Happy New Year! (Again.) Well, now that we’re back into our usual routine, I can return my attention to Rainy Sunday updates. We actually had a pretty social holiday season (for us), so it’s nice to be a little quieter again. January, of course, is the time when people are expected to make resolutions and set out to improve themselves. Parking at the gym will be a nightmare for the next month and a half. (As a side note, I have decided that if I start a garage band, I will name it January at the Gym and the music will be perfect for all of us 30’s to 50’s adults, a little hard, reeking of desperation, but still with a some hope.) My friends and family all know that I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, and the whole “New Year, New You” marketing ploy irritated me to no end when I was working at the bookstore. I see it everywhere now, and it all just seems to be capitalizing on – reinforcing – the culture of self-hatred that has replaced the previously noble desire to improve ourselves.
Anyway, despite all that, I do have one thing I wish to do this year: waste less. In truth, it’s something I always try to do. I think I’ve written about it before; it’s part of what contributes to my stashing problem. Still, as I was cleaning up things before Christmas, cleaning out the fridge to be exact, I felt inspired to improve upon my habits. I want to try to use more of that stash and do some of those projects for which I’ve had the supplies sitting around for years. Several of those projects are for garments for me, which is good because I also want to try and use my wardrobe better. I’m not going to pare down to a capsule wardrobe or anything, but I would like to have any additions I make to be better planned out. I tend to buy things a little willy-nilly and then not necessarily have the ability to make an outfit out of the pieces. Often, I’ll be short of a type of clothing – like sweaters – and then buy them here and there until I have too many.
The biggest place I want to waste less, though, is the kitchen – probably because of the cleaning out the fridge thing. We do our best to plan a menu and buy for it; but life happens, and we don’t always manage to stick to it. We also tend to buy at Costco, which is reasonable for a family of four, but sometimes the amounts aren’t quite right. For example, we like the asparagus we get there, but it’s too much for a single meal and too little for two. Usually, we keep it around, hoping to use it but end up throwing it away. By the time we do that, it’s also usually pretty slimy and gross, and I have to work really hard not to retch while flinging the package into the trash can. So, that’s one thing I’d like to do. I want to be better about composting vegetables that have turned, as well as things like Starbucks cups and tea leaves and greasy paper.
Mainly, though, I want to produce less waste that needs to be composted. Several of the things on my Christmas list related to this desire, and Mom was awesome enough to get me all of them. Back in the days when I was unemployed and we were getting a CSA box full of vegetables every week during the summer, I developed an interest in canning. It was self-defense really; we had a refrigerator that had been completely taken over by cherries (the number of varieties that are grown up here is astounding) and pounds of plums rapidly going soft. I had learned how to can from BestFriend (and another dear friend), so I applied that to our CSA overage. It wasn’t particularly large-scale canning, but I had big enough batches to make it worth the effort of boiling the giant pot of water for sterilizing and processing. Then I got a job again and didn’t have time for big efforts, but I managed once in a while. Then we stopped participating in the CSA, and there was no point. We’d just have the small amounts, and I couldn’t bring myself to expend all that effort for so little.
For years, I’ve been saying that I want to invent a counter-top electric canning bath sized for just one or a few jars. It would be perfect for all the urban canners. Turns out, while no one has invented that small electric canner, there are people who have figured out how to do small batches of canning. I found some sources online and put the books and supplies recommended on my list. I chose three books that looked the most promising and the small, “fourth burner” pot that was reported to be good for processing just one or two jars. Mom got me all four and I was excited enough to read through all three books the night after opening them. It’s funny to see the difference in approaches from the different books. The book produced by Southern Living is more traditional, and their idea of a small batch is still twice as large as the batches in one of the other books. That book, Preserving by the Pint, is the one that I think will be my favorite. It was written by the author of the Food In Jars blog and has an approach and set of flavor profiles that fit with my outlook. She even has some recipes that are intended for those tiny amounts of unused produce left after dinner.
I haven’t tried anything yet; but again now that things have calmed down, it should be possible. I think I’ll start with the aforementioned asparagus. We had some tonight (roasted with olive oil and garlic) with our beef roast. As usual, given that Sister and I really like asparagus, we used about two thirds of the package. Hopefully, I’ll have time on my day off to use up the rest. I’m pretty sure the situation calls for pickled asparagus. I like pickled asparagus. Okay, I like pickled anything. Luckily, they’re easy. Wish me luck and lots of little jars.