“Customers have discovered . . . that you can eat greens, all kinds of fresh vegetables and fruit, and not have to suffer,” she says.
A more convenient (though pricier) option is taking part in a community supported agriculture program. Purchasing a CSA share is like buying stock in a favourite company, but with immediate edible benefits. Members pay a yearly fee for weekly packages of whatever the farm, or network of farms, produces. Some CSAs deliver, others arrange pickup spots at central locations, and an increasing number are starting to offer their services through the winter.
Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison have about 700 jars in their home — an obsession that began with a jam-making experiment four years ago. Between pickles, jellies, preserves and frozen produce, the couple behind the food blog wellpreserved.ca have a larder stocked to keep them fed not only in winter but most any month when a certain fruit or vegetable isn’t in season.
You don’t have to be a jar junkie for preserving to work for you. It’s a time-saving and economical option, as buying produce in season (and in bulk) often means better prices.
“If I were new to canning, and I wanted safety plus results,” says MacCharles, “I’d start with a pectin-based jam.” Once you’re comfortable with the process, meat-based sauces and vegetables, though more susceptible to developing botulism if preserved incorrectly, are a natural step up.
As for freezing your bounty, make sure to use the best method for each type of produce. Small things such as berries or peas are best frozen individually on trays before storing. Soft-flesh fruits like peaches need a hit of vitamin C powder and sugar to prevent them from going mushy after thawing. And green vegetables (think asparagus and brussels sprouts) benefit from a quick boil before going into the icebox — it’ll keep them from turning brown.
The quickest and perhaps most useful way to expand your winter menu is ingenuity. Try to think of three ways you can use an ingredient. Shore was delighted to discover that turnip tops make excellent greens and leek ends are perfect for flavouring soups.
“A lot of people think of jam as something that goes only with toast,” says MacCharles. “I’ve got 15 types of jam in my kitchen and don’t eat breakfast. We make some jams specifically to pair with certain cheeses. I make jams that are mixed later with balsamic vinegar to make salad dressing. We use jams to flavour muffins.”
“I get an extra satisfaction out of eating locally in the winter,” says Elton, who kicks off cold-weather eating by freezing chunks of her Halloween pumpkin and doling it out over the next six months — a pie here, a curry there. “It feels like you have to be more creative, even when there are more options than there were before. I think I’ve only bought one rutabaga in the last three years.”
Chantal Braganza is sponsoring editor at Reader’s Digest Canada.
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