Thursday, September 27, 2012

PRODUCING YOUR OWN FOOD, PART II.

Tomatillos and tomatoes
for salsa

This is Part II of an interview with Gary Entsminger, editor and publisher of Pinyon Publishing and the Pinyon Review, about Growing Your Own Produce. Gary and Susan Elliott, who does the artwork for Pinyon, have a home garden that supplies a significant part of their vegetarian diet, and they take time from book publishing duties to cultivate and maintain this garden on the Uncompahgre Plateau in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Moore: When we exchange e-mails weekly, you’ve often just finished a batch of sauce or salsa verde for preserving. Is preserving food an expensive process?
Entsminger: It depends on how you count costs. From garden to canner takes time and work. If we were paying ourselves by the hour it would be cheaper to buy from the supermarket. But we do this for pleasure as well as the rewards, and as I said earlier, this is about tradeoffs. We know exactly what goes into our gardens and our canned goods.
Moore: Do you use special cookware for preparing food for preserving? And do you use special seasonings when you’re cooking up a sauce or other food?
Gary tending the sauce
Cooking in iron pots
Entsminger: We prepare much of our food, for canning and daily cooking, in cast iron skillets and Dutch Ovens. We make a variety of tasty sauces and salsas simply by varying the ingredients (e.g., more chilies make a better bean enchilada sauce; fewer chilies might be better for rice, fewer yet for pasta). We’re vegetarians and eat some variation of beans, potatoes, rice, or pasta almost every day. Any of our canned sauces can be turned into a sauce for Indian, Italian, Mexican, or American food easily. We don’t season any of our sauces and salsa except with the fresh produce (onions, garlic, chilies) that we use when canning. So, later if we want to create an Indian dish, we can add Indian spices. Ditto for others (Mexican, Italian). But we always add a pinch of salt, olive oil, vinegar, and lime juice to all our sauces and salsas. This increases the basic flavor and also increases the acidity for safer preservation.
Moore: I know you make a lot of salsa verde because you've written me enough times after you've prepared a batch of it to make me hint for a jar of my own. What else do you and Susan can?
Entsminger: We also can roasted chilies, peaches, peach jam, applesauce, and dill pickles. This summer, like most years, we preserved 90-100 quarts of the vegetables and fruits I mentioned, and I’m pleased to say that none of our produce traveled more than 20 miles. So we’re helping to bring down that 1000 mile average of tomato travel in the US.
Moore: You've also mentioned to me that you have a greens garden, with kale, chard, spinach, and others. How much of the year can you maintain a greens garden?
Entsminger: As long into winter as weather allows. Winter comes early in the Rockies, and we have to be creative with covering the greens on cold nights and growing greens on the most protected side of our cabin. Ideally, we’d have a “real” greenhouse, so maybe one day...
Susan holding the bounty
Moore: Do you have caveats to add about home gardening and preserving the “bounty” you harvest?
Entsminger: Yes. Our approach probably wouldn't work for most modern Americans who commute an hour or more each day to work. But that’s also another trade-off. We work out of our cabin, and thus we have that commuting time to garden and preserve. Ours is an old fashioned approach, but it still remains the best one for us.

Photographs by Gary Entsminger and Susan Elliott
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