Nobody Grows Food Anymore

Well, that is what it seems like to me. I grew up in Niagara, with gardens and orchards all around. We grew and raised some of our own food, mostly fruits, chicken, pork, and beef, and purchased locally grown vegetables by the bushel basket, for canning and freezing. There were reasonably priced fresh produce stands everywhere. Now fresh produce is considered an “artisanal” food, and the rest, I don’t know what the rest is. I have to wonder, when a McDonald’s employee was thrilled to tell me they use “real” cheese… there is another kind of cheese? What has happened to our food supply!

On Wednesday I drove out to a nearby farm and purchased a bushel of tomatoes, seconds, for making chili sauce. While I was at the farm I purchased a pumpkin and a squash as well, all grown on the farm that was selling them. I have purchased tomatoes, peppers, and onions from this farm before. This year all they had was tomatoes, squash, and pumpkins, and the farm is for sale. The work is too hard, and the profit isn’t providing a brand new house and car, just the serviceable 3 bedroom farm house, the pickup truck, the tractor, and other equipment. I guess I will have to look for somewhere else to find tomatoes, and peppers, and onions at reasonable prices. We can grow some of what we need, but not all. I cannot afford “artisanal” fresh vegetables for canning, nor do I want to purchase the bred-for-shelf-life varieties of vegetables sold in the grocery stores, tasteless wonders that look like vegetables but taste like nothing.

I wish that the farmland in Ontario was used to grow food and not wine grapes. Wine is great I guess, but if you are hungry it isn’t going to keep you healthy. “Who needs food, we will just drink wine”, sounds like hedonistic fun, unless you really have to do it.

I am waiting for the comeback of local fresh food at affordable prices. Eventually all the baby-boomer wealth is going to fade, the market for artisanal priced items will shrink and hopefully the farms will return to growing local food for local people.

It has been a busy week for me, quite unusually so.

On Monday Attila ordered the 3″ crush run stone to be delivered to the Rideau Camp on Tuesday. That meant that Tuesday morning I was up and out of the house bright and early. It was arranged that I would meet the truck at the Camp, show the fellow where to dump the first load, and pay for the two loads. Of course, it didn’t go exactly to plan. When I was about a half hour into my drive I received a cell phone call, the truck was already at the Camp. So I carefully described to the driver where we wanted the stone dumped, and told him I would be there in about a half an hour. When the cell phone rang I was driving, and so missed the call, waiting until I found a place to safely pull off the road to return the call.

I arrived at the camp to find the stone exactly where I had asked that it be dumped. I waited in the quiet of the early morning for the fellow to return with the second load. He backed into our long driveway with no trouble whatsoever, got out of the truck to discuss the placement of the second load with me, dumped it, and then came over to the picnic table while I wrote him a cheque for the delivery. He seemed amazed when I said that Attila and I would be spreading the stone ourselves. “Well,” he said, “that size is hard to work with, good luck to you!”

After he left I puttered about for a few minutes and then headed right back home.

On Tuesday evening Attila and drove back out the Rideau Camp when he got home from work. He brought three plastic bushels with him, filling all three with stone to bring home for the French Drain. We shovelled and raked an infinitesimal quantity of stone into a low area, but soon tired, and decided to call it a day and headed home.

Yesterday, after I purchased the bushel of tomatoes, I struggled to carry them into the house from Tank. I washed, blanched, peeled, chopped, and simmered the whole bushel yesterday. There were enough tomatoes to fill a 16 quart pot to the brim. It is a wonderful Paderno soup pot, and I was able to simmer the tomatoes for hours on a very low temperature. At bedtime I turned off the stove, put the lid on the tomatoes, and turned in. The pot was still hot in the morning!

One bushel of tomatoes, peeled, chopped, and set to boil in a 16 quart stock pot. I couldn’t lift this thing if I tried!
Tomatoes 2016

This morning I washed 5 1 quart mason jars and one 1 ½ quart mason jar, ladelled the stewed tomato into them, and put sealer lids on them. The lids popped as they cooled. These will go into the freezer for use this winter.

Into the tomatoes remaining in the pot, about 20 cups, I added 4 cups of chopped onion, 4 cups of chopped celery, 2 cups of chopped sweet pepper, 6 chopped hot peppers, 1 ½ cups vinegar, 2 ½ tablespoons of salt, 3 cups of brown sugar, and a gauze “bag” with pickling spice tied into it. This simmered on stove all day long, the wonderful aromatic scent filled the whole house, it was wonderful!

After dinner more canning jars were washed and rinsed, then the hot chili sauce was ladled into them. I decided to use hot water bath canning for the chili sauce, as I had added quite a bit of vinegar to the chili sauce, making it acidic enough to be safe for the hot water bath canning technique. Once all of the chili sauce had been bottled, the hot water bath canner was filled with water and set to boil. The canning lids were placed on the jars, the rings tightened finger tight, and into the canner went the jars. It took almost an hour for the water to come to a boil, and then 20 minutes more to process the jars.

Our bushel of tomatoes yielded 6 ½ quarts of stewed tomatoes, and 9 quarts of chili sauce. The total cost was roughly $20, including the cost of the fresh lids, and two full days labour, by moi. The advantages are that there are no preservatives in the stewed tomatoes or in the chili sauce, and both are preserved in glass jars, so no leachates from plastic lined cans, or metal cans. The enamel lids do not touch the contents of the jars.

Truth be told though, I am tired after two days in the kitchen transforming a bushel of tomatoes into frozen stewed tomatoes and chili sauce. I would rather buy canned tomatoes than stew my own for freezing. But the frozen stewed tomatoes were a by-product of the project. The real goal was the chili sauce, it is so good! I plan on having it on pasta for my lunches this winter, and we always have a generous dollop with our grilled cheese sandwiches, or the occasional Jamaican patty.

Unfortunately I only have two more recipes worth of pickling spice left. All of the commercial pickling spices contain preservatives, so they are off limits. There is a quest for the best pickling spice recipe in my future, I can feel it coming.

The weather is cooler, but still quite humid. I fear I did not pick the best two days for keeping a stock pot on the simmer in the kitchen. It has been a rather uncomfortable two days. Attila tells me to turn the air conditioning on, but I just cannot do it! It just seems wrong to me that I heat the house up using electricity to simmer and can, while trying to cool it down using electricity. I kept the windows open all day yesterday, and all day today. I will turn the air conditioning on when the last jar is lifted from the canner and set on the counter, and the boiling water has been sent down the drain. It should cool down outside tonight, so that the air conditioner won’t have to work too hard, but it will remove all of this clammy humidity.

Well, that is what as been keeping me off the streets and out of trouble for the last few days!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

21°C
Date: 8:00 PM EDT Thursday 22 September 2016
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 20.9°C
Dewpoint: 18.3°C
Humidity: 85%
Wind: SW 7 km/h
Humidex: 27

Quote

“I didn’t mind getting old when I was young. It’s the being old now that’s getting to me.”
John Scalzi

You don’t really understand what aging is until you do it yourself.