Efficiency in the homestead kitchen: can one tomato product, and get six!
The homestead kitchen. What an interesting and diverse place. It is, after all, the culmination point of our efforts as homesteaders, growing and raising our own food. It should be a place of great joy for the homestead woman.
I was amazed at how much valuable time I was spending in my kitchen. Don't get me wrong. Cooking is a passion with me. If I had to prepare all the recipes in my collection of cookbooks, I would need at least three lifetimes.
I'm referring to the repetitive tasks of canning, baking and preparing food for storage. Each year we are growing more and adding new varieties. If I would have canned everything we grew last year I would now be in my kitchen instead of at my desk. We would have also contributed largely to the profits of the canning jar manufacturers. It was time to find short cuts and cost cuts in the kitchen.
My days of spending hours in the kitchen, day after day, are gone for good. I still can ... just not everything that is not attached to a wall. Last summer I canned jams, jellies, marmalade, pickles, chutneys, mint sauce and jelly and 60 pints of tomato paste. But the total time spent was less than a week.
The rest of the goodies, other than the items headed for the root cellar, were divided into two groups. Those that were to be used "fresh" and those that were going to be dehydrated. The fresh items went into one-pint, reusable plastic containers and into the freezers.
When dehydrating, less storage space is required, and the chances of spoilage are greatly reduced. Dehydrating is probably the biggest labor saving device in my kitchen.
Yes, I know. You are wondering why in the world 60 pints of tomato paste. Actually it was 120 half-pints. I do not season my tomato paste prior to canning, and the paste is the basis for so many items we enjoy.
If I am planning to serve spaghetti sauce tomorrow, I go to my supply of dehydrated goodies, select the items I want, and soak them in water overnight. They, along with the water they were soaked in, with a jar of tomato paste, fresh garlic and herbs, give me a wonderful, full-bodied marinara sauce. No matter what I tried, my canned marinara sauce was always runny and tasteless.
With unseasoned tomato paste on hand I have many options, including these:
Seafood cocktail sauce
1/2 pint tomato paste
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped horse
Enough warm water to give desired
1/2 pint tomato paste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon grated ginger, or 1/2
teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 pint tomato paste
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/16 teaspoon cinnamon
2 whole black peppercorns
1 whole clove
1 whole allspice
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon paprika
touch of cayenne pepper
2 cups water
Cook onions, pepper and garlic in water until soft. Process, water and all, in a food processor. Tie peppercorn, clove, allspice and celery seed in cheesecloth. Combine all other ingredients. Cook gently until required consistency is reached. Remove spice bag.
Cream of tomato soup
1/2 pint tomato paste
2 pints chicken broth
1/2 cup dehydrated aromatic vegetables - onion,
bell pepper, soaked in water overnight
1 cup cream
Combine vegetables, water & chicken broth. Cook until vegetables are soft. Puree. Add tomato paste and mix. Bring to temperature, add cream and season to taste.
By using this method, I can only one item instead of six.
I employ the same time and labor saving devices on many of my kitchen projects. Instead of stewing a couple of pieces of chicken for pot pies, salads or chimichungas, I stew two whole chickens. The meat gets packed in pint containers with a little broth. The excess broth also goes into pint containers, and into the freezer they go! When I need chicken stock, I just add dehydrated aromatic vegetables to some broth. I use a 12-quart stock pot for each chicken, filled to capacity with water. For us, four chickens prepared this way takes care of our needs for a year.
Bread, sweet bread, rolls, zwieback and cookies ... I felt as if I was setting the mixer up every other day. Now, I do it once a month.
I allow bread and roll dough to do the first rise. Punch it down, shape, and freeze. I pre-freeze on baking sheets and then package. As we need these items, they are defrosted, allowed to rise, and baked. Cookie dough goes into pint containers. We use about four loaves of desert-type bread a month. They are baked, cooled, and frozen. Two loaves of zwieback are baked, split, and into the dehydrator they go.
Let me address the one-pint plastic containers. We have purchased 1,000 of those little gems. Cost - 98 [cents] for four. They are produced by Hefty, and can be found in the canning area of your stores. Our freezers are more orderly and we are not contributing to the local landfill. I also have a supply of 1-1/2 quart containers - storage for rolls, bread dough, and desert breads. These also are produced by Hefty.
I hope this helps, a little at least. Our kitchens should be a place of joy and not dreaded drudgery.
Only 60 pints?
Geneme Pashby assumes we'll ask, "why in the world 60 pints of tomato paste?"
Not at all. Some might wonder why only 60 pints!
We don't use much seafood cocktail sauce or ketchup in our homestead kitchen, but there are many other uses for tomatoes.
Actually, we can a lot of sauce, both thick and thin, which is even more versatile - and for us, more efficient. While our main crop canning tomatoes are a paste variety such as Roma, there is always an excess of "eating" tomatoes (or at least there were when we lived down in the Banana Belt.) We have no need to condense tomato juice down to paste to conserve space or jars. It's handy to have an inventory of just one product with many uses rather than many different products, and if we want paste, it's easier and more pleasant to cook it down in winter on an as-needed basis, and we never run out of one or the other.
With this background, imagine a weekly menu that includes pizza, baked beans, barbecued ribs, several soups, and perhaps a casserole or stew, spaghetti, Spanish rice ... along with a few glasses of tomato juice or homemade "V-8" or Bloody Marys, and more.
With several children still at home we easily went through 200 quarts of tomato sauce, juice and paste a year.
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|Publication:||Countryside & Small Stock Journal|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1993|
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