Creaming the Crop
n looking for meal inspiration, I have no idea really what came first? The garden or the meal? In my case since I am somewhat of an uninspired cook, and more of an avid gardener, I usually go with what is in season in the garden, or larder. In this case I have lots of fresh milk, cream and sauerkraut. Cream of sauerkraut soup is one of our favorites, but usually it ends up being more than just a creamy soup, by the time I got done with the soup last night, it was more of a chowder, with several veggies besides the sauerkraut.
In the Pacific Northwet we can forage from the garden for many months, sometimes all winter, while all the summer crops are done, the roots and brassicas are really taking center stage right now. I plan my plantings specifically for this. Fresh food harvested just before mealtime, no preserving, no storing (unless you count the garden row) and not too many worries. The garden can be thought of as one big refrigerator for storing crops that like high humidity and cool storage. We have stuffed the freezer just in case we get some real cold, and we have made sauerkraut to change-up the cabbage recipes a bit. But, for the most part we leave lots of crops out, kale, carrots, rutabagas, celeriac, parsnips, beets, chard and cabbage. Some of these crops require a little maintenance, I hill soil over the tender root crops, and I pull or twist most of the roots off the cabbage (note Melissa above lying to one side of the row) to prevent the heads from splitting from too much rain, but all in all, it’s a lot less work than preserving all these foods. Everyone’s climate has an advantage, and this is one of ours in this part of western Oregon.
So while last night’s meal started somewhere way back with spring planted seeds or the birth of Jane, it’s not much different than what most farm cooks have been doing for centuries. It’s really only been a short time where the bulk of the population has looked to the grocery store and television for cooking inspiration. As for recipes, my cookbook could be called “Recipe for Disaster!” Not really, but like anyone who spends time in the kitchen, I don’t seem to be able to follow a recipe for very long. Sure, canning and baking are a little different, but soup or stew? Soups and stews evolve depending on what you have on hand.
The cream of sauerkraut soup came together beautifully. On hand I had a gifted leek, and some bacon ends to use up. So I fried up the bacon ends to render some flavorful fat for cooking the leek, celeriac, and carrots for the vegetable base of the soup. Meanwhile I made a quick bechamel with whole milk and thinned that with chicken broth. When the vegetables were tender, I added the vegetables and 2 cups of sauerkraut to the white sauce and seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. It was delicious!
Do you have a favorite go-to “recipe” for using up what you have?