Sunday, May 26, 2013

PART 1: The Daily Pantagraph's Article on Vicky Shaffer in 1984:

*Originally written by Betty Zimmerman for The Daily Pantagraph (now The Pantagraph) for their Wednesday, September 12th, 1984 Focus section.  This article is reprinted with permission from The Pantagraph-complete with photos (taken by Marc Featherly).*

Vicky Shaffer of rural McLean prepared vegetables for an end-of-garden relish in a spot where she can enjoy being outside with her daughter Carmen, 2.

Earth's Bounty Stocks their Pantry

By: Betty Zimmerman

 When Monte and Vicky Shaffer moved to their secluded 10 acres in Waynesville Township seven years ago, they had a house that needed finishing, a newly dug fish pond in the yard and lots of dreams.

Both raised in the country, they'd had enough of town living after six years and wanted to get back to the land.  Now two children, several vegetable gardens, berry beds and a variety of fruit trees later, the Shaffers are enthusiastic about what they've done.

Not only have they build their own home and landscaped the yard with pine trees and roses, but the couple feed themselves and their children, Nicholas, nearly 7, and Carmen, 2, almost exclusively with food they produce and preserve themselves.

Shaffer [Monty] is employed as a Ralston-Purina feed dealer and as a road commissioner for Waynesville Township.  Vicky occupies her time completely at home with gardening, canning and caring for her family.

"Yesterday we came out and got everything and made vegetable soup," she says, as she shows visitors the vegetable gardens.  There weren't any green beans left except the dried ones with seeds in them, so I used them."

The only vegetable Vicky buys for soup is celery.

"I have grown celery, too," she says, "but its hard to keep sweet.  You have to keep it shaded.  If you let the sun hit it, it get all woody like the outer stalks are when you buy it sometimes."

Raised near Kenney, Vicky has a background in gardening and is learning new ways to prepare and preserve the vegetables she grows.  And she's coming up with some innovative ideas of her own.

When she picked a 17-pound cabbage from her garden recently, she decided to make it into a cabbage relish that's made a hit with her family.

It's a recipe she made up herself several years ago in an attempt to use up end-of-garden vegetables.  "I didn't know if anyone would like it or not when I made it," she says.

And they didn't at first.  The relish languished on the basement shelf for several years before she opened any again.

"I got it out when I had some company one afternoon this year and my father-in-law said, 'What is this?' He really liked it,  Now everyone is asking me to make it again."

By the time the first batch has aged four years and Vicky things that may have something to do with its tastiness.  The cabbage in the mixture has the color and texture of sauerkraut, but has a milder, sweeter flavor.

To make the relish, Vicky chops her homegrown cabbage coarsely with carrot and sweet red pepper, packs it in jars with other vegetables and puts salt and mustard seed on the top, then covers it with a solution of vinegar, water and sugar.

The sweet-sour pickling solution is the one they like on beets, says Vicky.

To make the preservation of vegetables and fruit less tedious, she washes and prepares the produce outside in the mornings when it's cool, then takes it inside to fill jars and can.

A workbench topped with formica is set up by the garage and a water supply is nearby.  Because there are no livestock in the area, the outdoor operation is not plagued by flies, as might happen in another country location.

While she works, the children play on a swing set and in a sandbox in the yard.  When Nicholas is in school, however, Carmen prefers helping her mother to playing by herself.

"I've done all my tomatoes outside and most of the corn and grape juice," says Vicky.  "One day we did corn in the kitchen and it took me three hours to clean up after it.

"This way, I can wash and prepare my vegetables outside and then hose everything down when I'm finished."

To streamline the canning process, Vicky sterilizes the jars in her dishwasher and then rinses them in hot water before filling.

She says she also cleans the kitchen area where she'll be working the day before she plans to can, and prepares food, such as soup, for the next day's lunch so she doesn't have to use the stove for cooking.

Part 2: Coming tomorrow!

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