The Freezer Is Our Friend

The Dark Days Challenge has 120+ participants from all over the U.S. doing the best we can to eat local during the winter months. Our challenge is to prepare at least one meal a week using only Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical (SOLE) ingredients, and then blog about it. Weekly recaps of the participant’s meals will be hosted by the fine folks at Not Dabbling In Normal every Sunday.

We do rely a lot on the freezer to get us through the winter here at HA. In spring and summer we try and fill it full of fruits and vegetables from the garden, then the rest of the year we do our best to empty it out! It has served us well this busy week, as we get back into the swing of things after our vacation in Hawaii.

Since the weather forecast was calling for snow and bone-chilling cold, we decided soup was in order last night for dinner. I had some lovely soup bones from Fischer Farms that I used to make beef stock. I used the pressure cooker to cook them for about an hour with some aromatic herbs and veggies, and I got enough stock for the soup plus some for the freezer. Homemade stock is so much better than canned. I don’t always take the time, but when I do I am always pleased with the results. And now we have some ready to use in the freezer.

homemade beef stock (click on any image to enlarge)

My wife makes a great vegetable beef soup. Once I got done with the stock, she went to work on the soup. She started with some Fischer Farms stew meat. We freeze bags of mixed vegetables from the garden especially for soup. Add some of our own frozen tomatoes and tomato sauce, and a few of 2011’s slightly shriveled but still tasty potato crop, and it made for a great soup. She even used bay leaves from our potted bay plant, and a dried herb mix from our herb garden to season the soup.

soup vegetables and tomatoes

After she got the soup on to simmer, I went to work on making some corn bread. Note to self: remember to push the output hopper FULLY into the grain mill before grinding next time. Can you picture ground corn meal all over the kitchen counter and floor? Fortunately I am trained in cleanup duties!

vegetable soup and cornbread

I made the corn bread with half ground popcorn, and half ground whole wheat flour. I’m calling this bread 50% local, since the wheat, eggs and honey were local, while the popcorn, buttermilk and baking powder was not. I could have used local coarse ground corn meal for the bread, but we like using ground popcorn. It has more fiber, less starch and a great flavor. I am still looking for a local source for popcorn. And I decided I wasn’t sacrificing nutrition for the sake of Dark Days. Fiber is our friend too! The recipe here is from the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book, modified to use 100% whole grains. It has become our favorite cornbread recipe.

whole grain cornbread

That wasn’t the only Dark Days meal for the week, however. Monday night I baked one of our CSA chickens for dinner. And while the oven was hot, I slipped in a couple of our 2011 Beauregard sweet potatoes. I briefly cooked a little of our Lacinato kale for another side dish, and we had a lovely meal.

roast chicken, sweet potato and kale

Actually we’ll have at least 4 Dark Days meals this week. We got two meals from the chicken dinner, plus we made and froze chicken stock for later use. And we’ll get two meals from the vegetable soup and corn bread. We’ll have it again for dinner tonight after we get home from church. That will be something to look forward to on a cold night!

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5 Responses to The Freezer Is Our Friend

  1. kitsapFG says:

    I had a good chuckle over the grain grinder incident – as I have done exactly the same thing and had whole wheat flour all over the house in just a matter of seconds. Yikes what a mess! We also live out of our freezer and stored items area through the winter – the fresh harvests augment it but the bulk of our meals are coming from our food set aside during the high production season.

    • Dave says:

      I forgot to mention the egg I dropped on the kitchen flour. It slipped from my hand and I watched it fall in slow motion – SPLAT! I guess it was my day to makes messes. 😀

  2. Daphne says:

    My freezer is my friend in the winter time too. All my meats come out of there. It is hard to find good meats outside of the farmers markets (which mostly close down in the winter). I don’t have a car so can’t travel far for food. The rest comes out of my garden. Tonight was hamburgers with pickled onions, bread and butter pickles, and
    Swiss chard. The bun was homemade, but not local. I never thought grains were the right thing to grow here. We get a good amount of rain here all year long. Though most don’t talk about it I’ve always thought water was as big of an issue as oil.Our rain calls for more water hungry crops (not to mention drying something like grains here is harder and riskier).

  3. Rick says:

    What a great idea to freeze all the veggies for a soup in one bag! We will have to try that next year. We usually have to dig into bags of individual ingredients to make our soups.

  4. I just bounced over here from Red Garden Clogs and am enjoying your blog so far. I love the idea of the Dark Days challenge. I’ve also found that soups and stews are great ways of cooking 100% local meals during the winter. I particularly enjoy venison stew with potatoes, celeriac, parsnip, garlic, onion, winter squash, and frozen heirloom tomatoes. I cheat with non-local celery and spices. I’m doing well so far this year eating one item a day that either from my garden or fruit that I foraged. Maybe jam that I made, frozen fruit that I have stored (good in smoothies), roots crops, or other frozen vegetables. I agree that a deep freezer is a great way to store fresh, local foods. Thank god for electricity! Although I do some canning, freezing is just faster and easier. -Emily

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