Spring by Kathryn White

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Livin' off the Land and Garden Blessings

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, Clara's Kitchen, and in particular her chapter entitled, "Goods from the Garden and 'Found' Foods" where she writes:

"Especially in the lean years of the Depression, we lived on vegetables and it kept us plenty strong and healthy for all the hard work at hand. Meat was a treat, but vegetables were our staples. When I was a kid, my father kept a garden in the back-yard, which we helped him keep up, and my mother would take the vegetables we grew and make them into all kinds of meals."
One of the phrases Clara mentions is this:
"Where there's dirt, there's food--healthy, nutritious food."

After reading her book, I have wondered if we may have raised a fussy (a.k.a spoiled) generation who don't appreciate the basics of a good wholesome meal.
As Clara stated, her mother would always say, "It's a hot meal-stop complaining."
I have to laugh at her mother's no-nonsense approach which was obviously passed on to Clara. I have also come to the conclusion that I can improve in the area of resourcefulness and frugality.

Although we have attempted a garden here in the past, there is so much shade that the produce does not grow to full potential. Tree removal is not an option for a garden as the trees give us glorious shade from the hot summer sun, so I have come to depend on the local Farmer's Market as well as the generosity of friends and family.

This afternoon my daughter Jill and I enjoyed a brief visit with our friends, Jim and Marilyn, who were more than generous in their offerings of red currants, black currants, gooseberries and red beets.

We were eager to go home to prepare a wonderful meal for the family. Thanks to our six hens, we are blessed with six eggs each day, and as Clara mentioned in her book, you can do so much with eggs.

My adorable nephew loves coming over to collect the eggs for us, and is pictured here bringing them to the door for me:

These are the first of the garden beets provided by Jim and Marilyn's garden:

Jill removed the beet tops and we decided to use them as well with our meal, though I must say that I have never cooked or eaten beet greens before. If Clara can dine on dandelion salad, why can't we try cooking up the greens with our meal.

We washed the leaves thoroughly, then tossed them in lemon juice. We chopped onions and garlic and added red pepper flakes, which we sautéed in olive oil then added the greens and cooked until tender:

We were given venison this winter by our hunting friend and neighbour, Wayne, so Jill thought it would be nice to serve cornmeal with the venison and vegetables for dinner. I was thrilled today to find a heavy porcelain cast iron skillet for $4.oo at my favourite thrift shop in Elmira as I have been looking for some time now. We tested it this afternoon making our first skillet cornbread.

Skillet Cornbread
2 cups stone ground cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup melted butter, cooled

Heat oven to 400°.

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan or skillet.
In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, milk, honey, and melted butter. Stir the liquid mixture into the dry mixture until blended. Spread in the prepared baking pan or skillet.
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

We cooked the beets up whole, then peeled and sliced them, placing them in a casserole dish. The glaze for the beets is from a dutch recipe my mom used to make, using orange juice, apple cider vinegar, butter, brown sugar and spices (cinnamon and cloves)
This was the final result: mashed potatoes with cheese topping, red beets with spiced glaze, venison with garlic, onions and tomatoes, beet greens, (tasted like endive or swiss chard) and my favourite, cornbread which turned out wonderful in the skillet.

We all agreed that the meal was a tasty success and appreciated the blessing of friends, who were so kind and generous. Tomorrow we plan to use the currants to make jelly. Stay tuned...