Less Noise, More Green: Preserving like a Shaker

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Preserving like a Shaker

Sauerkraut, preserving, fermentation, urban farming
This spoon is so mighty, it needs a name, like the swords of old.

Each year I try to preserve more of our summer abundance for the coming winter. With the addition of my new front yard edible garden, I'm hopeful we will be eating homegrown food well into the new year.   I love cooking almost as much as gardening and I get a real sense of accomplishment when I put food up, either in the pantry or in the freezer. Finding their way into the kitchen for preserving right now is Swiss chard, cabbage, rhubarb,  basil and other assorted fresh herbs.

Peppermint Swiss Chard, preserving, blanching
The peppermint Swiss chard in the edible garden couldn't be happier and I am harvesting baskets full at a time. After removing the stalks and thick stems and roughly chopping the leaves, I'm blanching them in boiling water for a couple of minutes then stopping the cooking process in an ice cube bath. After letting the chard drain, I'm spreading it out on a tea towel lined baking sheet, covering with another tea towel and letting it cool in the fridge for a couple of hours. After the towels have absorbed some of the water, the chard goes into freezer bags and the air pushed out before freezing.

Sauerkraut, preserving, fermentation

I have both green and red cabbage ready to go, which can only mean sauerkraut!  When I was at Hancock Shaker Village, I purchased a wooden spoon to end all other wooden spoons. Hand carved from a single piece of wood, this thing is not only a work of art but is the biggest, thickest spoon I've ever seen. It makes a fantastic cabbage pounder! I use the sauerkraut recipe from Nourishing Traditions, pounding shredded cabbage with sea salt for ten minutes until the juices are released. I add caraway seeds to some jars, jam the cabbage into the jar with my spoon of the gods, until the brine is above the cabbage.

Drying fresh herbs, preserving

All my herbs are ready for eating and the basil is so easy to use fresh. I'm making cups and cups of pesto to freeze. This is one of my favorite things to eat in the winter. It brings me right back to my summer garden. Cuttings of sage, oregano, lavender, thyme and mint are being tied into bundles and hung to dry in my kitchen and producing a wonderful aroma every time someone opens the door.

Rhubarb Compote, preserving, freezing

The rhubarb is on it's last legs and I'm pulling up stalks to make a compote with a little brown sugar, water and cinnamon. Once it breaks down, the compote is sweet and tart and easily to swirl into yogurt or add to oatmeal. It freezes beautifully.

Hancock, Shaker Village Kitchen
The kitchen at Hancock Shaker Village in Hancock, Massachusetts, was truly inspiring. It was huge, being large enough for many workers to make meals for the whole community.

Hancock Shaker Village Kitchen
Canning ovens!

What impressed me was how organized the kitchen was with a baking station, a canning station,

Hancock shaker Village Kitchen

a drying station and rooms dedicated to storage and preserving.

Hancock Shaker Village Kitchen
The double rolling pin on the right is a Shaker invention, designed to roll dough faster.

It was simple, functional and artfully designed - just like everything the Shakers did.

Hancock Shaker Village Kitchen
Am I in Hobbiton?

I would have loved to see this kitchen in action.

Hancock Shaker Village Kitchen

I'm sure I would have learned a thing or two. I could have used my spoon to mix or pound or shake at children who shouldn't be in the kitchen. I imagine this kitchen was alive with work, chatter and tantalizing aromas. I don't think I could have been a Shaker, but for a day in that kitchen I could have swayed a little.

What are you preserving?


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