Posted in So You Want to Be a Homesteader Series

Preserving Food- Freezing

Freezing food is a practical and easy way to save the abundance of produce that flows into the kitchen and from farmer’s markets all season.  Freezing has its cons, for sure.  All one has to consider is the great possibility of power outage or malfunctioning freezer to remember a time that you opened the door of one to find melted, smelly food languishing in the musty interior.  Freezing is not my main form of preserving, but I still utilize in many ways because I find it very helpful on a homestead.

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There are some vegetables and fruits that are better frozen.  Eggplant and peas, for example, become mushy when canned.  Green peppers and chilies are easy to scoop out into a pot for soups.  Greens can be successfully frozen in plastic bags without becoming soggy.  And of course meat can be canned but it is easier to separate and freeze in individual bags for suppers.

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My granddaughter is here for a few days enjoying the farm.  We had fifteen chicks arrive chirping in the mail yesterday and she made sure to snuggle each one.  She also helped me harvest mulberries.  Berries are delicious as is, straight off the tree still warm, or in cereal, ice cream, or made into jam, or wine, or pie.  I will make all of those things and may still have some to preserve for winter.  It is lovely to pull out mulberries in December, or rhubarb or raspberries for that matter!  Freeze them on cookie sheets first, then pour into bags.  They will stay separate and easy to measure out.

I have a confession; I don’t typically blanch the vegetables before freezing.  I haven’t seen the point as of yet.  We eat them fairly quickly through the winter and they haven’t been bad at all.

I did blanch the peas once and it was easy enough.  Throw vegetables into boiling water for a few minutes then transfer to a bowl of ice water.  Lay out on cookie sheets, freeze, then pour into bags.

At the end of the summer, I like to have Doug throw peppers, chilies, and eggplant onto the grill.  Then I slice them into cubes and freeze on a cookie sheet.  Then pour into individual bags for pizza fixings all winter.

Here is the trick for fresh greens all winter.  Cut greens, like kale, chard, and spinach, and stuff into freezer bags.  Push out air and seal.  Then put in freezer.  When it is frozen, quickly crush the contents through the bag with your hand.  Don’t let it start to thaw.  You can easily pour out frozen, crisp greens into your soups and sautes all winter.

Cheese, milk, and eggs can be frozen, but it changes their consistency quite a bit.  I don’t freeze broth because I will never remember to take it out in time and big containers take up too much room.

Pile the remaining tomatoes after you are tired of canning into freezer bags and pull them out as needed and put them into the crock pot with soup, or bake on top of rice, or cook down for sauce and use an immersion blender to blend.

Shred zucchini and drain.  Then stuff  1 cup of zucchini into muffin tins and freeze.  Pop them out and into bags when solid.  These make great zucchini fritters, additions to soup, or zucchini bread during the winter and spring.

I am a bit adverse to even the slightest hint of freezer burn so I don’t let anything stay around for more than a year.  I start working my way through the freezer in the spring and any burned vegetables left go to the chickens.  I think one of those food sealers would be a good investment.

You can freeze juice concentrates, and nuts and seeds from your gardens, or fruit, and vegetables, scraps to make broth, meat, and bread.  That makes the freezer (and extra freezer) a good addition to a homestead.  Should the freezer break or be out of power for an extended time, you can rely on your root cellar and pantry.  But for many things, like fresh greens, peas, and chicken, (and mulberries) a freezer is great!

Homestead Anywhere and How to Preserve Rhubarb

Shelling, Preserving, Freezing Peas (an all day venture, bring friends)

Freezing Produce (it’s not too late to preserve!)

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving), Homestead

My Homestead Kitchen and Root Cellar

 

20170927_161036This is always a happily busy time of you year in my homestead kitchen.  There are lots of things being canned, lots of frozen items, lots of dried items, lots of staples.  Colorful eggs decorate the counter.

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We could walk to the grocery store.  Everything I need is already canned and frozen there.  We went from five plus people to just two of us here, why so much food?  Potential weather disasters, power outages, sh*t hits the fan, just in case, lots of reasons, but my grocery bill was only $36 this week, and that’s pretty great.

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I also love to cook.  I am rarely happy with restaurant meals or packaged foods.  I like my own sauces.  I love creating my own pickles, red chile sauce, sauerkraut, but also having lots of really fresh vegetables canned swiftly in glass containers.  No preservatives.  No Monsanto.

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We are busy folks.  It is nice to come home and have everything at the ready to make an amazing meal.  I enjoy the methodical time putting up the food and the pride I feel looking at my humble root cellar.  215 canned items.  I still have a bit more to do.  I will just leave the pressure canner upstairs this year.  That way I can quickly can more broth, beans, or soups as I go.  There is no real “end of the season”, homemaking pleasures continue through the year.

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If you had walked through my warm homestead kitchen this last week you would have smelled the cinnamon apples being canned, watched the apple cider vinegar and kombucha brewing.  Thick halves of pumpkins baking to be put up, their seeds washed and drying on the counter to plant next year.  A wheel of farmhouse cheddar was being waxed.  Sauerkraut fermenting.  Frozen meat from friends’ ranches.  Lots of beans and whole grains and spices.  Just need more flour, sugar, and coffee.  Lots of coffee.

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There is still much more in the garden.  I was pleased to unearth a sweet potato, something I haven’t been able to grow in higher climates.  More tomatoes, winter beans, burdock, carrots, beets, kale, zucchini, peppers, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, radishes, potatoes all await our autumn meals.

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Donning a cute apron and working quietly in one’s own homestead kitchen brings a peace I cannot even describe.  Food security, health, and peace of mind permeates the air along with the smells of chilies and pumpkins.  This is the life for me.

Posted in Homestead

A Homesteader’s Guide to Preparing For Winter (not just for homesteaders!)

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When I was growing up Autumn was a time for a new pair of shoes and back to school.  For getting excited about holidays and playing in the leaves.  Each season was really no different than another.  Once we became homesteaders there are marked differences in the seasons that we have to respect.  For instance in the spring we plan, start, plant, and get ready for farmer’s markets to begin.  In the summer we farm, do farmer’s markets all week, and start canning and planning what needs to be done for winter.  Imagine that!  Planning what needs to be done for winter in the midst of July.  Now it is fall, and we will be insanely busy this month.  You could wait like we did last year to get all of our hay for winter, only buying what we needed but there was a shortage come February and we had trouble locating good hay.  We could wait to get all the wood we need but there is nothing guaranteeing dry, available wood come January and that is how we will be heating our home.  Should we be snowed in it is quite lovely to walk to the long pantry waiting for me in the new house and grab everything I need for dinner without ever worrying about a shortage or having to run to the store.  There are lessons in here for the average city citizen or the non-homesteader as well.  No one can be sure what the winter will bring and if the Almanac is correct and the weather serves prediction, our winter this year may be a doozy.

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1.  Heat- If the power goes out for an extended time, how will you keep warm?  We will need to make sure we have plenty of wood and coal at the ready.  We’ll have plenty of blankets and wool sweaters at the ready.

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2.  If you can’t get to the store, how will you feed your animals?  Make sure you store a bit extra than you normally would for just in case scenarios.  I will need to get a few months of hay at least and an extra bag of dog and cat food.

3.  If the city water gets turned off due to a water main break or other reason (or if the electricity goes out and the well stops working), how will you get water?  I will be filling several canning jars and jugs with water.  It won’t be enough for an extended time but it could certainly help get us through for a bit.

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4.  If a blizzard kept trucks from delivering food to the grocery store or if you were home bound, how would you eat?  So far we have 378 items canned.  I have another 100 to put up.  This is enough to get Doug and I through the winter, have some to give as gifts, and give to the kids should they need it.  I also have a freezer full of meat that we have already obtained and I am ordering another ten chickens from a local sustainable farmer.  Here is a problem though….if the power goes out I will need to find a right cold area to keep the meat in!  I should be canning meat but as of yet, that sounds like a pain and not very appetizing but I know I need to learn to do it!  It won’t go bad if it is canned.  I also have a fridge full of cheese wheels that I have made.  So, we have cheese and if the fridge goes out the cold back room will probably keep it just fine.  We have dehydrated food and have more to do.  I have canned jars and jars of juice and am doing the rest today.  We will stock up on staples like flour and sugar and other grains like cornmeal, of course beans and legumes, and salt and spices.  There should be little we need to go to the store for.

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5. What if you or your animals are ill or injured and can’t get to a doctor or vet?  Make sure you have plenty of herbal remedies on hand so that you can treat yourself or your animals in an emergency.  We have remedies for colds and flu, for pain, for infection, even for broken bones at the ready.  (You can see these remedies at http://gardenfairyapothecary.com)

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I encourage you to think ahead just a bit just in case so that you won’t be panic stricken should the electricity go out or if you cannot get out the front door due to snow!  It will give you great peace of mind and a homesteader spirit!

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

What the Freezer Holds

Remember when I wrote What the Root Cellar Holds and I used a picture off the internet of beautiful jeweled jars of product meticulously lined up in rows because my root cellar is dark and dusty?  Well, I am going to pull a picture off of the internet of a freezer too.  This time of year, it ain’t looking so good!  The freezer has its pros and cons for preserving food but I think it is worth the effort.

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I like to can.  I spend a full day once a week all summer and fall, and perhaps more this year, in the hundred plus degree kitchen (we are making an outdoor kitchen this year) just to make sure that all winter we have some pretty great vegetable dishes that taste fresh out of the garden…even during snow storms.  But some things don’t can so well.

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Eggplant for instance.  Imagine that sucker canned.  Soaked in water.  Gag.  Okay, now imagine it sliced thinly, pulled from the freezer, dredged in fresh egg and cornmeal with lots of spices and baked until crisp.  Drool.  So, no canning eggplant.  Freezing is the only way to go.  Simply slice up the eggplant, place pieces on a cookie sheet and freeze.  Then transfer frozen slices into a freezer bag labeled.  We are out, sadly.  I will freeze more this year.

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The freezer is overflowing with tomatoes.  I brought tons home with very good intentions of canning yet another dozen or more jars (we are currently out of canned diced tomatoes.  Quite tragic.) and ran out of time.  So into bags they went and were placed in the freezer with more intentions to can them…sometime.  They are great though.  Pop three of them into a crockpot with half a chopped onion, six cloves of garlic, two cups of pinto beans, six cups of water or broth and some taco seasoning.  Put that baby on high for six hours and enjoy the world’s easiest and mouthwatering dinner.  They simply dissolve into a gorgeous broth.

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Mushrooms get frozen around here because mushrooms canned are a tad slimy for our liking.  They go from freezer to batter to fried in no time or added to pasta sauce or stew.  Out of those too.

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Peppers are particularly fun because all you have to do is cut them in half into little boats, take out the seeds ,and line them up on a cookie sheet, freeze, and layer into a freezer bag.  Enjoy stuffed peppers all winter long.  Once you cook them, they collapse a little and absorb the juices from the filling.  Since my family doesn’t care for stuffed peppers, they are saved for get-togethers.  I still have a ton.

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One year, I grilled slices of eggplant, peppers, zucchini, and onions.  I chopped them up and placed into sandwich bags.  They came out of the freezer as ready-made pizza toppings.  We went through them pretty quickly.  Last year, out of time, I took all the vegetables off of the grill and placed them all into bags.  I did not cut them up.  They are still in the freezer waiting to become some fabulous dish.  But alas, I will probably never defrost them and cut them up.  Prepping in the summer may seem to be a pain when one is already short on time, but so worth it when it comes to leisurely eating all winter!

Frozen zucchini slices are still sitting in the freezer.  Soggy zucchini doesn’t appeal to me.  I probably should wait until they are fresh again.  Anything that turns soggy, like greens, upon defrosting doesn’t make it into the freezer.

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Corn can be shucked and four ears can be placed in a gallon freezer bag.  Simply take out, throw into boiling water for five minutes, butter and salt and enjoy summertime eating in January.

Lastly, any leftover soups or beans are placed in the freezer for later use.  Sometimes we don’t get to that big pot of soup (I am still having trouble figuring out how much to cook) in the next week and it morphs into something entirely different in the back of the fridge.  The chickens love when that happens.  But, if I place it in a freezer bag, mark what it is, and put  in the freezer, I can pop it out, place it in the stock pot, bag and all, and by the time I am ready to make dinner, I just pour it out and heat it up.  Homestead fast food.

What I did though was place bags of screwed up food in there.  I made beans, way too many beans, and put way too much pepper in them.  No one ate them.  I couldn’t bring myself to waste them so I froze them thinking I could “fix” them on the next meal.  Every time I see them in there I turn up my nose.  The chickies are about to have a feast coming up soon.  I need to clean out the freezer.

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The main con is the electricity use.  I have an energy saving model but it doesn’t do me any good when the electricity goes out.  I opened the door to a swimming mess of juices a few weeks ago.  Denial is my friend so I just closed the door and walked away.  I will probably have to tend to that this week!  I don’t eat meat so I don’t worry about half defrosted green pepper halves harming me.  It just irritates me that my ice cream melted.

The freezer can be your friend.  One more homesteading helper to preserve that delicious harvest, whether it be out of your garden or from a local farm’s.  Not having to grocery shop for vegetables mid-winter and the pride of having fed yourself and your family is a pretty great thing!

By the way, I do not blanche any of the above items.  They all keep just fine and if I had to take the time to blanche them, they wouldn’t ever make it to the freezer!  Happy Preserving!