Thursday, September 25, 2008

Local Beet Guide to Preservation and Storage

The hardest thing about blogging is not getting the scoop on a new restaurant [ed., I thought we put this to rest here]. It is, obviously, getting regular content out. My blog stats clearly show the effect of regular posting. I confess, however, to being a bit distracted; by work, by the election (especially--access to cable TV during the day is a bad thing), by advocating for local food over at LTHForum, but I have also been busy. With Beet Boss Michal Morowtitz and Melissa Graham, owner of Monogramme Events & Catering and founder of Purple Asparagus, we put up the Local Beet's guide to preserving the seasonal bounty.

Perhaps harder than writing the guide to storage and preservation, was the job of paring down the article. We are especially proud that we could bring to the Internet and the readers of the, our experiences dealing with preservation and storage. We do not just throw a few links around; we draw upon experience keeping food around to enable year-round local. Just follow this blog for a sense of what it's been like living local through the hungrier times. Co-author Melissa Graham is a long time canner, and her recipes have been featured in the Chicago Tribune (and expect to see some new recipes soon on her blog). Still, if we poured all of what we know, we would have used up the Beet's bandwidth allotment.

With the article, we introduced the basics of preservation and storage. Preservation and storage is much more than getting a canner a-going. It requires thinking about things, contemplating investments, and starting with the right produce. The article covers not just the methods and techniques of storage and preservation but the necessary background. On the other hand, it is necessarily thinner on the teaching. We cannot expect, in one Internet feature, to instruct on complicated topics like canning, drying and fermentation. We do hope we are getting people started on these topics. Look forward to much more features and discussions in this area. Most important, follow again, the stories about how we are actually coping to see how you can cope too.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pepper Roasting 101a

Julia Thiel in the Reader beat me to the, it's a lot harder than you think to roast pepper, post that I've had in my head since I roasted peppers last Friday. Julia and I use different methods. She broiled, the method advocated by the know-it-alls at Cook's Illustrated. I like the pyro thrill of the open range flame. Julia's problems included not having the best oil for broiling (a problem avoided with the range flame system), the time needed, and the mushiness of the resulting peppers. I'm not sure, but she does not cite the biggest problem I find. The mess. Pretty much all the sources I read mention avoiding too much water in the skinning process. That if you use a jet of water to remove the charred skin, you also use the jet of water to wash away the pepper flavor. Fine, I try as much as possible to keep the water off. Still, the charred skins start taking over my hands like a 50's sci-fi movie monster. I try to limit the damage to one hand, like when breading and frying, keep one hand dry, but as in frying, I seldom keep a hand clean. I must turn on the water to get rid of charred skins. Eventually, not all of the skins are coming off. Eventually, I turn to my friend H2O. I love having roasted peppers in the house. I'm with Julia Thiel in finding it quite a pain, and much more of a pain than you might think.