Growing up in Serbia, which was then a part of Yugoslavia, we never went hungry. But the lack of food was a reality for our parents’ generation and every generations preceding theirs. There were wars, there was re-building, more wars, more re-building. Being hungry most of the time was a part of life they accepted. When the whole country turned middle class in the early 70s, the hoarding started out of ingrained fear for surviving until the next day. Everybody had a big box freezer filled with various animal protein in copious amounts provided on the cheap by the unions. The pantries were stocked with 50kg sacks of flour and sugar, boxes of sunflower oil, and vacuum-closed bags of coffee. The shelves lined with flower-patterned paper were chock full of glass jars with preserved fruits and vegetables.
The arrival of the summer announced the quest for preservation. The wooden crates of fruit in season would pile up on the tables in the summer kitchens outside the main dwelling, the old wood-burning stoves would come to life, large shallow Paris-blue or burgundy enamel pots would appear from the cellars carefully rinsed and ready to welcome the best berries or hand-picked stone fruit. Recipes for the best jam or pickle were hastily written on the pages torn from a child’s notebook, the new tips and innovation duly marked, children sent to procure the last minute necessities – a jar of vanilla sugar, a packet of ascorbic acid, or a leaf of “rozetla*” from a neighbor.
The weeks of heavy labor would roll one after the other, without a break. Peeling, de-pitting, blanching, macerating, boiling, smashing, grinding, pureeing… The immaculately clean jars would preen on the shelves, dressed in beautiful cotton bonnets or crinkly cellophane held together with the rubber bands. They glistened in shades of orange, crimson, and purple, proud and vain. The stockier glass jars displayed a variety of pickled vegetables, from the cornichones, to roasted peppers, to green tomatoes, adorned with peppercorns, bay leaves, dill, or garlic cloves. The military rows of these glass containers signified a victory over hunger. I can imagine a Jungian sigh of relief coming from thousands of homes at the same time, as the women admired the results of their efforts, hands resting on their hips, the smiling eyes caressing each beautiful specimen lining the pantry shelves.
I always feltl the communal need to preserve. When I had a garden, I put up anything we could not eat. And towards the end of August the hordes of Eastern Europeans would converge on the pick-your-own-peppers farms strewn all over the North-East Ohio. For $14.00 a bushel it was definitely worth spending a couple of hours getting sandy dirt in your shoes and bending your back to twist another beautiful, glistening pepper off its vine.
Since we moved to California, I preserve in small batches. A jar of pickles, another one of preserved lemons, small containers of apricot and plum jam. I am ambitious and I plan more elaborate preserving sessions. But for now, there is no room for a parade of pretty jars filled with the summer’s bounty.
This month’s Daring Cooks Challenge was preserving. The first option was Apple Butter, but Husband is allergic to apples and I moved on. The alternative was the topping for bruschetta, or oven-roasted tomatoes. Our local Persian store had some beautiful, ripe Roma tomatoes on sale for .69c a pound, and I brought a bunch home.
I cut them in half length-wise, tossed them with some sea salt, Italian seasonings and olive oil, and put then in the pan with several whole garlic cloves. They roasted for several hours at 250F, until they collapsed, their color turned dark red, with some darker spots, and the skin became shriveled. I let them cool off, and put them in a freezer bag, leaving a small jar in the fridge, planning to use them soon.
The September 2010 Daring Cooksâ€™ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. Johnâ€™s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.
THE HUNGER CHALLENGE: DAY 2
pop tarts and milk
.31c per person (Husband and I did not eat breakfast)
- Pop tarts, $1.99 a box (.16c per tart)
- Milk, 2 gallons for app. $5.00 (.15c per cup)
leftover pork schnitzel sandwiches with cheese
juice pouch or a water bottle
.90c per person (.78c for the kids, I skipped, and Husband ate some tortilla chips and salsa)
- Sarah Lee Buttermilk Bread, 2 for $4.00 (1 slice=.10c)
- Havarti cheese, Costco, $6.00 per pound (1 slice=.18c)
- Leftover pork with gravy (free!)
- Tapioca pudding, 4 cups for $1.00 (.25c per cup)
- Juice pouch, $1.99 for 10 (.20c per pouch)
- Water bottle, $1.99 for 8 (.25c per bottle)
$1.93 per person
pasta with crispy bacon, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, red pepper flakes and garlic
- Barilla rottini pasta, $1.29 per pound (.90c worth)
- Button mushrooms, $2.49 per pound ($1.25 for 8oz used)
- Bacon, $3.99 per pound ($1.99 for 8oz)
- Roasted tomatoes, .69c per pound ($1.40 for 2 lbs)
- .50c for lemon juice, white wine, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt and pepper
PASTA WITH CRISPY BACON, MUSHROOMS, ROASTED TOMATOES AND GARLIC
The tomatoes played the leading role in this pasta. It was low cost, but huge on flavor. The intensity of the roasted tomatoes bounced off the red pepper flakes and crispy fried bacon. The sauteed mushrooms added just enough bite to tie everything together, and the touch of garlic, white wine and lemon juice put on the finishing touches.
- ¾ lb pf pasta
- 8oz bacon, fried and broken into pieces
- 80z mushrooms, sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 10-12 slow-roasted tomatoes, sliced
- juice of half a lemon
- ¼ cup of white wine
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box. In the meantime sautee the mushrooms and the garlic on medium heat for 4-5 minutes, until soft and aromatic. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and stir for 30 seconds. Add the lemon juice and wine, and in the end the bacon. Mix into the pasta and serve with freshly grated parmesan.
Adding .50c for the morning coffee for the adults, a cup of soda for the kids at .10c a cup, a glass of wine for the adults at $2.49 a bottle, and a chocolate at bed time (for the kids, of course!), .20c each.
TOTAL FOR THE DAY: $4.03
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