Reaping the fruits of labor for later

Gardening is always a “grand experiment” and this past season was no different.

Gardening is always a “grand experiment” and this past season was no different.

In this article I thought I would share how we used different preserving methods to fill the pantry and the freezer for winter use and gifts. In our family everyone helps with these processes. The children have sliced peaches and filled jars while standing on a chair at young ages. Now our oldest granddaughter, at 4 years old, is helping her mother cut apricots to dry. What a wonderful legacy of preserving food we can share with our children and these skills don’t have to become “lost arts.”

Cold Storage

For root vegetables, apples, pumpkins, squashes, etc.

Store in a garage (off the cement floor) or mulched in garden.

Root cellars don’t work in our area because of the high water table.

We stored a couple of Cinderella pumpkins and Hubbard squashes that we grew in the garden. This year I purchased 100 pounds of red potatoes, 50 pounds of onions and more than enough golden delicious apples. These were all put into our cold storage closet that is attached to our house, but has doors that open on the outside on our porch.

Freezing

Supplies: freezer plastic bags and plastic containers.

Most main dishes can be frozen.

Fruit: whole berries and sliced fruits prepped for pies, smoothies, etc.

Vegetables: Most need to be blanched before freezing. See Ball book for times.

Herbs: whole, chopped and frozen, or pureed in olive oil or water.

The garden had an extra-big harvest of sugar snap peas that we blanched and froze, along with sliced and blanched zucchini. I love to do a stir fry with these added to the winter vegetables – onions, cabbage and carrots – to bring that “summer” taste into some meals.

Another thing that we can never have enough of is pesto. We grow a 4 foot by 8 foot bed of basil every year and make pesto to freeze. We like it on pasta, French bread, baked or steamed potatoes, cooked vegetables and even toast. All right even right off the spoon. Oh, my!

We were very blessed to find some new places in the Yakima area for peaches and nectarines this year. The nectarines were too good and were all eaten fresh. But some of the peaches were slices and frozen for smoothies. We were able to pick raspberries and wild blackberries. Right about now I really think a berry cobbler would be wonderful for next Sunday’s dinner.

Dehydrating:

“Dry it – You’ll Like it!” by Gen Macmaniman

www.budget101.com/dehydrated_foods.htm

www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/2003-06-01/Choosing-a-Food-Dehydrator.aspx

Herbs: whole or sliced.

Fruits and vegetables sliced.

Roll-ups: pureed fruit, sweetened with stevia, honey or sugar, if desired.

Jerky: thinly slice meat, marinate and season, dry.

Supplies: Dehydrator, containers for storing dried foods, heavy plastic wrap for roll-ups.

The dehydrator sure took care of that huge amount of zucchini that comes in all at once. The dried tomatoes are one of my favorites for that special “gourmet touch” to breads, soups and sauces. We love almost all kinds of soups and have at least one kind weekly.

We also dry a lot of peaches and apples. This past year we didn’t make applesauce, we just dried the apples. The peaches are like snacking on a bit “sunshine.” I took a bowl of lightly roasted almonds, dried apples and apricots to a Mom’s night and they were gobbled up fast. The dried apricots were a special gift from our daughter in Utah who is just starting to preserve foods.

Canning:

www.homecanning.com/

canningusa.com/

www.youcancan.blogspot.com/

www.pomonapectin.com/

Supplies: canners (water bath, pressure or steamer), canning jars, lids and rings, jar lifting tongs, magnetic lid lifter and jar funnel.

The kind of canner you use will depend on what you are canning.

Fruits, jams, pickles or other high acid foods – water bath canner or steamer canner.

Vegetables, soups, beans, meats – pressure canner, not pressure cooker.

Last year’s crops of tomatoes hardly had enough for us to eat fresh, let alone can. When we were in Yakima, Jacob, Emily and I picked them at a “You Pick” farm. Then we came home and made roasted tomato sauce and lots of salsa. We also canned 33 quarts of green beans from a friend’s bumper crop and 99 quarts of peaches in a light syrup. This syrup made from 8 cups water to 1 cup sugar, has just enough sugar not to draw out any sweetness from the fruit.

There are berries in the freezer awaiting our winter jam making. We have used Pomona Pectin for almost 20 years now because you can decide how much sugar or sweetener you want to use and it always tastes so fresh. I like to use 8 cups of fruit to 4 cups white sugar and usually quadruple the batch, and then steamer can the jars for 10 minutes.

We also love to make jalapeno jelly, relishes, pickles, and sauces. They are great gifts and they don’t have to be made every year, as long as we don’t run out.

Kristine Farley lives in Bonney Lake on a mini-farm with her family. Her Web site is www.kristinef.com. She can also be contacted at kristinef@clearwire.net or Herbal Momma’s School of Domestic Arts Blog, http://herbalmommasda.blogspot.com/

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