Saturday, February 18, 2012

Spring Clean Your Pantry and Beat the Mid-Winter Blues

About this time every year, the marketing powers that be start trying to convince the public that spring is just around the corner. I suppose this “Spring Has Sprung” campaign would make more sense to me if I lived in a place where winter could be reasonably expected to end around March 20th. Alas, the six weeks of winter predicted by our friend the groundhog are probably optimistic at best for those of us living in western Oregon.

The only way I know how to survive six months of cold and damp is to fill my house with good friends and tasty food.

I have a tendency to hoard my last few jars and freezer bags of preserved summertime delights for that moment in February or March (or sometimes May – I’m looking at you, spring of 2010) when it seems like winter will never, never end. Strawberries are delicious in June, but strawberries over vanilla ice cream in the midst of a howling, February storm? Bliss!

Strawberries fresh from the field

I recently opened up the roasted tomatillo and pepper salsa that I made and froze last August. Each bite was like a tiny taste of summertime, even though it was 40 degrees outside! We also enjoyed strawberry shortcake in January, using the last bag of strawberries that we picked in June.

One of the best things about seasonal eating and food preservation are the memories attached to what you eat.

Strawberry shortcake immediately brings to mind the berry patch down the road from our home and how much fun my husband and I had, teaching our two year old how to pick ripe berries (not the hard green ones) and put them in her box (not all in her mouth).

Future pasta sauce, ready for roasting

The roasted tomato pasta sauce makes me think of hot summer nights spent chopping and seasoning and stirring and wondering vaguely if I was suffering from some sort of heat-induced insanity to be working for hours, over my 400 degree oven, in August. Those late, late nights in my inferno of a kitchen seemed more than a little crazy, but I’m so thankful for them here in February!

So what’s in your freezer or pantry that you’ve been holding on to? Late winter or early spring is the perfect time to sort through your stores of preserved food goodies and start using things up! Maybe you have some jars from a friend or a food swap treasure that you’ve been holding on to for an inspired moment. It may seem like winter will never end right now, but soon you’ll be needing space for spring’s bounty and there’s no better cure for the winter blues than a little taste of summer!

Here’s a peek at how I’m planning on using up my summer and fall preserves to make way for spring: One of my very favorite things to do when we have friends over is pull out a few jars of pickles or fruit spreads and then add a few pantry staples that I almost always have on hand. This makes last-minute entertaining incredibly easy!

Jars of strawberry compote & pear butter

Right now, I have several jars of strawberry citrus compote and cardamom pear butter and some quick pickled red onions in my fridge. The pear butter will be perfect on a cracker with some creamy blue cheese. The red onions will make a nice complement to a dollop of mustard, sharp cheddar and a slice of salami. The strawberry compote will be happy alongside some mild, soft goat cheese or spooned over ice cream. I like to keep things like chocolate bars, almonds and maybe a bottle of wine or some bottles of my husband’s homebrewed beer around to fill out the menu and voilĂ  – instant party and I won’t have to cook a thing!

  • Do you still have an impressive stock of preserved food goodies around or are you down to your last few hoarded treasures?
  • Is there a particular item that you were reluctant to spend time preserving last summer, but are now very glad you did?
  • Any plans for how you want to use things up? 

Please share!      

Rebekah Pike 
Rebekah is happiest with her nose in a book and enjoys making the most of her pint-sized, apartment kitchen. After leaving work in media production to become a full-time mommy, she began exploring the sustainable living movement, reconnecting with the back-to-the-earth ideals of her hippie parents. She met her husband, Darian, in 2005, working as a camp counselor in Oregon's rugged outdoors. Most of their time is spent chasing after their two year old daughter, Ashlynn, and doing serious “research” at Portland's restaurants, coffee shops and markets.

1 comment:

Bethany ~ twoOregonians said...

I love the memories of those last minute pantry feasts! We've re-created a little piece of that this past week: we picked up some artisan mustard, salami, bread and jams (sadly, not homemade by *us* - but from the farmers market we found in the city) and we're having a few travelers over to our little apartment on Thursday.

It was difficult to finish out all of our frozen and preserved goods before leaving on the trip. (Ha! "I'm looking at you, spring of 2010." Exactly.) But it was also fun to try!

We went to one last get together with friends from church and put out a huge spread, more opened jars of pickled goods and sweet chutneys than I normally would've opened at once - and it felt so luxurious to indulge.

Please hang on to some of those upcoming 2012 jars of goodness to eat when we return! ;)


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