When Midwest native Amanda McLemore isn't on duty as a chef, she's still likely to be found on duty at home, in her kitchen or in the jam-packed garden of her Bronzeville brownstone. She grows much of what she eats herself - no small feat within the confines of the city - in the once-weedy backyard that she has painstakingly overhauled into an edible garden, complete with espaliered fruit trees. She's the type of friend who shows up to a potluck with a salad plucked from her backyard that morning - pictured here - and urges folks to take the leftovers home. And, what she can't grow herself, she picks up at the farmers' market, a no-brainer supplement to her local foods diet.
Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, Amanda sets aside some time each week to preserve a few of the week's seasonal foods, so that she can continue to eat local produce throughout the winter. Amanda tells us how she got started with canning and preserving, something that can seem daunting to the beginner: "The more I incorporated going to the farmer's market into my daily routine I knew that I would not want to return to the supermarket to purchase canned foods with unknown ingredients and additives. Peaches were the first produce that I taught myself to can. That Thanksgiving, I made my grandmother's peach cobbler recipe for my family, and in an instant she was there with all of us. The season's memories seals in those cans as well."
This year, she's canned tomatoes, peaches, fruit liqueurs, strawberry preserves, and so much more, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables, dried herbs and fruit, and fermented hot sauce and sauerkraut. For those who might be new to preserving, she recommends, "A good first start is freezing. I love freezing roasted tomatoes and mirepoix. I enjoy canning quince jam and cranberries for holiday meals." Even easier is to simply purchase foods that store well uncooked, such as root vegetables; we've featured Amanda's tips on what to purchase at the farmers' market this fall to keep around for a few months in our monthly sustainability tip, as well.
Amanda shares her approach to seasonal cooking on her website, Baguette & Butter, which offers recipes, preserving advice, and gardening workshops and consultations. Amanda says, "I want people to be inspired to cook in their homes and with/for family and friends. I want them to learn essential skills that have become lost over time. I as well want to simplify the mental clutter and anxiety that is commonly known to pair with cooking, shopping, and caring for the home." For more of Amanda's approach to seasonal eating, she shared what she recommends stocking up on at the farmers' market this fall for our monthly sustainability tip, here.
You can chat with Amanda at many of our monthly meet-ups, and you can also connect with her on her Instagram account, as well. If you'd like to read last month's Community Member Spotlight about Rachael Jacome's approach to low-waste, plant-based cooking at her home in Evanston, please click here!