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Spring Cleaning

May 4, 2011

My spring cleaning looks a lot different than your spring cleaning. In fact, the careful observer would have a difficult time recognizing that any spring cleaning was going on at all.

The yard is a wreck, with sticks and branches still to pick up from winter. There are even significant quantities of last fall’s leaves that emerged from the thaw. Hedges need to be trimmed. The garage needs to be swept out. Our screens and windows are dirty. And soon the grass will need a mow.

But I’ve been busy doing my own spring chores.

Before I know it, June will be here and I’ll be up to my neck in fresh produce from my CSA. That is, if last year’s harvest was any indication. And that means it’s time to empty the freezers and the pantry of those things that have been accumulating over the winter.

Two years ago today, I wrote about just how easy it is to Make Your Own Damn Sauce. And it’s funny, because since then I’ve joined the CSA and found myself up to my neck in both tomatoes from our farm and those grown by my mother-in-law. So recently I’ve started making sauce from fresh tomatoes. Now when I go back to using tomatoes from a can, it totally feels like cheating.

But that in no way should stop you from picking up a good can of quality tomatoes and learning this easy recipe which will start you on the road to cooking for yourself.

Anyhow, I mention that because last night’s batch of tomato sauce finished off the frozen tomatoes from the end of last summer. Those beauties really helped get us through the winter. And while it is going to be some time still until the next crop of tomatoes is ready for harvest, as the weather heats up I’m going to be in no mood for long-simmered sauces.

The same goes for chicken stock.

Somehow over the winter the pace of chicken carcass accumulation overtook the pace of chicken stock consumption. Our freezer was starting to resemble a frozen crypt more than a food storage device.

So in the past few weeks, I’ve banged out two separate batches of stock, condensed it, and frozen it into convenient chicken cubes. Not only does it feel great to have all that freezer space back, I’m also very excited to have these convenient flavor enhancers at the ready. Over the summer I’ll probably need to make another batch, but I’m dreading it. The all day cooking projects that are such a joy in winter become onerous tasks in the warmer months.

One big project that never happened over winter was my grand plan for a traditional Bolognese. But I still have the happy chuck roast in the freezer that had been earmarked for the task. So now it’s likely to turn into some form of pot roast in the next few days, probably during my father-in-law’s visit. He’s a real meat and potatoes person, and should really enjoy it.

And then there are all of the odds and ends.

These are the smaller things that never happened. Like the individual servings of prepackaged tomato soup I bought imagining delicious lunches of hot steaming bowls accompanied by crispy and gooey grilled cheese sandwiches.

I discovered one last package of the dried and fried Italian red peppers. So those got made into the traditional pasta dish from their region.

All of the bean dishes from the freezer have been eaten, but I still have several pounds of dried yellow split peas, red lentils and white beans in the pantry. The white beans can be delicious in salads, as can lentils for that matter, but the smaller legumes will probably be turned into some kind of dal before too long.

Overall, I think we are in pretty good shape heading into spring. I have no idea what to do with the yard, the house, or my wardrobe. But when the season’s bounty gets here, the kitchen should be ready.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. SandySays1 permalink
    May 4, 2011 9:39 am

    I’m going to pass your post to my human hoping he’ll sort through his refrigerator and freezer. And clean them. Of course, I get the discards after proper preparation. Woof! Woof!
    Sandy
    http://www.sandysays1.wordpress.com

  2. May 4, 2011 10:14 am

    Less than five weeks til Roxbury! This reminds me I have an entire corner of the deep freeze full of lamb bones, and need to get stock made before it gets too warm for a 24 hour simmer and I need the space. Terrible smelly work.

  3. May 4, 2011 1:36 pm

    How do you prepare your fresh tomatoes for the freezer?? I also always end up with a surplus from the garden, but I don’t can, and haven’t discovered the best way to keep them tasting good (and cooking well) from the freezer.

  4. May 4, 2011 4:10 pm

    Making stock (and other long-simmering projects) inside in the summer is for chumps! Get yourself an $80, 110v induction burner and knock that out on the back yard.

    Alternatively – or additionally – cut your cooking time dramatically and improve quality by using a pressure cooker:
    http://www.cookingissues.com/2009/11/22/pressure-cooked-stocks-we-got-schooled/

  5. Ellen Whitby permalink
    May 4, 2011 10:58 pm

    For your outdoor yard projects, I suggest you get a goat to graze, trim your hedges and grass and even eat some of your garbage. It might even keep some of those pesky squirrels and chipmunks away.

    Today, I indulged in all day cooking that included making Cardona’s chocolate mousse cake. After making two regular sized cakes, there was enough to make individual serving sizes. Unlike your chicken stock or tomato sauce, these will not require any long-term storage. I assure you, it will be gone by next week.

    Happy Cleaning.

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