Notes From a Farmers’ Market Chef

foodinjarsWe know that some folks have small kitchens—maybe a starter kitchen or a kitchen downsized from a big house to an apartment—but they dream of a big country kitchen with room to store equipment to stretch the harvest season by preserving food at its healthy best. It is frustrating to see those beautiful strawberries or bountiful tomatoes and think “I’d love to make jam or sauce but I don’t have the equipment I would need or the room to store it.”

There is hope for the small kitchen–and it doesn’t require a remodel! Howard County Library System has a few books that might help you make the best of your kitchen and will show you how you can make preserves, pickles & sauces in small batches with very little special equipment.

Sarah Kallio and Stacey Krastins, authors of The Stocked Kitchen (2011), have a “system.” Follow their advice and their grocery list and you will free up lots of space in your small kitchen. They also include a full range of recipes that use only their pared-down list of staples.

The City Cook: Big City, Small Kitchen, Limitless Ingredients, No Time (2010), by Kate McDonough, also advocates a well-planned pantry. She also discusses the equipment needed in a well-planned small kitchen. Her shopping advice is written with New York City residents in mind, but could be applied to our area—we do have access to a rich variety of ethnic and specialty foods. A culinary school grad, McDonough includes over 90 recipes. If you like her book, try her website for more advice and a searchable recipe database.

So, you’d like to put “food in jars”–try Marisa McClellan’s book, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-round (2011). Most of her recipes are designed for boiling water bath canning which can be accomplished with only a pot on your stove that is tall enough to cover the jars you plan to use by 2 – 4 inches. Others of her recipes, like rosemary salt, pancake, bread or cake mixes in jars, homemade vanilla extract don’t require any processing at all.

art of preservingPickling is a great way to preserve a bountiful harvest. Andrea Chesman, in The Pickled Pantry (2012), has “from apples to Zucchini, 150 recipes for pickles, relishes, chutneys & more.” Her claim is that not everyone will like a particular pickle, but there is a pickle for everyone. While you are experimenting to find your favorite pickle you don’t want to have to make six quarts at a time so she writes most of her recipes for one quart batches. She also tells about an intriguing technique to preserve the overflow of cucumbers—dehydrate them, store them in airtight bags or jars for up to a year, then rehydrate them with pickle brine when you are ready to use them.

The Joy of Pickling (2009) by Linda Ziedrich has “250 flavor-packed recipes for vegetables & more from garden or market.” This is an excellent thorough book about the art & science—and joy—of making pickles. She even covers pickled apples, pumpkin, oysters and eggs.

To go beyond pickles you might like, try The Art of Preserving (2012) by Rick Field, Lisa Atwood, and Rebecca Courchesne. They cover “how to make jams, jellies, curds, pickles, chutneys, salsas, sauces and more plus recipes to use your creations.” And they also briefly review “the basics” of home canning, of fruit spreads, and of pickles. I really like that they pair a recipe for the preserves with a recipe to make, such as blackberry preserves used in blackberry cheesecake tartlets.

The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest by Carol W. Costenbader is a classic. The newest edition is from 2002, but classics age well. Another classic is the Complete Book of Home Preserving (2006). Both of these have well-illustrated and complete instructions for all kinds of preserving; from canning to drying to freezing.

These titles are readily available at Howard County Library System. So, no matter how small your kitchen, you can get the advice you need to preserve the harvest—in small batches.

Barbara Cornell joined the Howard County Library System in 1993 as Assistant Branch Manager at the new Elkridge Branch. Since 2000 she has enjoyed a shorter commute to the Glenwood Branch.

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