Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving and Beyond (photos)

So many people have asked us what our plans are/were for Thanksgiving because they were curious about whether we could pull off a local holiday meal or not. Well, we must admit that we didn't eat here in Rockford, we spent the holiday with my family.

It's definitely not that we feared we could not produce a fantastic celebration meal with local food (we can and we will in January!) but it was simply my mother's turn to host and my brother was home from California and my sister and her husband came out from Chicago.

We did have some local fare. I was in charge of mashed potatoes and roasted root vegetables (carrots and sweet potatoes from our CSA boxes which I roasted with some red onion, garlic, oil, and a touch of honey!). The turkey was local too. For the last 20 years, my mother has been getting her holiday turkeys from a local establishment in Waterman, IL. Although HOKA is a local producer, they are also a commercial operation, large-scale and fairly industrial, which only raises one type of bird: Broad-breasted White. I have occasionally had to sacrifice buying organic, etc in order to source things locally.

After two days of eating largely non-local food at my parents' house, we were back in Rockford Saturday morning where we returned to our regular eating pattern. I did (happily) return with the turkey carcass, which we had frozen on Thanksgiving Day, along with the pan drippings and some skin. Saturday afternoon I cooked it down with some vegetables and herbs. After about four hours I had a large amount of really succulent broth (to taste and to smell). I used my largest stock pot, which at 22 quarts, dwarfs my otherwise large pasta pot (far right in photo).

Today I canned 14 quarts of that stock, reserving two or so plus the meat that fell from the bone for a nice turkey soup tomorrow evening. When I cooked down the stock yesterday I thought I'd freeze it (somehow... there is really no more room to be found in the freezers) but I am so glad that I canned it instead. It will be quicker and easier to use and keep in the cellar. I owe a big thanks to my friend, Joe, for indirectly suggesting that I can it and for lending me his pressure canner so I could do it (broth must be processed at a higher temperature than high acid foods).

Somehow, I had one can in each batch not seal properly (I think I may have over-filled them). On the first batch, a ring popped (I have had a few rings that were older and not completely round anymore... two of them popped off in my hand when I was sealing jars and I pitched [recycled] them. This one waited until it was in the canner to pop off). I was able to pour the contents back into my stock pot to boil again before filling the jars in the second batch.

Unfortunately, in the second batch I had one jar not seal either (although the ring stayed intact). I added that one to the stock and meat I had reserved in the fridge to use for soup tomorrow evening.

So, in the end, I have 12 quarts of stock in cans for use in soups throughout the winter! I have been making soups each week either with vegetable stocks that I made last month and froze, or with water and my ingredients. The latter has not been nearly as satisfying as my typical soups so I'm looking forward to having the turkey stock in addition to my frozen vegetable stock (and I may make up a batch of veggie stock and can that before I return the pressure canner to my friend at the end of the week).

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