This time of year, it is all about taking care of the produce from the garden. Fortunately, the crops do not ripen at the same time and, although we eat everything once it is ready, some crops need to be taken care of within a short time frame.
Time to Preserve our Harvest
We started harvesting rhubarb in May. I froze some and cooked jam. Then, the rhubarb was followed by strawberries in June. We ate as much as we could fresh, and cooked jam of what we didn’t eat. I like to start the day with a slice of bread with strawberry jam, so is therefore a cherished produce for me.
In July, more crops were ready for preserving. Berries like blackcurrants, raspberries, and gooseberries had to be taken care of. On top of that, the tomatoes started to ripen, and with about 65 plants, we have a lot more than we can eat fresh. Similarly, squash and beans are harvested regularly. Both plants produce abundantly and need preservation for storage. All in all, there is a lot of food that needs our attention right now.
Previously, I’ve frozen berries in their natural state and blanched vegetables for freezing. That is a good way to store food, but when you grow a lot, like we do, it takes up a lot of freezer capacity. With the electricity bills we have these days, that means storing food will be expensive. Therefore, I have searched for ways to store food that doesn’t need a freezer.
Through YouTube I’ve discovered that there are several ways to keep food for a longer period of time without taking up valuable freezer space. One method is canning. I have canned fruit on a relatively low scale, but now I’ve started making more jams, jellies, and juices, as well as cooking tomato sauce for canning. On top of that, I have tried drying, pickling, and fermenting for the first time.
Drying Berries and Squash
It has been a very good year for berries and as a result, our shelves are filling up with juices and jams. But in a household with two adults, there is a limit to how much jam we can consume. It also requires a lot of canning containers and shelf space.
As an alternative, I have tried drying berries this year. The strawberries and gooseberries turned out amazingly. The blackcurrants took a very long time to dry, and I think they dried too much. I doubt they are supposed to be hard because both the strawberries and gooseberries turned out soft like raisins.
Maybe I’ll do it again and cut a slice in the berries before drying. After all, I’ve read that drying blackcurrants is supposed to be the best way of preserving the nutrition and vitamins in the berries.
Furthermore, I’ve also dried a good amount of squash. I’m beginning to discover more ways to use squash in my cooking and we particularly love the lemon squash bread that I found a recipe for on the Internet. Later, I will find out how I can use the dried squash to make the cake.
Fermenting and pickling
Fermenting is new to me, but apparently and old way of preserving food. I had a quick, but unsuccessful go at fermenting a jar of cabbage last year, which I ended up pouring out because I feared the cabbage had not been properly covered by the liquid. After looking at videos on YouTube and read descriptions on how to ferment I feel I am more prepared. So far, I have fermented a jar of beans in addition to some squash. I found a recipe for fermenting squash (In Norwegian) which I have followed.
I have also pickled a few jars of squash from a recipe (in Swedish) that said the result would be good with barbequed meet. That proved to be true and we have already consumed most of my first production. Since the squashes continue to produce, I plan to make a few more jars of pickled squash.
I have cooked tomato sauce for many years, but I have always frozen the sauces. This year, however, I’ve opted for canning. I’ve chosen to peel off the tomato skin and cook sauces ready with spices and all. A video from That 1870’s Homestead as well as suggestions from the Pro Home Cooks were my main sources for inspiration.
Since tomatoes ripen gradually, I had already frozen a selection, so that when I started making sauce, I could cook a large amount at one time.
Then, I water bathed the glasses for 45 minutes, which I saw recommended at a website. I guess the time is supposed to prevent botulism, since tomatoes apparently don’t contain as much acid as fruit and berries.
After doing my first batch of tomato sauce I’ve read that I also could have added acid, like lemon juice. Since I still have a lot of tomatoes to process, I’ll try that the next time.
It is fun trying out new ways of preserving food. The next step is for me is to find ways to use the food that I haven’t had before.
If anyone out there have any good suggestions in how to use dried and fermented food, I will certainly be happy to hear from you. And recipes will be greatly appreciated.
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