Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Eating Seasonally and Whipped Jello

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA
One of these things is not like the other. 
This is something called whipped Jello.  You take Jello let it set a while, and you whip it, then you let it set longer.  It is not food.

A friend of mine asked about a statement I made about having been eating seasonally for a few years.  We do, generally, eat our produce seasonally.  That means that while I buy tofu and chicken and mustard and couscous and kidney beans year round, I only buy tomatoes when they're here.  "Here" means that someone local (within a state or two) grew them and they're ready now.  


Sous Chef Brian's grandma used to make this, and so I said I'd give it a shot.   Make strawberry jello as instructed (I had no idea how to make Jello) and let it set in the fridge for an hour. 
Tomatoes are the best example of foods to eat seasonally, because supermarket tomatoes are flavorless and weird and fresh local tomatoes are amazing.  There've been times when I've bought distantly-harvested asparagus in the winter, but I try not to.  Generally, the produce that we eat is the produce that's available here, now. 

There are real exclusions to this policy, too.  We eat bananas, and they're never in season here.  I bought a pineapple a few weeks ago.  Some things just aren't Mid-Atlantic produce and I still buy them, but thats the exception, not the rule.


Put the partially-set Jello into a mixer (or use beaters) and whip for 10 minutes until frighteningly pink and tripled in size.
I buy canned tomatoes, but I try to stick with locally canned tomatoes from local farms from back when it was tomato time.  I buy the occasional off-season hot pepper, but I try to keep peppers either frozen or pickled from pepper time.  I try to freeze enough extra in the summer to keep us pretty well set for the winter. 


Put the whipped Jello into a mold (ok, a silicone baking pan) and refrigerate for 5 hours or overnight until it doesn't look liquidy when you tilt it. 
My friend asked how we know what to eat, and that's the easiest part.  I rely on the local folks who sell me food.  That's how I know what's in season.  If the CSA/farm market/Winter Harvest has it now, it must be time.   It takes the guesswork out of the process, and then after a few years of that, it's pretty easy to know what to expect when.  The government will tell you, generally, and the National Resources Defense Council will tell you what's in season in your area.  There are other websites, and if your local farm or CSA has a website, it might list what they have available each month, so that's helpful. 


It's softer than Jello, easier to get onto a spoon.  It's lighter, from all the air bubbles you've whipped into it, and it's sort of creamy. 
Jello is never in season.  I was buying non-groceries at the Target last week and remembered that Sous Chef Brian had expressed an interest in the whipped Jello, so I took that opportunity to wander up and down the sparkly aisles of processed foods that we typically don't buy.  I had seen a recipe recently that required evaporated milk, and though I can't remember the recipe or what it was for, I made sure to grab a can.  After all, when am I going to find myself grocery shopping at Target again?  And that opened the floodgates to stocking up on chocolate chips and granola bars and cereal and all of the brightly colored boxes of things that we've worked so hard to avoid.  


Sure, I should make my own granola bars, and I do make my own crackers, but I can't make my own faux Honey Nut Cheerios.  


Note the color of the Jello vs the color of the berries.  The Jello looks more orange, or salmon-colored here, but it's actually hot pink.  Hot pink.  It's cold and sweet and pretty refreshing on a hot day. 

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