Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pantry Inventory Update

Well, I've bought groceries for me finally. Not bad. It's the first real groceries since 11-2-2010.
There is still quite a good stock in the "pantry" (you know, under the bed, in the front bedroom/root cellar, shelves in the kitchen and in the cupboards). But, alas, I was running too low on flour to keep the sourdough starter going. I COULD have ground up the remaining wheat berries and rye berries in my new antique hand crank coffee grinder and kept the starter going for a bit, but I would not have had enough to make a decent bread. And grinding wheat or rye in a lap style coffee mill takes forever. It's good to know I COULD do it, but also good to know I didn't need to. (This is not my actual grinder but a very similar one from the interwebs.)

So, what's left: I still have a big jar of black beans (about 2 quart size), about 6 cups of dry lentils. A cup of dry green split peas and a bit of white rice. Just cooked up the last of the wheat berries yesterday to go with some dahl made from some of the split peas.

I'm out of onions, only 2 cloves of garlic left, and have eaten the last squash that was ripe enough to eat. The other 3 may get ripe by May but we'll see...must remember that they take a longer season to grow and ripen. Aside: the hubbard squash was hard to open. I ended up doing a samurai chop with my big chinese steel cleaver. This was scary as the squash had to stable flat spot and I had to hold it with my other hand...I still have 2 hands and 10 fingers. Gramma told me sometimes her dad would take a hatchet to the hubbard squash late in the winter. Next time I will make a little pit in the yard to hold the squash and avoid endangering my appendages. It was not great just as roasted squash...kind of pasty and stringy even though undercooked. So I added a couple of apples (which I had to buy) and a fried onion and garlic (had to buy the onion) and some chicken bouillon and made soup. The soup was great.
Done with Aside.

Last week I cracked and bought fresh apples even though I still have dried apples, cherries (2 years old) and plums. Reconstituted dried fruit is fine, even still dry it is fine. But I just got sick of the same texture all the time. I've finished all the fish in the freezer other than the stuff that was buried and is too old and too freezer burned. That will get buried in the yard or garden...maybe under where I'm going to plant the rhubarb or in the raspberry patch. I also lost a box of quince. They almost got ripe and then shriveled when the "root cellar" got a bit too warm when the outside temp went up to the 50s and I forgot to totally shut the heat vent in there. A few days in the 60s and they went bad. Oh well. Good for compost and I'll plant a few.

All the garlic in the root cellar lasted fine and onions were good for several weeks in there. I'll stock up on more next year. If anyone has wooden food crates lying around, I would love them for the root cellar/front-bedroom. Having things on newspaper on plastic counter is not ideal. The counter sweats a bit which can compromise the food.

I still have plenty of spices, though ran out of sea salt so will stock up on bigger quantities when that is on sale. Hard to keep up with baking soda too since I use it for everything from cooking to hair washing to cleaning the toilet and clearing drains. I think 5lbs a year would be good (it also takes boot marks off the floor really well and soap scum out of the tub). 2 gallons of vinegar have lasted.

I'm also a bit starved for greens and last week bought some kale. This week chard. Those don't store so a cold frame and/or a late planting will be necessary in future. Sprouts help, but they aren't the same as greens or salad.

The coffee lasted! I ran out yesterday. My tiny tiny new coffee maker, one demi-tasse at a time, helped as did caving in and drinking some of the battery-acid the IT folks at work make. It's there and we have to pay for it out of our work budget so I might as well indulge. I've been having about 1/2 a cup a day with a bunch of ice to dilute the acid (it really is crap....when the sun is up more and I can wake up on my own I'll give it up again).

Basically it looks like I had plenty of proteins and whole grains stocked up.
For veggies...I need more variety in texture. Dried tomatoes and onions are delicious, but they don't have the same flavor or texture as canned or stored fresh versions. To make a decent soup base you really need to fry an onion and some garlic. You can get by sometimes with just fried garlic, but sometimes you really need the onion. Dried tomatoes are never the same as canned or fresh. Fresh are not really an option here in the winter without some sort of insane investment in hydroponics/greenhouse/power/ I'm going to try more canned.
I am very pleased with the results of the tomato dust. It makes a very good tomato sauce or paste. Though still with a very different flavor than canned or fresh. I'm going to make the effort to can some pints of tomatoes or tomato sauce next fall.

Dried fruits are quite good. They last indefinitely in closed jars. I've got 2 year old cherries that still make good additions to everything. I've used them to soak up the extra juice in cobblers and crisps made from frozen fruits. Frozen fruits tend to release a ton of juice. The dried apples crushed up make an apple sauce acceptable for cooking into other things. I haven't tried rehydrating the apples to put in a pie or cobbler on their own but I might. They are also good just as they are. Several breakfasts have been dried apples and a handful of nuts.

Speaking of nuts. I need more to get through a winter without buying new. That's another item I had to restock a bit. This is mostly because I use them to make "milk" for cooking and adding to coffee. If I didn't do that, I would have had plenty. I'm still in search of a local nut source and if I can get land I think that hazelnuts (which should grow here) would be a good niche crop.

The honey is lasting fine. I've still got half a bucket in the bucket and a few quarts on the shelf.

I've got a bit of oatmeal left and may stock up more on that or other grain flakes next year to allow for more breakfast bars.

I'd also like more sour-flavorings. I'm out of lemon juice and lime juice. There is no local source for any of that sort of thing. I'll keep planting seeds but will never have enough production to supply my sour needs. (Mostly because I've never had a seed grow beyond the twig stage before dying...I even bought a started myer lemon last summer at the farmers market for 15$! That's a lot of money for me....and it croaked immediately. oh well. Cheaper to start my own and watch them die.

BUT the plums planted in the yard are doing well! I checked them yesterday and the starts are still growing. A few more years and there will be plums. Woohoo! I have an offer on quince suckers from a colleague's yard and will try to get a cherry start from the neighboring grove where I "glean" (ok, take without permission which is stealing) pie cherries and crab apples.

back to the pantry...
The other spices have lasted with the exception of basil, oregano, and parsley. Will get more of those next year or plant more. The parsley in the garden is still sort of green but there is so little I don't want to "harvest" any. The mint is still looking productive as is the thyme so I should have plenty of those next year.

The peppercorns just ran out. A bit more of that would be good. I wonder if I can grow that...

That's probably more of a pantry update than anyone is interested in.

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