It’s April First! Which means this year’s Eat From the Larder Challenge has officially begun!
Basically, this is something I started doing a couple of years ago and have decided to try and keep up with every year. The idea is that we spend April using up the past year’s pantry staples and preserves so that there’s space in the larder for when the fresh produce (and, thense, new preserves) start showing up in the not-too-distant future. In the case of Erica, who started the whole thing (see link, above), she’s in Pacific Northwest of the USA, so her growing season starts a solid month, sometimes more, ahead of mine. So I’m not expecting fresh greens to go with my frozen eggplant and crushed tomatoes. But I still like the idea of it.
One thing I’ve noticed myself doing (this year, but also last year) is, well… hoarding my preserves for April. Part of that is just that fresh produce – even when its all root veggies plus cabbage, maybe some winter squash, mushrooms and increasing bruised apples – are preferable to stuff in jars. Remoulade, beet salad, and apple-cabbage slaw bring crunch and (sometimes) colour to a winter table that, otherwise, would be heavy on the browns and beiges (meat, grain, legumes, yoghurt) and low on texture that wasn’t soft. The other part is just… I don’t want to run out. It’s less of an issue these days – I have an income quilt, such as it is, and so does my lovely wife – but I’ve had enough months of unemployment, enough years of on-again-off-again contract work, in the not-so-distant past that the thought of running out of food is still something that preys on my mind, even when I can look at the vast quantities of dried, frozen, and jarred/tinned foods (veggies, fruits, meat, grains, legumes, nuts, mushrooms, herbs & spices, even powdered milk) I keep on hand and know that it won’t happen. So there are a lot of preserves that I haven’t used yet. Lots of jarred (and dried) tomatoes & green tomato chutney, lots of frozen eggplant (I’m foreseeing at least one round of ratatouille – or something like it: diced eggplant, chopped onion, reconstituted dried mushrooms, red lentils and red quinoa tossed with a pint of crushed tomatoes & dried herbs, and baked in a skillet under a heap of parmasan cheese – in our future, maybe tonight). Lots of pork from Francis the Pig that we haven’t eaten yet. Lots (ish) of tinned tuna. Lots of flour and yeast and cooking oil.
It feels almost like cheating to be this prepared. And yet part of the point of this is to take what you’ve got, get creative, and keep churning out meals when you can’t just swing by the grocery store and pick up turkey legs that aren’t frozen solid.
My own rules for this challenge include:
It’s okay to buy: milk, eggs, coffee, tea, wine and junk food.
BUT: Try not to.
Use the jam and the fruit butters to replace both the sugar and some/all fo the eggs in the baking recipes. Drink the raspberry thriller tea in order to conserve the cream in the fridge. Make cakes, cookies, and muffins, instead of buying chocolates or ice cream for dessert.
It’s okay to stock up beforehand IF things are on sale – so, just before Easter Weekend, the grocery store was clearing out as much as it could, and cheese was on for $4/lb. As such, we could now go through a pound of cheese every week, and still have extra by the time Beltane rolls around.
But when we’re out of butter, we’re out of butter. When we’re out of crackers, I need to learn how to make them from scratch (finally – how hard can it be?). Pot-luck dishes cannot be picked up, last minute, from a store on the way to the event. If I forget to plan ahead, and thaw out some pork chops (or similar), even on a Friday, I need to rely on the tinned tuna, sausages, frozen fish, or legumes that I’ve got on hand and use my creativity to make something Fancy with what’s available.
As with previous years, you can follow along using the Eat From the Larder Challenge tag, and I’ll make a once-a-week post talking about how the month is going.
Wish me luck! 🙂
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 I made a LOT of green tomato chutney last October, and we’ve eaten absolutely none of it. Unlike August’s chokecherry chutney, which I LOVE and will absolutely be making again, I keep giving my GTC the side-eye and wondering if it will actually taste good, or if it’ll just be so much over-sweet, not-quite-right Glop that never works with anything. Some of it will go in that ratatouille – why not – but some of it was supposed to get poured over a pork roast and… I worry that it will make everything Too Sweet. And this is the time of year when I find that out. :-\
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