Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Stillroom

The stillroom is something that has long gone out of fashion in most countries. Once it was a cool dry place where (usually) women worked. It was the place to prepare herbal tinctures and other home remedies. A place to hang cheeses to dry and cure. A place to brew beer, wine and cordials.

I love this book by Grace Firth and refer to it often. She shows you how without a  stillroom you can still have lovely stillroom treats. Home cured meats, preserves and pickles are but a few things she shares. Beer, wine, soup, stew, preserves, bread, they are all here.

I love her word pictures too of what's in her "stillroom" which is really just small scattered storage spaces around her home; the crisper drawer in the fridge, a cool corner of the cellar or a cool dark closet. Corned beef, pork and beef sausages, bacon, cheeses both fresh and aged, smoked and not. Would that she lived down the road that I could visit!

Some of you may wonder why go to the bother when you can pick up the same stuff at the market, can't you? The answer is yes, sort of. You see more and more nowadays what you buy at the store in a package is less than what you thought it was and much more about chemicals, preservatives, fillers and other additives to turn a bigger profit for the company. Some of these things we know harm our health and the rest are mighty suspicious.

Then there is the satisfaction of sitting down to eat and knowing exactly where everything on your plate came from and how it got there. To be intimately associated with the food you put in your mouth is divine. To remember planting and waiting (it seemed forever) for the carrots to sprout, then weeding and thinning them, watering them when it didn't rain, anxiously looking for the first signs they were gaining girth so you could pull some babies for dinner. There is great satisfaction in it all.

Besides, even if you are not able to raise everything you need, when you have the opportunity to acquire half a pig or a side of beef it is nice to know ways of keeping it without it taking up space in your freezer. Let alone the delight to the taste buds of something new.

And aside from all these, you will almost always save money and feed your family healthier food when you take the raw ingredients and produce the final product. Compare the price of beef jerky to the price of fresh meat (realizing of course in this instance the difference in weight is what, about 1/4?).

Two years ago I canned dozens of jars of green beans, both regular and some pickled. Of the pickled ones I had some with hot chilies added. So from my little patch of beans came several products, for very little cash outlay (since I've had my jars and canning equipment for years). Fresh beans, canned beans, Dilly Beans, Hot Dilly Beans. The list of things you can do is endless.

Well, I hope you enjoy Grace's book as much as I do.

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