The Real Beginning of Winter

Reader Contribution by Angela Pomponio
1 / 2
2 / 2

The twinkling lights and increase in good cheer have faded.  Manic days of baking, prepping, wrapping and enjoying the warm butter scented hours have passed.  The emotional and physical hangover of a holiday season well celebrated wanes.  Our goals, projects and excitement for the year ahead are down on paper.  Our three year old son is officially counting down the single month of days until his birthday sledding party.  In short; the artificial light, forced increase in activity, and general goodwill tricked us out of thinking like winter.

My first January in the country good intentions are staring me in the face from the shelves of my pantry.  For a list making, planning type of gal sometimes the challenge isn’t the prep, but in the preparation of those carefully stored staples.  Time for squash soups, potato dishes, beans dishes from at least five continents, and those canned peaches.  Growing up in suburbia during my formative years make the impulse to plan a weeks meals and then shop for those second nature.  What I am trying to uncover and gently stoke to life is that primitive human fire.  The urge to grow, gather, reap, preserve, plan, store and protect are futile if one runs in to town for a box of dinner at the first sign of early January twilight.

I don’t buy into the New Year’s resolution ad campaign, but I do feel a natural urge to organize, sort and plan the year.  So this year my mother in law and I are already training to run a half marathon, and instill great running habits.  Dom and I have planned our concrete goals and budget for our projects, and then of course laid out the maybe if we have time and money to projects. And of course the if we win the lotto plans as well. We have looked eagerly ahead to this year of continuing dreams come true and hard work pay offs.  And I am living life as a rural householder, hearth warmer of the homestead, and driver on this self sufficient use what you have make do be frugal for the greater good life we have chosen.  I will conquer bread baking, sourdough starting, pantry chefdom, freezer genius, ball canning jar wizardry and general country living magic will happen.  Shows daily at 6pm.

This morning I enjoyed fresh non fat yogurt, organic of course, with wild blackberries my son and I picked on our driveway in August, sliced organic almonds and a drizzle of local raw honey.  Heaven!  I can do this!  I have an inexpensive yogurt incubator from a thrift store and I use a variety of collected small glass jars.  I froze the berries on cookie sheets before dumping them into freezer bags.  I thaw a little old pyrex dish of berries overnight in the fridge for am meals.  I heat 1 quart of organic non fat milk (non instant powder from Azure standard in Dufur, Oregon ordered through the local Seventh Day Adventist church) to 180 degrees F while stirring frequently (until a skin forms on top but milk does not burn.)  I then remove it from the heat and pour into a Pyrex bowl.  I let the milk cool to about 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit (until a finger submerged in the center doesn’t burn, is hot, but tolerably hot.)  I add 1 tbsp plain yogurt and mix thoroughly.  Incubate in clean jars for 8-12 hours, until as thick as you like it.  Refrigerate

I also made a batch of spiced orange cranberry sauce and canned it.  After our subzero cold snap I was forced to acknowledge our reliance on spinach, namely spinach from the grocery store.  So while indulging our green addiction and picking up coffee last week, I grabbed the last three 12-ounce bags of organic cranberries for 98 cents per bag. I cooked them down over medium heat with about a cup of orange juice, 2 cups of sugar and at the end I added a liberal surface sprinkling of Chinese five-spice seasoning. My last batch had a knob of fresh ginger grated in, I was out this weekend.  I cooked and stirred until all the berries were saucy, added ingredients to my own taste and pulled the heavy bottom sauce pan off the heat just before it was as thick as I like.  It will thicken with cooling. I labeled into sterile pint and half pint jars and processed 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.  Follow USDA instructions please!  I hope to score a sale organic turkey now that the holidays are over to indulge in almost spring turkey sandwiches and maybe smoke a breast in the smoker. The cranberries will be fantastic on a sammy or the yogurt, or just scooped with a spoon standing in the light of the open fridge like a summer sunset.

So I raise my jar to you and toast this life.  So far the sacrifices are delicious, the discoveries about cuisine and self profound.  Happy short days mean delicious longer nights, more juicy book pages and increased contentment across the board.