is or added to the chili sauce or stewed tomatoes for canning. Jelly was jelly made with fruit and we didn’t make it because it was quicker to preserve jam.
We also had a cool, damp basement where a variety of crops were stored. We enjoyed the taste of summer well into the winter. Many homes still have an appropriate cool cellar space to store various produce.
A cold and damp basement storage space is 32 to 40 F with 90 to 95 per cent humidity. If you have space like that, start buying local and store for later. What can you buy?
Apples – tart keep better than sweet. Look for unblemished apples; wrap them individually in newspaper and keep them in cardboard boxes or wooden apple crates. If that sounds too much like work, buy a bushel of apples and keep them on your back porch – we had ours at the farm all year.
Most produce is best stored in wooden boxes with all their skin and partial roots attached. It helps if they have a bit of space around them, so try not to let them touch. Don’t bother cleaning before storing - you can do that later. You’ll have to experiment a bit to see what works in your storage area.
Look for beets; carrots; parsnips; squash; turnip. You might detect some funky smells and depending on conditions, certain varieties of vegetables may not keep for long. Still, having something fresh in November is pretty cool.
I would highly recommend when you’re contemplating buying fresh for storage talk to the producer you’re buying from. They are the experts and can give you some great tips and tricks for optimum fresh.
We are so blessed to be a city surrounded by vast and varied agricultural land and where the university is known world-wide for their agricultural prowess. Let yourself be distracted this season with the wonderful adventure of buying and preserving local.
Nancy Revie is a Guelph author, motivational speaker, fitness instructor and entertainer. Visit Nancy at www.nancyrevie.com. Her column appears every other week.