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Food preservation – is it something that you ever think about? Growing up in Maine, and with a mother who had a very large garden, putting up food was something that was always done, jams and jellies were made, vegetables were put in the freezer. Honestly, I never thought about it much though. Knowing there was food in the freezer was a given, knowing that those strawberries we picked in June would be available in February was a given.
When Matt and I got married, I didn’t have the same feelings about food as I do now. I wasn’t really concerned with our food supply, or where I was going to find a good deal on local, in season produce. I was a normal American and I took the availability of food for granted.
Then, in 2006 I started to learn more about local food, and about how far my food travels to get from the farm to my plate (the average is 1500 miles – the fact that I live in Maine and most of our produce comes from California and beyond, I think that average might be a bit further for us). It was at this point that my thinking changed, and I realized that I needed to spend more time learning about food preservation.
Since that time, I have spent a lot of time trying to learn as much as I can about putting up food for winter. Part of it is a cost savings – having food already in my pantry and freezer in the winter helps with meal planning, and I have a lot more options as far as what I can easily make, especially during those very cold months when we are spending a lot on heating oil (a lot on heating oil).
When I saw that Heather from beauty that moves was partnering with Ben Hewitt to put on an e-course called Harvest I knew that I wanted to take it. For a while now I have been canning tomatoes, jams and jellies, pickles, and dilly beans, and I have frozen some things as well. But, there is so much to learn, and any time I have the opportunity to learn more about how I can provide for my family, I jump at it.
What I have gathered is that I have a lot of options as far as food preservation. Just because you don’t have a large garden does not mean that you cannot put food up for the winter. If you have a local farmers’ market you can visit, or a co-op, or even your regular grocery store, you have the opportunity to put food up for the winter.
I often feel defeated when I don’t grow enough food in my own garden to put up, but then I realize that I am so lucky to have other options. I have written in the past about how I can tomatoes every year. It is a big old hot day of canning, and I purchase those tomatoes from a local market. 100 pounds every year in addition to whatever I can grow in my own garden.
However, I’m not sure if I will be able to get all the tomatoes I want this year, or if I want to spend that hot day canning – as we have added children it has become a little more difficult! For my own tomatoes, I plan to wash them and throw them into the freezer. You don’t even need to peel them, but if you prefer to do that, you certainly may, just put in boiling water for 30 seconds, and then in ice water, the skins should peel right off. I personally do not have a problem with the skins staying on because I end up blending the tomatoes when I use them. Plus, it saves me time, and time is incredibly precious!
I haven’t been freezing as much produce recently. Partly because I don’t have a chest freezer, so freezer space is definitely limited, but with all the recalls recently on frozen produce, I have decided to look for some staples for us – peppers and green beans – which are both incredibly easy to freeze.
For peppers all you need to do is cut them up, put them in a freezer bag, and stick them in the freezer. I always freeze our jalapeños whole, because it is easiest. For your green beans, you just need to trim and cut them, and then blanch for 90 seconds in boiling water, then put them in ice water, drain and throw in the freezer. Super easy!
I am looking forward to working on my preservation schedule for the rest of this year. I didn’t get to the Pick Your Own strawberry farm a second time, so I was unable to get enough strawberries for jam, but we still have apples in the fall, which I will most likely turn into a lot of jelly. But, I was able to get about 5 gallons of strawberries into the freezer which will give us strawberries for smoothies for quite a while.
I also plan to talk to my co-op about bulk buying. I want to purchase 20-30 pounds of sweet bell peppers to chop and put in the freezer. We use them for almost every meal in the winter, soups, chili, stir-fry; having those peppers ready to go is a huge time saver.
I mentioned in Monday’s Garden Tour that I was also going to shred some zucchini for the freezer – this is another super easy way to put the bounty of summer away for the cold and dormant months. I ran a bunch of zucchini through the shredding attachment on my kitchen aid mixer, put in sandwich sized plastic bags (which conveniently fit just about 2 cups of shredded zucchini) and then put in a gallon freezer bag and into the freezer they went.
Do you try to put some food up for the winter? It is something you would consider trying?