Preserving Food- Dehydrating

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Remember last year I had a lovely young woman live with us during the summer?  Annie helped me out immensely and we have missed her since she has moved.  She and her long time boyfriend (my daughter, Emily’s fiance’s brother) are expecting their second little one in a few months, a baby girl named Alice.  They are moving to California after Emily and Reed’s wedding.  She came to visit me yesterday, which was such a treat.  We talked about how easy the gardening will be there and how nice for them to be near her family.  We recalled how she moved in a week from now a year ago and how she had just missed the mulberries.  We grabbed quart jars to head out and harvest but the weather had another idea, as the clouds opened and poured down heavy, nourishing rain.  We came inside and started the cheese instead.  I will be out there right after I finish this post getting those delicious mulberries!  Today I am making juice to can.

One of the main things to remember about being a homesteader is that you have to act quickly.  You have to be ready to drop everything and harvest all those berries, or eat all the lettuce before it bolts, or get a windfall preserved before it all goes bad.  There are many ways to preserve produce, including canning, freezing, and dehydrating.

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I highly recommend you get an Excalibur dehydrator.  They are top of the line, work forever, consistent work horses on the farm.  When we lost everything four years ago, I sold mine for $50.  Oy, the lament!  I must get a new one soon.

I have tried air drying.  Old fashioned, effective.  The ants love it when I air dry produce.  I placed peach halves dipped in lemon juice and water (so they don’t brown) onto screens laid across an indoor clothes drying rack and placed it outside.  The ants just scampered themselves right up the legs.  I sprinkled cinnamon on the apples after dipping them in the lemon juice/water mixture.  Ants love cinnamon.

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Last year I lined cookie sheets with tomato halves and put them in the oven at the lowest setting.  They turned real crispy but not all the way dehydrated.  I put them all in olive oil in the fridge for sun dried tomatoes, but they are not the same consistency as when I used a proper dehydrator.

There are plenty of trays in a dehydrator and an amazing motor in the Excalibur.  It allows you to choose the temperature you desire.  In one of our old homesteads, I didn’t have a lot of counter space so the dehydrator sat out on the front porch humming for weeks at a time churning out tomatoes, apples, peaches, dried onions, and anything else I could think of!

You can dehydrate any vegetable and simply throw by the handful into soups or grind into seasonings.  Tomatoes and mushrooms can be rehydrated in a cup of hot water.  Dehydrated foods take up less space and are convenient.  My husband loves dried fruit.  I can never get it to the consistency of the store (because they use a preservatives) so mine are more chewy and act more like bubble gum.  Delicious to chew on until you can swallow it.  You can leave fruits still moist, just pop in the refrigerator or freezer.  Any moisture will make them mold.  You an also make jerky.

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Variety is the key to a successful homestead.  Lots of different fruits and vegetables and different ways to preserve them keep winter suppers interesting, delicious, and oh so nutritious!  While you are canning, blanching and freezing, and harvesting, the dehydrator just hums in the background doing its part on the homestead.

 

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!)

How to Be a Homesteader- Canning

The smell of wet soil fills the morning air as the droplets of rain drip from leaves of trees.  The mulberries are formed and will be ready to eat warm off the tree in a few weeks.  The peas have flowers that will turn into pods and the potato plants have the prettiest flowers of all.  It is lovely snipping leaves of arugula and romaine.  The baby ice berg leaves are crisp and delicious.  Snips of herbs bring life to salads and soups.

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There are more than three dozen tomato plants set out from seed in the gardens.  Eggplant and lots of red chilies.  We eat fabulously in late spring, summer, and fall, but what about the rest of year?  Today we will talk about canning!

Walking downstairs into our “grocery store” is beyond satisfying.  Rows of garnet, green, and golden jars of captured summer line shelves.  I can a few hundred jars of produce a year.  When the kids were home, I canned three times that!

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You will need a water bath canner and a pressure canner.  Acidic foods, like tomatoes and fruit, only need to be canned in the simple boiling water canner.  Foods like green beans, broth, and corn need the pressure canner.  Never fear!  The pressure canners of today are not your grandmother’s canner (the cause of many a bean explosion across the ceiling).  The new ones do not explode.  Everything is super easy to use once you get the hang of it.

You will need a canning book.  Bell puts out one regularly and there are lots of unique canning books available in book stores and online.  I still love my old, old ones.  I had a annoying housewife tell me that I would poison myself with it, but I haven’t had any issues, and if it was good enough for the old folks, it’s good enough for me.

You will need canning accessories.  They make life amazing!  I used to use wooden spoons haphazardly to try and pull jars from the boiling water cause I like to do things the hard way.  A funnel, proper jar lifting tongs, and a cool magnetic wand to pick up lids out of boiling water are all included in the box for cheap.

You don’t need to boil the jars.  They can come hot out of a dishwasher or simply line them in the sink and pour boiling water over and in them.  The idea is to make sure they are clean and hot so the hot liquids and boiling water in the canner doesn’t shock the bottom off the jar.  You can reuse jars.  Just get a box of new lids.  I have noted that the third time I use the jars for canning is usually the time one of the bottoms breaks off.

Try to bring in help.  I rarely have help but when I do get a few people together with a stack of corn and a bottle of wine, it all goes super fast and is a lot of fun.  Many hands make light work was definitely quoted by a homesteader.

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The loveliest part of the whole process is hearing that glorious pop-pop-pop of lids sealing their contents as they sit on a towel after you remove them from the pot.  Lining them up on shelves is also fun.  Stepping back and watching your own grocery store fill is really great.  And not going out in a snow storm because you preserved all of your own (or a nearby farm’s) produce for winter is really nice.  It is time to bring back this incredibly important art.

I have zillions of recipes on this blog for canning.  I think I have covered everything from pinto beans to beets to corn to broth, tomatoes…  Just type in the search “canning ____” and see what pulls up.  Happy canning!

 

Southwestern Chow-chow and Red Chile Corn Broth (2 ways to preserve corn)

20180821_153940 It is corn season!  I have put up two large bags of sweet corn from a farm ten minutes from here.  My neighbor came over on her lunch break for some coffee and I put her to work.  She had never shucked corn before but as we sipped our coffee she laughed as we removed corn worms and pieces of corn silk fell on her nicely pressed clothes.  Many hands make light work.  The more folks learn that those activities of old that take more time actually create a sense of peace of mind and calm that cannot be duplicated on social media, the more our generations will begin picking up a sewing needle, canning, and calling friends over to make soap.

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I put up ten pints of basic corn, ten pints of cinnamon sugar corn, and seven half-pints of Southwestern chow-chow.  “What is that?” you ask.  I have no idea, I made it up.  You see, I was going to make Amish chow-chow, apparently also a southern favorite, and went to following a recipe (not my strong point).  I had green peppers.  Then it called for red peppers, except my peppers haven’t turned red yet, but I did have a poblano and an Anaheim green chili in the garden.  So those went in instead.  I don’t love a lot of onion so I cut that amount down sharply.  No garlic?  Now, now, we must have garlic.  Three cloves.  By the time I was done I had a corn relish indeed, and it smelled heavenly, but it was made from a southwestern garden and it shows!

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Southwestern Relish (Chow-chow)

4 cups of corn

2 large green peppers, diced

2 poblano or green chili peppers, diced

1/8-1/4 cup of red onion, diced

3 stalks of celery, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3/4 cup of sugar

1 Tbsp sea salt

1 Tbsp smoked salt (optional)

1 Tbsp mustard powder

1 ts celery salt

1/2 ts of turmeric

2 cups of apple cider vinegar

Put everything but the corn in a good sized pan and boil for 5 minutes.  Add the corn and boil another 5 minutes.  Pour into 1/2 pints or pint jars leaving 3/4 inch headspace.  Clean rims, replace warm lids.  Water bath boil (in any old pot with water covering jars) for 15 minutes plus 1 minute per 1000 ft above sea level (I live at 4500 ft so I just round up to an extra 5 minutes.)  Makes 8 pints.

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Now we have a pile of corn cobs sky high on the counter.  The chickens love them but there is more to do to them before the chickies get ’em.  I already made several pints of plain, good, clear corn broth for soups and cooking throughout the winter but I want something in the root cellar with a little spunk.  So, I made several quarts of red chile corn broth.  And it is simple enough.

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Red Chile Corn Broth- Just pile up a large stew pot with corn cobs, onion, celery, a head of garlic, an onion, and a good helping of dried chili (red or green).  Add a bit of salt and pepper (you’ll add more seasoning as you cook with it so you don’t need much).  Fill it with water and simmer it for 2 hours.  Then ladle it into clean, warm quart jars leaving 1 inch headspace.  Clean the rim and replace the lid.  Pressure can for 25 minutes.  (10 pounds of pressure for most folks, all the weights for us high altituders.)

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Mama mia!  This is when I need an army of friends to help me clean up this kitchen!

 

How to Can Beets

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“I dropped the beets!” one of the farm workers at the stand said.

“This is how you drop the beat!” Doug replied and promptly started beat boxing.  He had the rest of the folks behind the table curled over laughing.  I laughed thinking about it as I loaded my beets into a bag at the market.  It is beet canning week. (Now the beat boxing pops into my head every time I say the word!)

Having canned beets means quick Borscht, throw a jar into a blender with yogurt and cucumber and dill.  It means salad toppings.  It means an easy, pretty side dish at the table during any season.

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We have talked plenty about how to pickle beets but not about how to just can them as is.  First boil the beets after removing greens (save these for smoothies and other dishes you would use greens in.  They are delicious.)  Boil for 40 minutes.  Cool a bit then under water peel off skins.

Do put your apron on.  The beets want a complete red society and they are coming after your favorite white shirt.

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Pour boiling water from a kettle into jars.  Put lids in a bowl, pour boiling water over.  This is how I sterilize.  My jars are clean, I just need to get them hot and rinsed out good with boiling water.  Swish the water around and empty.  Put funnel on top and pour in diced beets to one inch from top.  Gently push down veggies or shake jar to make more room.

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Now here is where we can do fun variations.  In some of them I just did plain beets so I can improvise later.  In three of them I added a thick slice of peeled orange.  In the remaining one I only had enough beet to fill it half way so I added a diced apple.

They all get a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  The fruit ones got vanilla salt, the rest got good sea salt.  A tablespoon of brown sugar went into the fruit ones as well as a splash of orange juice to enhance the flavor.

Heat that kettle up again and pour water into jars to 1 inch from top.  Use a knife to jiggle around the sides and the water will lower while releasing air.  Add more water to one inch headspace.

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Have a pressure canner with 3 inches of water heating up on the stove without lid.  Run a damp paper towel over the rims of the jars and replace lids.  Place in pot.  Put lid on.  Most of y’all are going to do 10 pounds of pressure but in our high altitude we have to use all the weights all the time.  When the thing starts sounding like a bomb, or salsa music, start shaking your hips and time 30 minutes plus 1 minute for every 100o feet above sea level you are.

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Always wait for pressure to release before opening the lid.  Remove stained glass-like jars and admire on a towel on the counter.  Enjoy whenever you want!

3 Jars of Pickles (canning a little at a time and a pickle recipe)

There is nothing saying that canning has to take all day.  Preparation, a zillion jars, boxes of veggies, apron donned, friends over.  You are every bit as efficient if you are able to can a few things at a time on a whim.

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Do you remember my interns from a few years back?  Ethan and Stephanie would bring in a bunch of green beans every day.  And then some more at night sometimes.  I often prefer canned green beans and we could only eat so many fresh.  Now, I was accustomed to ordering two bushels of green beans from a farmer family of mine.  In a two day whirlwind I would put up enough green beans for winter so what was I going to do with all of my beans?

I wanted to teach the young interns to can so we put up a few jars.  It didn’t take any time at all and then every day we just canned a few more and pretty soon the entire larder was filled with that exceptional summer of green beans and I never did have to order green beans to put up!

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That summer changed my perception on canning.  If things are harvested today or are fresh right now and you are not going to eat them now, can them.  It all adds up.  Sunday I was perusing the farmers market tables taking in all the bounty and color (mind you the only thing in season in Colorado right now is asparagus and spinach, everything else got shipped in from California….) and saw the cutest, crispest looking little cucumbers.  I had never seen that particular varietal so I brought them home.  They just filled two 12 ounce jars and one pint jar.  That is three jars of pickles off my list of larder needs.

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Easy Pickles

Holding jar at an angle place cucumbers around the edges and in the center, finagling the puzzle until they all fit snug and are ends up (doesn’t matter which end).  Or slice into 1/2 rounds and place in jars.  There should be one inch head space still.

Fill clean jar of cucumbers 1/2 way up with vinegar (I used my friend, HotRod’s homemade malt vinegar).

Add 1 teaspoon each of dried dill (dill isn’t in season yet), mustard seeds, celery seeds, and sea salt.

Add a smidge of hot red pepper flakes if you wish.  Maybe a clove of garlic.  A half teaspoon of sugar.  Your choice.  It’s fun to play with flavors.  It doesn’t change the recipe.

Fill to 1/2 inch headspace with water.  Run a damp wash rag over the rim and then replace lids.

Place in a canning or stew pot of hot water.  Water level has to cover jars.  You can put a towel between the jars to keep from clinking.  Bring to boil and boil 5 minutes plus 1 minute for every 1000 feet above sea level.  So, I did 11 or 12 minutes.  Remove from pot and let sit on counter overnight.  You will hear that lovely “click”, a favorite sound among homesteaders.  The pickles are done in a few months.  Label date and contents.

NOTE: Pour boiling water from a kettle into jars to rinse them out.  Put lids in a bowl and pour boiling water over them.  That is all you need to do.  The whole idea is to have clean, hot jars.  That does the trick.

Happy Canning!

Homestead Anywhere and How to Preserve Rhubarb

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This sentiment is going around facebook and I read some of the comments.  Impossible.  You need at least so many acres.  Too hard of work.  But it isn’t all or nothing, folks. We are all where we are supposed to be through circumstances of decision or fate.  I am in an incredibly urban environment right now, decidedly un-homesteady.  But, there are still many things I can do to homestead because the result is so delightful.  I will have a freezer stocked with nutritious food, a gallery of canned goods in the living room, healthy drinks at the ready, flowers and herbs and a community garden.  No one is an island, Lord we learned that on our last farm and we’ll remember it on our next, but it isn’t all or nothing.  One can homestead anywhere.

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Putting up rhubarb, for instance.  A reward all year!  Aunt Donna had us over to harvest some of that delicious, crisp summer treat, a celebration of getting through winter, a testament to survival, a perfect meal to surprise folks with at Christmas should you have any left!  I have mentioned it before but it bears repeating how Aunt Donna taught me to put it up.  I have canned it and it is good, syrupy and soft and still quite fine, but the easiest way, and the way to keep it crisp and fresh as the day one snaps it off at its base, is to freeze it.

Cut stalks, discarding far ends and rogue strings, into 1/2 inch chunks.  4 cups of rhubarb go into a quart sized freezer bag.  Now, don’t skimp, you know how cheap trash bags are….same with freezer bags, get the good zippered ones.  I despise freezer burn.

Add 1 cup of sugar.  Zipper to one inch then suck the air of the bag with your lips and finish closing it.  Label and freeze.  One large bag yielded enough to share and 5 quarts of frozen rhubarb.  Thank you, Aunt Donna!

It was lovely to have a glass of my own homemade raspberry mint kombucha while chopping.  For dinner we had a pile of freshly harvested dandelions prepared in a Cherokee fashion  with crisp bacon (from a local heritage pig farm) and the fat from the pan poured over the cold, tart greens sprinkled with salt.

Self sufficiency on any level is quite nice.

 

Pressure Canner (homesteading necessity, chicken stock recipe, and buying only what you need)

We are slowly building our life and items we need back up.  We just purchase what we need as cash allows.  Last night we joyfully added to the cart a few imperative homesteading items.  A pressure canner (when the lid is off it’s a water bath canner), jars, stock pot, and canning gear.

First things first, chicken stock.  I am shocked at how much organic stock costs.  Here is my recipe for it should you need it from a prior blog post.

Click here for recipe

I am heading to my Great Aunt Donna’s for rhubarb this weekend.  And the hunt is on for everything I can get my hands on to can.  Rows of organic canned goods are amazing to have on hand any time of the year, goodness without listeria, E Coli, or whatever the heck else is in our food system.  Great, delicious, wonderful home grown food….oh, I am getting carried away.  Stock, that is where I was at…

My old pantry

The Farmers’ Market (true tales)

There are two kinds of people at the farmers’ market.  The first one comes up to the farmer’s booth and says, “Where is the corn?”  He/she will kindly reply that it is May.  Geez, it snowed last week, where the heck would corn come from?  Here it is June and people are demanding peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers because it is summer.  Many, many people have truly lost sight of where their food comes from, what season food grows in, or who grows it.  The above customer will then say something like, “What kind of farmer’s market is this?  There aren’t any apples?”  Many farmers early in the season will buy from their friends on other farms.  Remember, farmers know each other.  There is a lot of camaraderie among those that make their living out of dirt.  The farm I follow around doing markets with and also my friends, Miller Farms, will buy produce for the early markets, all pesticide free from reputable farmers in their circle from California to fill in the tables.  We have a very short growing season here, and our first crops just coming up.  Of course, we had a very late freeze and snow in May, so now everything is a tad behind.  By bringing in healthy produce at a reasonable price, much lower than the grocery store, the farmer stays in business while waiting for their own fields to ripen, and the customer gets delicious, well priced food.

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The second kind of person that comes to the farmers’ markets is a bit more educated on seasons.  They say with just a touch of sarcasm and irritation, “Green peppers…..in June?”  They know the jig is up.  They know the pepper plants are only a wee foot tall, just starting their petite white flowers that will turn into delicious summer eating in August.  They will turn their nose up and leave the market.  And go to the grocery store, where the food was trucked in from California or Mexico.  My friend who owns the farm, Christine, said once while we watched someone walk away, “They head straight to the grocery store to buy the same thing (only often with pesticides on them) instead of buying from me.  They want farms to survive so why don’t they just support us?”  They won’t disappoint.  Their tables will be heavy with fresh pesticide-free produce from their own fantastic farm.

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Another sect of farmers’ market growers sadly included myself before I started doing markets.  The bargain shopper.  The deal maker.  The try to cut costs.  I have been joking at the market when people ask for a deal, “I already make fifty cents an hour!”  My first week as a farmer at the markets has been brutal.  Wake well before dawn and fall into bed (or close to it) at eleven.  I am sunburned, wind burnt, have two tons of food to put up today, exhausted.  The farm needs tending to.  I work non-stop to make sure there is enough on the tables to give people what they want.  Nancy has done the same thing.  No deal, you will pay the five bucks and like it!

Farmers’ markets are a wonderful thing and it is fine moment during this time that they are ever so popular and trendy because it is an excellent way to bring the goods you make to people that will enjoy them.  Support your local farmers and farms.  Thank them for what they do.  Appreciate the dirt beneath their fingernails, their messy houses until January, their heart and soul that is so passionate for growing food and making homestead items that they will work non-stop for you.  They live for market season.  They are a class amongst themselves.  We recognize each other in stores.  We bicker, support, and feel like we are all one family.  Market people make farmers’ markets a place to take the family on the weekend, to grocery shop in the open air, and to feed your family wholesome food and fill your home with unique and lovely items.  We are a fun and interesting bunch.

I bought a case of Roma tomatoes from Miller farms and a box of pickling cucumbers.  The tomatoes are rubbed with olive oil to preserve them longer.  They were grown in a green house.  They will be turned into pints of diced tomatoes today.  The cucumbers are ready to become pickles.  Cucumbers here will be ready at the end of July but I need to get a head start on canning for the winter because we are now becoming a full time farm and moving our Apothecary to our house so we need to have our larder stocked up to brimming so that will be one less thing to worry about.  I froze several bags of broccoli this week and will put up several jars of tomatoes and pickles.  Will that be enough?  Not even close but I will be a dozen jars ahead of myself when the produce starts flowing through the door like the Nile.

Get Your Tomato On

Wash tomatoes.  Cut an X over the top of the tomatoes and place in boiling water until the skin starts to crack.  Transfer to cold water and peel.  (This is all real messy business, but so worth it!)  Dice and place in clean, hot canning jar (I simply cut corners and pour boiling water over them rather than boiling in a pot.) until it comes to the shoulder.  Add one tablespoon of lemon juice for a pint, two for a quart and top with tomato juice or water.  Use a knife around the edges trying to get those pesky air bubbles out and make sure you have water up above the tomatoes leaving a half inch to the very top of the jar.  Replace lid, making sure that the rim is clean so the lid sticks good.  Boil in a large pot with water covering the jar for 35 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts.  Add one minute for every 1000 feet above sea level you live.  So here on the high plains of Colorado I need to boil my pints for 42 minutes.  Set on towel on counter and let cool off.  You should hear the joyous sound of lids popping and sealing in that early summer taste.  Label your jars and store in cool dark place.

www.millerfarms.net

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.

zucchini

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.

smoke signals

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.

beans

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!