Earlier this month, I pulled the last of the spinach to make way for a summer crop. While other area growers were just getting their first harvest, my early-sown crop had been clipped twice, and was starting to bolt to seed.
The last of the spinach isn’t good enough to sell. The first cutting fetches a premium (which in these parts is about $3.50/bag). The second cutting, when many of the leaves have had their tops severed in the first cutting, goes down to $3/bag.
The third cutting, ragged and homely as it is, is all mine. These nine super-stuffed gallon bags, washed three times and spun in my five-gallon spinner, were destined for spanikopita, and the freezer.
The day before embarking on this year’s batch, I’d made a couple of gallons of raw goat milk (purchased from a local farmer) into the soft, but slightly crumbly cheese that works best for the project.
In addition to the spinach, herbs were needed to give the flaky pastry triangles a bit more complexity of flavor–I chose dill and cilantro from the farm, a couple kinds of mint from the home gardens, and a few shoots of broccoli raab as well.
The herb selection varies from year-to-year–though not too much because whatever’s ready when the spinach is coming out is what gets used in the recipe. Well, and whatever seems good to me at the time I’m ready to make it!
Once all the herbs are washed, I start to process of chopping spinach and sautéeing pan after pan of it with a sprinkling of herbs and a few onions I dehydrate earlier in the spring–before the green onions bloom and I have to cut them all down.
After last year, when I attempted to chop all the spinach at once–causing my hand to seize up around the handle of the knife in a most painful way–I now switch between chopping and cooking it down to add to the pot of filling on the table.
And then I take a break because the next part is the marathon!
The marathon starts with melting butter–lots of organic butter, and mixing it with (also organic) olive oil. I know there are some purists who use only butter, and that’s their prerogative. I use a mixture.
Out come the packages to phyllo dough to thaw (I usually end up buying out my local grocery’s entire supply), and the butter-painting, filling, folding, and par-baking begin.
The first sheet pan that comes out of the oven is usually a little over-baked for freezer storage, which is fine because the first sheet is usually the one we (whoever volunteers to help–knowing they’ll get some to take home–and I) devour for extra energy to complete the rest of the project, which often goes past midnight.
In the end, the homely and ragged gleanings from the spring garden make way for summer crops while filling my freezer with a locally-grown and homemade “convenience” food for quick summer, fall, and winter meals.
Perhaps it’s a bit silly to refer to a food that takes (cheese-making included) two full days to make a convenience–but I much prefer it to anything the broader culture calls a convenience food, and I’m comforted that I know exactly what’s in it.
And with food made in these proportions, by the time I’m savoring the last of it, it seems like a great convenience since I’ve completely forgotten the marathon involved with its production!