I'm stalled out on knitting lately. It's not that I've lost my mojo, exactly. More like every single waking minute is occupied with childcare, garden work, and coping with seasonal produce. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it's true. If one wants to eat locally grown fruits and vegetables as much as possible in southern Wisconsin, one must make hay while the sun shines and stock up certain items when they are in season and quick, get them processed and frozen for the coming winter.
Case in point: strawberries. It's not a particularly good year for strawberries because we've had an enormous amount of rain, but today I managed to find a local farm selling the last of its already-picked berries (alas, no pick-your-own this year, even) so I bought 16 quarts, brought them home, and then spent the next four hours cleaning berries, making jam and packing crushed berries with sugar into plastic containers for the freezer. I even stuck one quart into the blender and then strained out the seeds to make juice for popsicles. I used up an entire 5-lb bag of sugar. By the end of the afternoon the kids were begging me to pay attention to them, there were sticky red splatters all over my kitchen, and I thought I never wanted to see another strawberry again, but of course that's not true.
Next week the peach truck is coming, and while I know Georgia peaches aren't exactly local, they are damn tasty and I want me a case of them. I'll be making peach jam, peach pie, and just generally gorging myself on peaches. Fresh, delicious peaches are one thing I truly miss about living in the South.
Then there will be blueberries, tart cherries, then raspberries and apples in the fall. Last year's drought really ravaged the apple crop, and I dearly hope that doesn't happen again. What fickle and terrible consequences are brought on by global climate change.
So if all that wasn't preachy enough for you (sorry, food is probably my greatest passion along with music and knitting), I'm trying to cut down on our consumption of processed foods. I like to think we don't eat much in the way of processed foods in our house, since I cook most everything from scratch. There are some notable exceptions, however: 1) salad dressing because I am too lazy to make it myself even though I know it would be much tastier homemade, and 2) crackers. The latter is simply because I have a 7yo son and 5yo daughter who are constantly hungry and I need to have a variety of snack foods available to them, preferably with little or no prep on my part. I can wash grapes and slice carrots and make peanut butter sandwiches, but it gets damn annoying when it happens every 20 minutes. Seriously. One solution is to have stuff to eat that is accessible to them, which for kids their age means nothing requiring the use of a sharp knife or the microwave.
Hence the presence of crackers, which are all too easy to get out of the cupboard but alas, not really much healthier than chugging palm oil with a side of sodium and MSG. The more I read about processed foods, the more I suspect this is even true for the expensive brands you find at Whole Paycheck and the like. I already bake all our bread, so last weekend I decided to try baking a batch of crackers. I found a basic recipe in the King Arthur Flour Baking Book and gave it a whirl with my own variation:
They weren't half bad. In fact, they were good, and the family ate them up. Here's what I did:
Mix 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup unbleached white flour, 1/2 tsp paprika, a little baking soda. Cut in 4 T. butter. Add a splash of white balsamic vinegar to 1/2 cup of water and mix with dry ingredients just until a dough forms. Roll out really, really thin, cut into vaguely rectangular shapes with a pizza cutter, place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, sprinkle with kosher salt, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until the crackers turn golden.
Really, it was easy. This batch is already gone so I need to make more. I'm not sure if I can keep this up and never buy processed crackers again, but it's a start. I bet we'll save on the groceries, too.