Friday, July 16, 2010

Freezing, Canning, and Drying the Season

I've got local produce up the wazoo. Back in December, we decided to double our CSA share this summer, figuring we'd store whatever we couldn't eat within a week. We didn't plan on the weather getting so warm so early, with rain at regular intervals. Our haul is easily triple last year's, and I've spent most of the past few Saturdays washing, slicing, blanching, and canning.

Slowly but surely I've been filling our freezer with vegetables. Carrots, spinach, chard, peas, and basil pesto (frozen in single servings) will all come in handy this winter, when I'll be busy wiping up spittle or some such nonsense.

I recently celebrated my thirtieth birthday, and my big present was a dehydrator (which ought to tell you how exciting I am). Last weekend I dried zucchini and summer squash. Though they're not crunchy enough to eat as chips, they're surprisingly sweet, and will make great additions to soup mixes.

Today I'm drying radishes:

You can't freeze 'em, and you can only eat so many fresh before your tongue goes numb. I found this recipe for spicy radish dip that calls for dried, powdered radishes. I also think they'll make neat little spicy croutons.

I've been canning, too. Jam, so far, but come August there will be pickles galore. Jam, pickles, and fruit in syrup went quickly last winter, as gifts and in our own kitchen. Juice concentrates got less use, so I'll likely skip them this year.

Thanks to a late frost, strawberries were fleeting this summer, and I only got in a half dozen jars of jam before they were gone. Raspberries are thriving (my berry man at the farmers' market brags about his "bumpah crop"), and I'll be making another batch of jam tomorrow.

I know this winter I'll be too busy to shop for or prepare healthy food, and I'll be glad I set all this aside. Still, after 7 hours of standing at the sink peeling carrots and shucking peas, I can't help but think what hard work this slow food business is! How did those pioneer women do it without comfortable shoes or running water?

15 comments:

  1. Lovely jams! I'm going to make my first foray into canning this summer. :) Inspiring!

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  2. At least you are finding lots of ways to use up your produce! I would totally make my own jams if I had room to store all the extra jars.

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  3. don't you just love preserving food? it's such a satisfying feeling! So far I've got blueberries, fresh favas, and fresh corn in the freezer, and just yesterday I made up 6 jars of dill pickles. I haven't done any jam this year, but I still have a lot left from last year, so I'm not sure if I'll bother. Unless I get a good pick on the blackberries that are coming in, because blackberry jam is my #1 favorite. The big ones for me are tomatoes and apples, which I can in crazy abundance.... but luckily those come in late summer/fall, so I still have a little down time!

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  4. you are awesome! i cannot imagine for the life of me why you wanted to take a coop ext. canning class- you seem to have it down!! happy canning, and your rasp. jam looks awesome- i'm jealous!

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  5. I am usually to lazy to freeze and can. This is so impressive!

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  6. Great post. I need to learn more about preservation of fresh food. Can't wait to see what you do with the dehydrator.

    and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
    xo
    Eco Mama

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  7. Happy belated birthday! The dehydrator looks rockin--can't wait to read more about it (love all shelves). Canning & saving food for winter is tough work, but so worth it come December.

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  8. Happy birthday! Hey, I'd be pretty excited to have a dehydrator if I could fit any more cooking junk in my little apartment hehe. Love the idea of radish croutons.

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  9. Ooh, I love the idea of dehydrating radishes! And hey, I bought myself an Excalibur for a 25th birthday present last fall, so I'm about as exciting as you are. :) (Happy 30th, too, BTW!)

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  10. Happy belated birthday! A dehyrdator would be a great present, looks like you are putting it to good use already. I love how you are stocking up.

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  11. Mary, you're so smart to do this. After the baby's born sleeping will probably come before eating. You've inspired me to make jam with this Saturday's CSA fruit. Hope you had a swell birthday! :)

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  12. Same feeling over here (in Belgium). This is the first summer I try to can and pickle a lot. Love it, but it takes a lot of time and it's not as foolproof as I hoped it would be. Pickled sugar snaps go slightly brown, lids don't seal the way they should, some recipes let me down (even Jamie Oliver you can't trust blindly) and I'm not sure about how long things wil keep nicely.

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  13. Dora,

    The USDA says you should eat home-canned goods within a year. That's probably good advice. I've never pickled sugar snaps; I have a ton, and I've just been freezing them. Good luck and keep practicing! One of my first batches of jam didn't seal properly. You can either re-process the food or refrigerate it and eat it within 10 days. I've had good luck with everything I've tried out of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

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  14. I don't envy you all the work, but I do envy your abundance of fresh, local, organic CSA produce and all the wonderful goodies you'll be enjoying in the depths of winter!

    Do you pickle things other than cucumbers? I'm a particular fan of dilly beans and pickled asparagus. And we brought back a jar of pickled fiddleheads for Robyn (our house and critter-sitter), which she reports are very good (especially in her Bloody Marys!)

    Happy belated 30th birthday! I think a food dehydrator is a great present! (Ferrari convertibles are overrated.) ;-) Interesting that the dried summer squashes turn out sweet, I wouldn't have guessed that.

    You'll have quite a winter enjoying all the fruits of your summer labors - including the source of that spittle nonsense you'll be busy wiping up! ;-) (That line of yours cracked me up!)

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  15. Wow, I am really impressed at your food storage! Ever since reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I have been wanting to try my hand at it. So far I've only managed to freeze berries though...it's a start!

    I've just happened on your blog today and I'll be bookmarking it. Your photos are gorgeous!

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