Monday, July 18, 2011

Putting Food Up

Eating food that is locally grown or grown in your own garden year round takes advance planning and regular attention. You have to make sure you harvest enough food in the summer months to eat now and eat through the winter. Then once you've harvested it all you have to "put it up" so that it will last for the winter. This might be freezing, canning, drying or storing in a root cellar. In our household we do all of these. Ihave found it needs to become part of your weekly routine just like doing laundry or picking up our CSA share. Each week I freeze, can, dry and store food for later while my family enjoys the rest fresh from the garden.

FoodSaver with jar attachment
The week started with a harvest of raspberries from our garden and Currants from Many Hands Farm Corp CSA. So I made a big batch of freezer raspberry/currant freezer jam.

Blueberry season arrived and we were able to get local blueberries through Red Fire Farm. I then froze half the blueberries. You don't need to do anything special to freeze blueberries. Just put them in a freezer safe container, seal them and toss in the freezer. To avoid both plastic and freezer burn I freeze things in glass ball jars. I use a FoodSaver to vaccum seal the jars before I freeze them. Vacuum sealing will make food that is frozen last twice as long. The second step was to water can some of the blueberries. To do this we cooked the blueberries in some light syrup just long enough to warm them all the way through. Then I put them in sterilized canning jars and water canned them. These can go down in the dark cool root cellar andwill make a really yummy treat during those cold winter days. I then made a big batch of blueberry muffins, some for now and some to freeze and another batch of freezer jam.

Atreyu canning green beans
Next came the bean harvest. In my garden we have long French green beans, purple beans, heirloom green beans and sugar snap peas. The kids and I have been able to harvest a big basket of beans twice a week. The snap peas were steamed to blanch them and frozen. They keep well this way and preserve a lot of their fresh flavor. The next task was to cut the ends of all those green beans and steam blanch and water can them with some salt. My son Atreyu, age 11, took on this task for me. These can go down in the root cellar for winter. The last batch of bean this week was preserved by salting (see directions below).

This week I made a batch of pickles, dried herbs and frozen a large batch of Kale and Swiss Chard. The harvest is shaping up well and preserving food, "putting it up", is just becoming part of our household routine. It's almost, I dare say, fun.

Preserving Bean in Salt
To do this you need a crock.
  1. Sterilized the crock 
  2. Put a 1 inch layer of sliced or whole raw beans. 
  3. Liberally sprinkle with kosher or canning salt. 
  4. Repeat until you're out of beans
  5. Put a plate on top to weight the beans down
  6. Cover with good muslin or a towel and leave it be
(The salt draws the moisture out of the beans, making a brine that preserves them. When you're ready to eat them, scoop out some beans, rinse several times, cook, and eat. Keep in a cool place.)

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