Another Suburban Storagist

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January 30, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Editor’s Note: Jeanne Calabrese recently ended a stint on the Board of Slow Food Chicago.  While on the Slow Food Chicago Board, she participated in a myriad of activities, but she was especially known for putting on workshops and related events to assist people live the Slow life.  Jeanne lives the life.  You are bound to run into her at a farmer’s market. And she shops not just for the moment.  Jeanne buys for all year.  Like our friend David Hammond, Jeanne is a food storagist.  She agreed to share some of her thoughts on why she does it and how she does it.

Jeanne C

Storing food is an effective way to preserve produce at the height of its freshness.  By successfully preserving and storing my food, I can eat July’s blueberries in the middle of December.  I choose to store my food rather than buy it at grocery store because I like to know where my food is grown.  Since I grow much of my own produce, I can guarantee the quality and freshness of my fruits and vegetables.

Some processes I use to store food are canning, freezing, and drying.  I have been storing food for years, yet each year I learn something new that betters the process.  For example, when I learned how to can, I was able to free up space in my freezer and not have to worry about a loss of power devastating my food supply.  I used to cook, puree, jar, and freeze pumpkin, but now I have eliminated the last two steps in favor of canning.  Canning is convenient in that I can open up a jar whenever I need it and use it immediately, without needing to defrost.  I have filled the newfound space in my freezer with fruit, nuts, pesto, cheese, and bread instead.  As for drying, I dry pears, cherries, persimmons, and apples.

Some foods do not need to be canned, frozen, or dried if they are being stored for a shorter time.  I bury potatoes in sand and store them in my unheated crawl space.  Onions, garlic, and squash also keep well in an unheated crawl space. Certain varieties of apples also keep well in a cooler in an unheated garage or cellar.  If the temperature dips unnaturally low, I will throw a blanket over the cooler to ensure the apples do not freeze.  I don’t like to store apples in the refrigerator for an extended period of time because they will absorb the flavors of other foods.

20 pounds of frozen organic cherries, 25 pounds of frozen organic blueberries, 40 pounds of organic apples, 30 quarts of tomato sauce, 6 quarts of peaches, 10 quarts of pears in honey, 10 pints of dilly beans, 10 pints of dill pickles, 10 pounds of dried persimmons, 10 pounds of raw honey, 8 quarts of grape juice, pecans, pesto, dried tomatoes, and dried Asian pears will sustain me and my family through the long Chicago winter this year.  Storing food requires planning and organization during the harvest season.  Storing food can sometimes be overwhelming because it is time consuming, but the reward is eating local, fresh food for the whole year.  Give storing a try by picking an easy item like apples.  Make applesauce or keep your apples in a cool, dry place.  With practice, you will soon be able to experience the optimal tastes of each season, regardless of the temperature outside.

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3 Comments

  1. Heather E says:

    Thank you for sharing your insights! I am trying to go natural and local when it comes to food. I have actually been switching over for the past year and storage is my next goal. How do you manage this all by yourself? I have 3 small children and just the thought of putting away that list of food you mentioned exhausts me! Do you know of any canning groups that work together in the Chicagoland area?

    I am so sad that I did not learn these lessons from my grandmothers while they were still with me. I grew up eating canned goods from their pantries. I never truly appreciated my great-grandmother’s annual Christmas breakfast with every type of local home-canned fruit jams and purees imaginable!

    Thanks again!

  2. Jeanne C. says:

    So glad you found the information useful. I applaud your efforts and encourage you to continue on your path. I do not know of any organized canning groups but I am seeing more and more organizations offering canning workshops. Check the Slow Food Chicago site for upcoming workshops. They offer classes from time to time.

  3. Rob Gardner says:

    In addition to the forthcoming Slow Food Chicago canning workshop, there’s another great resource in this are happening soon. Our friends at FarmilyFarmed put on the Good Food Festival in March at the UIC Expo. The Festival goes three days, covering a range of topics and constituencies, but day three of the Festival is specifically geared towards consumers. And a big focus of that day is on “Preserve Your Own”, with several workshops on putting food up and making food last (including a session on fermentation moderated by myself). Much more info can be found on their web site: http://goodfoodfestivals.com/

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