Friday, September 24, 2010

Preparing For Winter Like the Good Bapka I Am

One of many, many boxes of fruit begging for my attention before the fruit flies devour them entirely.

My Bapka (Slovak grandma) was the best. And please, don't tell me your grandma was the best. She wasn't, mine was. Bapka could bake like nobody's business and she loved me. What more could you ask for? Oh, and strong, that woman was Strong. I remember her showing me how to make perogies, using her arms to scoop under the mound of crazy-heavy dough, trying to show me how to use my strength to stir. My puny arms weren't up to the task at the time. I think Bapka would be happier with my pipes nowadays.

So, my Bapka, she taught me a thing or two, but the most important thing, to me, was how she made us all feel loved by the food she prepared for us. I don't think that just because we eat a paleo diet, void of the gluten and sugar my grandma used, that the lesson is any less profound. Yes, food is fuel, but food is also a ritual, a time and event to enjoy with a sense of community and grateful gathering. I love without food and I love with food. There's many ways that we love. I'm happy that my family eats the meals I prepare and say, "we can feel the love in it". Mission accomplished. Because there really is love in there. That love comes both from the farmers, our friends, who cared for that animal and treated it humanely, with compassion and care and from me as I prepare it. By the way, you can pack love in a salad or slide it into a stew. Love doesn't only come wrapped in sugar. Never mind "only come wrapped in sugar", love shouldn't come wrapped in sugar at all.

Plums becoming prunes. Still about a days worth of drying to be done at this stage.

I'm finding, especially as I get older, that I am really starting to appreciate the old skills that have fallen out of favour in our crazy, give-it-to-me-now society. Hence, my love of fermenting, culturing, and drying food. I'm trying to dig up as many obscure, out of print books as possible in hopes of garnering further knowledge. The new books on food preservation are loaded with jam recipes using pounds of sugar. Not my thing.

Last winter, we successfully ate pretty locally. We didn't have any fruit at all. This year, we've been lucky to have found an amazing organic orchard that's kept us well stocked throughout the summer. I just got our last supply of fruit and I've decided to go on a drying rampage. My kitchen is lined with trays and fruits in various stages of drying. It smells divine

Speaking of drying, did you know that a raisin should actually taste like a grape!? Who knew? I've been drying organic Coronation grapes and the result is this plump raisin with a delicious mild sweetness and pungent grape taste. It's unlike any raisin I've ever tasted. 
Organic Coronation grapes transforming into grapes. These are the grapes that pop out of their skin like an eyeball in your mouth. I think their concentrated skins are what makes them such tasty raisins.

I've also been drying boxes and boxes of plums. We're not huge dried fruit fans here. I don't buy dried fruit except on rare occasion, but it's nice to think that we have some frozen, canned, and dried fruit as a little something to remind us of summer on the impending winter days ahead.

I've gone through dozens of dehydrators. The one I'm buying next is a giant mother of a thing so I'll be saving my pennies for a while. Until then, my oven works fine. I put it on 110 degrees, line my pans with parchment paper and that's it. All it needs is a little time and a few words of loving encouragement. 

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