adventures in craft beer and real food

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Saving the moment

Like practically everyone else in my generation -- and probably yours, too -- I grew up with little dependence upon foods that had been preserved at home. Yet, people have been figuring out ways to slow down the inevitable decay of foods for thousands of years. And people have been canning foods since Nicolas Appert figured out how in 1809. I concede our forebears preserved food more out of necessity than for taste, which I hope you know by know is one of the leitmotifs throughout all of my writings for Pint and Fork.

However, there are good reasons to preserve food today. When we capture a product at the peak of its season, we have that vegetable at its seasonal prime all year. This is the overarching reason why I intend to can large amounts of tomatoes this year including derivative sauces such as pasta sauce and tomato salsa. Francis Schott and Mark Pascal, of The Restaurant Guys fame, swear by this approach at their flagship restaurant Stage Left.

Moreover, so much of our food comes from thousands of miles away by anonymous growers. Reducing the energy consumed schlepping food around the globe has to be a good thing. And furthermore it gives me an excuse to support local farmers to a greater extent. Call it sentimental hogwash, but I like knowing the names of the people growing my vegetables.

Of course, I'm also just curious and eager to try something new. That's why this year I'm going to put more emphasis upon food preservation in hopes that I'll have some good eats this winter. Throughout the summer I hope to show off all the food I've put aside. And besides, maybe canning is going to become cool the way knitting is these days.

I bought five pounds of asparagus from the Priske family at the Dane County Farmers' Market this last weekend. Since asparagus has very little acidity, it has to be autoclaved ... I mean pressure canned (i.e. not water bath canned). To prepare, I cut the spears so that they would fit inside my widemouth pint-size mason jars. I fit as many as I could inside the jars. Then I added boiling water and half a teaspoon of canning salt to each jar. After attaching the lids, I processed the cans under 11.6 psi for thirty minutes and then allowed the pressure to attenuate naturally over 25 minutes.

As the provenance of canning recipes is important (unless you want to get botulism, which you don't), I followed these directions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Next time I get my hands on fresh asparagus, I think I'm going to try pickling it.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The people have spoken

Assembly Bill 122, which was the subject of my previous post, was signed into law today by Governor Jim Doyle. Obviously, Pint and Fork's strong advocacy of this bill was instrumental in its passage...

But seriously, I did think it was interesting that the only feedback I got was for the bill. This shouldn't be that surprising since most of the readers of Pint and Fork probably value beer and eschew neo-prohibitionism.

Whenever I say something about a person, be it good, bad, or otherwise, on Pint and Fork, I make a reasonable effort to notify that person via email. I do this for several reasons. The first, and most selfish reason, being that I want to increase the reader base of my blog. The more people who know about Pint and Fork, the better.

But the second, lesser, and more ethical reason is that I want to give those whose opinions differ from my own a chance to disagree with me. I hope that eventually some good discussions will take place in comments in my blog. I also feel that notifying people I talk about also keeps me honest in my writing. It's easy to say that so-and-so is stupid when you're doing it behind their back, quite another when it's in the open.

So the reason I was surprised was this: I heard back from the office of State Senator Pat Kreitlow. No one wrote in to say that I'm a dumb-dumb for supporting AB122, which is surprising because Pat Kreitlow is only one of two people I mentioned who support the bill. I mentioned three or four people who are against it.

At any rate, I think this speaks well to our state... Especially in comparison to Alabama, where the sale of bottled beer is unreasonably restricted. No beer sold in Alabama can exceed 6% alcohol by volume or come in a bottle greater than one pint. South Carolina, West Virginia, and Mississippi are the only other states that have similar restrictions. But when the house had a chance to change the law in Alabama, they decided to table it instead. I've been planning on doing a full-fledged piece on the issue at some point, and may still do one as there's more drama than an episode of the Gilmore Girls, but in the mean time I wish Alabamans that support the so-called gourmet beer law the best of luck in their political pursuits.