People eat a lot: producing more and bigger

It’s easy to grow some food, and growing your own makes a big impact on your diet, since you can grow the most delectable and interesting parts of your diet; summer tomatoes, basil, cilantro, green beans. Once you go beyond the glamous stars, and start producing the everyday and mundane, and filling in more of the background, every day, every month, then producing your own food means producing volume, storing, and much more cooking. Maybe I’m a gardener first, but I find producing the food is the fun part, while storing and cooking it is a lot of sorting dirty roots, peeling and chopping, standing over a hot canner of boiling water, and cleaning up the mess. And I don’t even want to start on how unpleasant it is to “harvest” chickens.

Coming as I do from a normal backgroud, a fairly small family of light eaters, we’d cook meals that would produce leftovers but still quite modest quantities. I imagine familiies with 5 or more childen or teenage boys would have a very different perspective! One of my challenges has been to “think big”. For example, my chili recipe made enough for two meals. But it’s not that much more work to double it. Last time I ended up making 3 gallons of chili, which was perhaps a little over the top; 11 people barely ate half of it. But it freezes fine, and it’s so nice to have some quarts of chili handy. It was a lot of peeling tomatoes, but with so much it’s worth it to get the food processor out for the onions and peppers, and the kitchen only had to be cleaned up once.

The same is true of canning. Much of the work of canning is dealing with the hot water bath. I used to end up canning only a couple of quarts of sauce or quarters, a few pints of salsa. But it’s much more efficient in kitchen work to can a full canner load (7-9 jars), or two loads. We got the larger 9-quart size canning kettle this year.

Getting more serious about producing food is the other part (the part that comes first, really). You need to have enough reliable if not exciting producers. I most enjoy growing interesting and exotic heirloom tomatoes, but the interesting colors, odd shapes and shy production just don’t work as well for processing. It’s been a road to learn to grow a bunch of dull but productive plants to get serious tomatoes, enough to make gallons of chili and gallons of salsa. Giving up growing a few of the intesting ones – but how many interesting tomatoes can you really eat? I’m more of a graze-on-cherry-toms-right-from-plant person, myself. The interesting tomatoes go into tomato juice which seems to even things out, I can even put a few green-when-ripe in there.

Lisa’s Vegetarian Chili

2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red or green pepper, chopped
1 lb.Tofu, frozen, thawed, and crumbled
4 cloves garlic, mashed
15oz can tomato sauce
1 lb. Can whole or diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder, or more to taste
A little cayenne flakes, if desired
1 can corn
1 can black beans

Squeeze water out of thawed, crumbled tofu, and mix with part of the chili powder. Add a little liquid from the canned tomatoes and mix well, squeezing to let the spice color the tofu.

Fry onions and peppers in oil until soft and just starting to brown. Add tofu and garlic and cook a few minutes. Add other ingredients and cook for at least an hour, longer is better, until it looks like chili.

Serve over cornbread or rice and garnished with shredded cheese, chopped onions, and chopped jalapenos.

– all quantities are general and I use fresh instead of canned when possible.
– Cook beans before adding, and peel and quarter tomatoes, but everything else can go in fresh.
– Using all fresh tomatoes increases cooking time.
– It’s important to freeze and thaw the tofu before using, to get the right texture.
– I usually use a lot more chili powder but it depends on the quality of the chili powder you have.

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