Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Preparing for Winter

Copying country-bred Mr. Ray who always "put down" staple foods for the winter, Joe and Betsy stored in their basement a barrel of apples and baskets of potatoes, turnips, and onions.  But it was Aunt Ruth's idea to lay in a big sack of flour.  "In Butternut Center they used to say 'Uneeda loaf of Ruth Willard's bread,'" she told them roguishly.
(Betsy's Wedding, Maud Hart Lovelace)

I am the first to admit: with a butcher/corner grocery store three blocks away (who delivers!), I was not in the habit of keeping a lot of food on hand in my pantry.  After all, if I had no plan for dinner, I could walk down or phone the butcher for a whole chicken, a few sweet potatoes, as well as a head of broccoli, and have two night's dinners for $10. But with multiple little ones and the treacherous conditions of our cobbled streets after snowfall, I needed a better plan for the winter.

Although my 1883 Victorian house does have a root cellar, it is only accessible through a hatch in the backyard and runs a bit warm for perishable food storage. But I am fortunate to have a floor to ceiling pantry cupboard in my kitchen. (My only complaint is that it is too deep, since it was built the same width as the range. First world problems...)

I took the advice of Mr Ray, and buy a five pound bag of carrots, potatoes, and flour, as well as a few pounds of celery, onions and apples every time I do my staple grocery shopping (about every other week). That way, if weather intervenes to keep me housebound, I can still make a few days worth of nutritious meals for my family. I find that for four eaters, this is the quantity we can eat through before the produce stored at room temperature goes bad. I don't kept powdered or evaporated milk on hand; in our climate, storms don't tend to come up suddenly, and we have never been truly housebound. If you aren't prone to losing power in storms (we are) I would also recommend keeping a bag of frozen chopped spinach in your freezer- it adds a lot of freshness to dishes.

Here are a few favorite pantry meal combos:
  • Canned clams plus onions and potatoes= Clam Chowder
  • Dried beans plus canned tomatoes plus carrots and onions = Minestrone Soup
  • Dried black bans plus carrots and onions= Black bean soup 
  • Dried beans plus dried chiles plus canned tomatoes= Vegetarian chili
  • Lentils/beans plus pasta = Pasta e Fagioli
  • Dried chickpeas can be cooked into hummus, served with carrot and celery sticks
  • Dried chickpeas plus olives plus sun-dried tomatoes plus couscous = Middle Eastern dinner
  • Canned salmon becomes salmon patties, served with potatoes
  • Potatoes plus onions = Potato pancakes
  • Potatoes plus onions plus canned pimentos = Delmonico potatoes
  • Pasta plus canned clams plus canned tomatoes = Linguine with Clams
  • Pasta plus canned tuna or shelf stable smoked sausage plus capers, olives, and canned or sun-dried tomatoes = Pasta Puttanesca
  •  Apples are delicious for fresh eating, applesauce, and baked apples.
  • Flour plus vegetable shortening = biscuits or pie crust
What are some of your favorite pantry meals?

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