Sunday, November 4, 2012

Past Deadline: Freezer Full of Comfort Food

Here is my column from the Sept. 13 issue of The Perth Courier:
Freezer full of comfort food
This is a dangerous time of year.
Temperatures are getting cooler, which means sweaters and jackets are being dug out of cupboards, and that can only mean bathing suit season is now safely in the rear-view mirror.
That’s not the dangerous part – unless we’re talking about people suffering from shock due to exposure to gleaming white skin or unnecessary flabbiness (which is what happens when I look in the mirror).
No, the dangerous part (and this is a nice segue from the flabbiness comment) is that cooler weather brings with it a desire for warm, cosy food – comfort food.
On Saturday, as darkness fell, along with possibly more rain than we’ve had all summer, I grabbed my pen, paper and a stack of recipes and made a list of things to cook and stash in the freezer.
First up – Nan’s spaghetti sauce. Spaghetti, with this sauce, is possibly my most favourite food. Nan got the recipe from an Italian woman in her neighbourhood a kazillion years ago. She passed it on to Mom, who taught me. Now the only time you won’t find a container of it in my freezer is in the peak of summer, when my stash has run out and it’s too hot to cook it.
Old recipes like these are about more than just the ingredients. You have to know how long it simmers and rests, too.
It took me forever, for example, to figure out my Grandmom’s shortbread needed to spend some time in the freezer before it would taste as good as hers. That revelation came after years of trying to perfect the balance of ingredients, the “feel” of the dough while kneading it, and the thickness of the dough when cutting the cookies.
Next up was oatmeal cookies. My grand “I am a good mother” plan had been to do this last week so the kids would have homemade cookies in their lunch bags. I threw in some chocolate chips to make up for the tardiness.
Next was peach freezer jam. I haven’t mastered cooked jam, and probably won’t, but the household seems happy with the freezer kind.
I make strawberry freezer jam each spring, but tried peach for the first time at the end of August. Love it! It doesn’t hurt that on the day I made it a friend surprised us with a loaf of fresh-baked bread – still hot from the oven. Yum!
So another batch of that was stashed in the freezer for cold-weather goodness.
I was ready to talk myself out of the last and largest item on my list, but was on a roll, so I made meatball stew.
Over the years I have made many stews – chicken, turkey, beef – and although they are perfectly fine stews that are quite enjoyed by the grown-ups, I never had a good, solid buy-in from the short people.
No, the stew they love – and I mean love – is the stuff from a can: Irish or beef made with the ground up mystery meatballs. (I gotta admit, I have a soft spot for those stews because they remind me of camping.)
Last year I set about to create a homemade version of that beloved stew. It took some tinkering, but I’ve done it. I make the meatballs (fairly plain) from scratch, brown them while mixing up the veggies and broth, and then throw it all together in the oven and let it roast slowly for a couple of hours.
It’s not fancy – just time consuming – but I make an enormous batch and off to the freezer it goes.
Now I almost feel organized!
While all this was going on there was not much housecleaning done, but I daresay there is no risk of us starving.

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