Tuesday, August 10, 2010
The art of preserving
Before moving to Ireland, I was chatting with my friend James. He, and his wife had spent 6 months in London, with full work visas, the ability to apply for citizenship, and plan to stay a lot longer than 6 months. (Don't get excited Mom, we're not moving back yet!) I wondered why they decided to cut their stay short, as they had already finished all the work of setting themselves up to stay; they both had jobs, bank accounts, and an apartment; all of which are difficult to acquire. James replied, that they felt like they needed to come back to Canada to get their lives started.
And now I understand him completely. I feel like half an adult. I have a kid and a partner, both real adult things. But living in Ireland feels like a vacation from my real life. Arguably this could be because most of my worldly possessions are in a 7' by 9' storage box in Surrey. Perhaps it's because we don't know what's going to come next (the grim economy is not a friendly place for someone looking for a job).
I think that this feeling mainly stems from the fact that I am not doing any of the normal everyday routines; while I still shower, eat breakfast and brush my teeth, I don't head off to work. I also seldom listen to the news (RTE is rather "lite" on news) and I was a full-on, hard-core CBC addict. Our garden is ridiculously small compared to what we've been used to, and I so miss eating peas fresh off the vine. At the moment my feeling of vacation has resulted in the fact that I have not done anything in regards to "Putting Food By" (also in the storage locker).
My lack of preserving may be because, we've been living in an endless state of springtime, and summer has yet to emerge. And, unfortunately, any complaints I have in this regard are turned on deaf ears, as this is 100% "the best summer we've had in years." Apparently last summer it rained 40 days in a row... so it doesn't take much to be the best summer ever.
The lack of summer does lead to generalized season-less-ness, for example, when my parents were here in April, they thought it was funny that the Irish would be out in sundresses and sandals whenever the weather creeped up to 20 deg (Celsius, for those wondering about the below freezing temperatures in April). This is another thing that I now understand, as at just the slightest hint of sunshine I'm whipping out the summer clothes, if only because I'm sooo excited to finally have a chance to wear them!
However, the missing summer is not sufficient reason for my lack of hibernation instinct. Two summers ago when Nikolai was born, I also lost a summer. Rather than frolicking in the sunshine, paddling along a lake and sleeping under the stars, I spent my whole time nursing, sleeping and eating (with the occasional shower squeezed in here and there). Even in that summer-less summer, I still managed to get my canning done. As I recall, with the help of friends, I canned apricots, peaches, salsa and pickles. We froze beans, peas and tons of berries.
I think my lack of preserving is for the lack of things to preserve. Local food is, as ever, from the brassica family, or potatoes (and I'm not exaggerating when I say that easily a quarter of any fruit and veg isle will comprise potatoes). Fruit comes from Spain, no matter the season. Canning supplies are not anywhere to be found (and none of my friends have ever done any canning, so they can't even tell me where to find the necessary jars). And, most surprisingly, even though the parks, playgrounds, and all of the side roads are lined with berry bushes, no one goes picking as it's most certainly a cultural taboo to do so (another throw back from earlier hard times?). It's always a shock to find the blackberry bushes beside the Maynooth playground covered in unpicked berries... and everyone wonders why there's so many wasps around!
Here's my salsa recipe, it's based on one that I got from Brad's mother, but spiced up to my own taste:
7 cups chopped tomatoes (~ 6lb)
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
1 cups coarsely chopped green bell pepper
2 cayenne peppers w/ seeds (I've also used dried chipolte peppers)
3 cloves minced garlic
156 ml tomato paste (1 can)
3/4 cup white vinegar/apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 1/2 tsp salt
If using Roma tomatoes, you can simply just chop, otherwise, blanch, peel and de-seed first. Wearing rubber gloves, peel and finely chop cayenne peppers. Combine tomatoes, onions, green pepper, cayenne, garlic, tomato paste, vinegar, cumin and salt in a large saucepan.
Bring to a boil; boil gently, stirring occasionally, until salsa reaches desired consistency, ~ 30 min.
YIELD: 5 x 500 ml jars
Yum, now I'm definitely going to make salsa... even if the tomatoes do come from Holland. The pic is of us making pancakes and dried apricot sauce (my lazy jam substitute).