Chatelaine Revival!

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Criginating in the 18th century, the term chatelaine meant a chain or clasp which held all manner of useful objects, most importantly the keys to the castle. chatelaines were worn most often by the mistress, but sometimes by the master of the house, and the term itself later came to mean simply, the keeper of the castle.

In sharon astyk’s book independence days she reintroduces the word and newly defines it as; the person whose job it is to make sure the food storage is organized and taken care of.

in my castle that would be me.

(yes, i told you i had obsessive tendencies, but that’s besides the point)

This is what’s in my larder and fridge/freezer now in LIC. the bulk of the season’s bounty is still in the berkshires. part of this chatelaine’s work is to haul back to a new york city apartment a new supply of preserved food and raw milk every 6 or so weeks throughout the winter months.

It’s no surprise that the term chatelaine lost it’s punch when most of us were stopping by the grocery store every few days or once a week to buy whatever we needed (or wanted). but now that many of us are making an effort to eat seasonally & locally and learning to grow and preserve our own food the task of the chatelaine is once again at the fore.

Having been on the grow-your-own, preserving, locavore tip for the last 6 years i know that managing the food storage throughout the year is a big part of it all. and that it’s a constantly evolving process. fine-tuning around here includes:

  • using up the canned, frozen and fridged preserved goods; learning what we like to eat, how much of each item throughout the year, and finding new ways to use preserved food in cooking. the challenge for me has been keeping us in straight-up veggies throughout the winter so that we can eat what we grow all year. i know it involves the freezer but i’m still working on what freezes best and what suits our tastes.
  • keeping the dry larder stocked, organized and efficient; this includes the grains, beans, spices, herbs and other dried goods. finding the balance between storing enough, and using them when they are at their most fresh is important. sussing out local sources for goods in this category is an on-going challenge. and drying and dehydrating are preserving methods that i need to explore more.
  • storing and using up ‘cellared’ vegetables; like many of us today, i don’t have a root cellar. but there are things that i grow that can be stored with not too much effort. garlic, onions and winter squash are the easiest for me – and i’m always on the prowl for how i can store others, like roots for example. using these up before i get soft spots on my pumpkins or a waft of bad onion hitting me in the face is a priority.
  • generally stretching the season’s bounty; for me it’s a circle, what i learn throughout the rest of the year and with each passing one, tells me what i need to grow, and allows me to eat as close to the source as possible. first from my land, second from my neighboring farmers’ land and on out from there.

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to have a garden bigger than your house, or even grow your own food. you don’t have to can 500 jars of tomatoes in the sweltering heat of august, you don’t have to eat only things that grow within 100 miles from your home – to do the chatelaine’s work. it’s about taking stock, organizing and using up what you have, knowing what you like and need so that you can make better choices for you and your family, the people and animals that provide what you eat, and the planet on which we all live.

It’s not all or nothin’ peeps, it’s a mind-set and some action – the amount is up to you and i assure you it will vary over time.

Happily, while perusing the blogosphere i’ve noticed that my preserving peers have taken this task head on: if your spice cabinet has been staring you in the space and taking up too much of your face, or you’ve always thought that learning how to use spices will inspire you to eat more veggies then check out what tea did for inspiration on how to clean out your spice cabinet, or jump on the spice rack challenge over at mother’s kitchen. if your larder is in dire need of a make-over and you don’t know where to start then please hop on over to well-preserved and get in on their pantry project. and big, big props go out to (no so) urban hennery’s 4th annual dark days challange – an interweb hoedown on eating locally through the winter months that includes lots of pantry eating.

For those of you inducted head on into the canning craze and in need of info on what to do now that you’ve got loads of filled jars, do check out two of my fave peeps series on just that; local kitchen’s use it or lose it! and food in jars’ open jars. speaking of fave peeps, julia, from the wonderful blog what julia ate has a great post up on the hudson valley food network that will help you figure out just what to do with all that jelly? and don’t miss her from the cupboard posts there too. and shae’s delicious post over at hitchhiking to heaven has a bunch o’jam-filled cookie recipes! even though the holidays are technically over i’m still thinking cookies, aren’t you?

And yes, i too will be coming at you with ways to enjoy what’s been canned, stored, frozen and otherwise saved for later. ’cause a chatelaine’s work includes making sure that ‘later’ actually comes, and that we do in fact eat what we sow.

Some of you may remember my intro to roast the toast waaaay back in 2009 (yikes!) in which i feature the use of sweet preserves in ways other than on top of toasty things. i also did one jam on it post (yikes again!) in which i do celebrate toasty things fit to be slathered. because, it’s true, toasty things are my favorite way to enjoy jams and jellies – and baking is part of this chatelaine’s work. so i’m bringin’ those back – or finally getting on them. oh, and if you haven’t seen my guest post over at the kitchn, please do check out ways to eat up sweet preserves with cheese!

Finally, i’ve had an intention for some time to start up a salty little series called shizzles with picklz – what to eat with all those savory preserves of course! (and ok i’ll admit, just because i want to have a series called shizzles with picklz – c’mon say it, its fun!)

I am glad to be part of this revival ’cause it’s good and important work. if you’ve taken an interest in where your food comes from, or how to do more of it yourself, then you’re part of this revival too!

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