Monday, October 15, 2007

Preserving the Bounty

We had a wonderful time talking with people at the Westside Community Farmers' Market on Saturday, thank you to all of you who stopped by to chat! For those of you who couldn't make it, following is some info on the gadgets and gizmos we use and what we preserve.

First is the best book I know of for info on home preservation, Putting Food By. This book can tell you how to freeze cherries, dry apples and can shrimp--not that I would ever, ever do the latter!

Freezing

We freeze tomato sauce, berries (pureed into sauce), corn, chicken stock (not exactly a produce crop but made throughout the year), bread and pesto. We have a small chest freezer that we fill to capacity and we have a friend who generously lets us use the empty half of her GIANT chest freezer. The freezers run more efficiently when full so that is a win-win situation for us both. When shopping for a freezer check the Energy Star rating and think about how full you can keep it. Freezers start around $300.

Drying

We use an old American Harvest / Nesco food dehydrator, I am not sure if they make the model we have anymore but if you follow the link you will see the current offerings. I have seen them for as little at $15 on eBay. Ours has a thermostat, fan and 5 stacking, dishwasher safe trays as well as a fruit leather insert. We dry mostly berries, tomatoes and peppers. You haven't lived until you have crunched a styrofoam feeling raspberry in your teeth in February and then jumped for joy at the explosion of taste on your tongue! When looking for a dehydrator a thermostat is not essential, a fan is. Drying times vary enormously and it is hard to mess up food drying so stick some food in, check it occasionally and take it out when you think it looks and tastes right! We store our dried food in ziploc bags in the freezer. We don't want any residual moisture causing mold over the next six months. Our peppers we store on the shelf, they never seem to go moldy.

Canning

We can tomatoes and tomato products (ketchup, chutney etc.) during a tomato-heavy year, but usually we just can applesauce. We use regular old mason jars, most purchased at thrift stores. A brand-new dozen of jars and lids is around $15 depending on where you get them. Woodmans, your local hardware store, Willy St. Co-op and Farm and Fleet are all good locations to find canning supplies. We recommend a canning funnel and a jar lifter to make life easier. You can use a standard water bath canner with rack or you can use any big ol' pot that can fit you jars plus 1 inch of water. You will need to keep your jars off the bottom of the pot, we have used triangles of aluminum flashing under each jar with good success.

The "canning" part of canning is easy, whether you do water or pressure, the previously mentioned "Putting Food By" will walk you through every step. For us, it is preparing the food to be canned where we have made the most use of gadgets! After years of using a hand-cranked food mill (with good success but tired muscles) we bought the KitchenAid Food Strainer and Grinder. It has revolutionized applesauce making in this family. It attaches to the PTO on our KitchenAid stand mixer and we can pour in cooked apples (or tomatoes) and the skins and seeds come out one side and smooth, beautiful sauce comes out the other--brilliant!

Preserving food is about thinking ahead and being the ant instead of the grasshopper. Some years we are better about it than others. Preserving the bounty is part of the work of eating locally, it is also part of the fun! Let us know what you are preserving this year!

2 comments:

denise said...

"Let us know what you are preserving this year!"

Well, I am going to drive you nuts with all my comments today! :)

This year we have been working on preserving more. So far here is what we have:

- dried herbs from our garden & csa
- frozen batches of fresh pesto
- frozen fruit (strawberries & raspberries)
- raspberry syrup
- strawberry freezer jam
- applesauce
- boiled cider
- apple butter
- dried peppers
- dried mini tomatoes in olive oil
- pickled garlic
- pickles
- purple saurkraut
- making cider/hard cider from apples
- dried apples
- today making tomato sauce with last of our roma's
-today roasting variety of squash to freeze


Wow. Seems like a nice list. We have been just doing it as we go all summer so doesn't feel like so much.

Candace said...

So far this year I made and canned grape jelly and raspberry jam with grapes and raspberries from Carandale farm. This is a great post, I'm new to preserving food and looking for more ideas. Thanks!