Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Last of Summer’s Bounty

Country folk know a thing or two about food. Like putting stuff up for winter…a necessary thing in the country when you don’t want to waste your summer crops, and you need food stored up for the long, cold days ahead. I grew up on home canned goods and foraged then frozen edibles—I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a jar of pickles or jam from the store, and every freezer I’ve ever had in Seattle has been stocked with freezer bags of huckleberries or mushrooms that the fam picked.

Right now, eating seasonally and DIY cooking are all the rage in the food world—20-something bloggers are writing about canning jams and jellies in their cramped city apartments, fancy restaurants are serving local produce straight out of the dirt, and pickling has become hip and trendy among gourmands. I guess my parents were ahead of the trend.

Every year, Mel makes several batches of preserves—huckleberry, peach, apple butter, cherry. She makes sweet pickles, dill pickles, pickled asparagus, and spicy pickles with habanero peppers. She makes jars and jars of the best red salsa ever using tomatoes from the garden. They smoke salmon and they can tuna. And, within the last couple years, they’ve started making and freezing huge batches of tangy salsa verde.

When I was a kid we didn’t grow tomatillos, because John was allergic. Well, we all though he was—when my parents were just dating, my dad had an allergic reaction that sent him to the hospital and tomatillos were always the suspected culprit. We all feared them. I don’t know when or why he decided to give them a go again, but turns it out that he can handle them just fine. Last summer he had a similar trip to the ER after snacking on peanuts, but he went back to his daily PBJ after about a month, with no retuning symptoms. Allergies are tricky I suppose… I’m just glad that the ‘rents finally got around to growing tomatillos…oh, and that my dad survived them, of course.

Since we had been an anti-tomatillo family for so long, none of us really knew what to do with them…until Amanda found the best salsa verde recipe ever in Bon Appetit. The recipe makes a decent sized batch, enough for one or two meals. However, since my family has that ‘put it up for winter’ mentality, we always make several batches and freeze it… and by several, I mean that my parents have about 5 gallon size freezer bags of the stuff, and Amanda and I each have about 5 quart-size bags in our own freezers.

Evan and I went to see my parents for Mel’s birthday last month, and we brought back pounds and pounds of tomatillos and peppers—the last big harvest of their garden. Then Amanda and I spent an afternoon grilling tomatillos, peppers, and onions for salsa verde. Then, for the inaugural batch, we made chili verde with browned cubes of pork, simmered in the smoky, spicy, tangy salsa. Lucky for us, we have many more chili verde nights ahead of us this winter.

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