Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Spring Cleaning the Pantry

by: Chiot's Run

Spring cleaning not only applies to the house, but also to the pantry! This is the time of year when I start to make a concerted effort to eat up goods the goods I preserved last summer. Soon enough I'll be pulling out the canning pots and filing jars with this summer's bounty and packing the freezer with fresh berries. This means I must start preparing now. The last thing I want is to end up with jar and jars of stuff from years past and have to throw some of it away. I'm not one to waste food, especially food that I spent time and energy growing and preserving.

This is the perfect time of year to start using up pantry goods. With the coming of warmer weather comes the feeling of optimism. I no longer feel the need to conserve my food resources to make sure they last through the long winter. Those feelings give way to the hope of summer bounty and I finally feel safe eating up the last few jars of tomatoes. I know that in a few months, my tiny tomato seedlings will be producing pounds of fresh summer fruit that will be eaten fresh and canned for next winter.

I find myself often in the pantry looking over jars of goods deciding what I want to make for dinner. If I spot a few jars of tomatoes, pepper relish, fire roasted red & jalapeno pepper, and a few jars of chutney, I'll make a big pot of chili. From the freezer I'll add some ground venison, beef stock and some frozen beet greens or spinach. If I'm lucky I'll have a bottle of beer as well to add for good measure. A few heirloom beans will also get added to the pot if there are any left in the pantry. If we have some frozen milk left from our winter stores, I'll make some fresh mozzarella, and who doesn't love a sprinkling of fresh spring chives on top of any dish this time of year?

If I find myself with a lot of extra tomatoes, I'll make up a big batch of marinara. This will top fresh homemade pasta, or even a pan of lasagna if I have the time and energy to make cheese and noodles.

Not only do all these dishes help clean out the pantry of last year's bounty and make way for the new, they help save me time during this busy season in the garden. A big batch of of chili can be eaten on for many days as can a big pan of lasagna (and they get better with age). If I make an extra big batch I'll freeze it in meal sized portions for quick meals during the busy days of spring and early summer. My goal is to have most of the jars in the pantry empty by tomato canning season and to have most of the berries eaten from the freezer before the strawberries come on.

Do you make a concerted effort to eat up items in your pantry to make way for the new season's bounty?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Not Dabbling in Normal.


Carol said...

Those jars of tomatoes sure brought back memories. Nothing tasted so good as a meal from the garden...spinach for lunch...or fresh dug potatoes. I think that was when I really enjoyed fixing a meal...and most of it on a wood stove.


Rachel B. said...

I have a few jars of pickles left and pickled beets. I need to start taking them for lumch again. I have some "apple butter" that didn't turn out well to use. I think apple bread is in the future. I have two more jars of blackberry jam left which I want to hold me over until raspberry season. Sorry, not a fan of strawberries. I must make more jam. I wanted to give to more people than I did.

Missus @ Escape to the Farm said...

Cleaning out my freezers (yes, more than one) is on my current to-do list in order to prepare for this season's produce.

I foresee a LOT of tomato soup in our future..

Tree Huggin Momma said...

I like to clean out the pantry and freezer this time of year as well. Since we have 2 freezers (1 chest and 1 with the fridge) I make an effort to clean out, defrost and shut down the chest freezer. I like it empty by June 1 and I don't usually start filling it again until late summer/ early fall. Since I don't can (yet) I don't have to worry about that, but I try to use up any commercially canned goods and dry goods so we have fresher stuff.

Chile said...

I'm never sure how long it's safe to keep my home-canned things. A year? Two years? Three?

I do make a concerted effort to clean it out but I still have some older goods. Should I dispose of them?

Tree Huggin Momma said...

Chile - I grew up with home canned goods, and we had some for years. Our rule was to use the oldest first, but often some things just grew better than we liked to eat it (Sauerkraut). So we checked the lids for seal. If the seal was suspect the contents were boiled and tossed. Upon opening any signs of spoilage, visual, smell or taste (meant the contents were tossed) but I am sure if you google shelf life of home canned goods you will find some general guidelines.

Chiot's Run said...

I will keep & eat canned goods for up to 2 years. The taste starts to go the longer things are canned (or so I've heard). I will keep jams/jellies for 3 years. Often we don't have enough canned goods to last too long. I'd keep fruit and pickled and acidic items longer than I'd keep beans & non-acid canned goods. But that's just a personal rule.

Gremlina said...

you've described a nightly routine & that feeling of replenishment. The next harvest is on its way! &, my husband will be jealous I found this co-op first!