Thursday, September 10, 2009

Becoming a Squirrel

This year we planted a few sunflowers in my garden. It was so cool when they were growing- inches taller every day! Some of them had edible seeds, and my kids were so excited to pick their own seeds. But the squirrels got to them first.

It's that time of year. When squirrels, birds, and other animals are stocking up their storehouse for the winter. I re-read the Little House books as an adult, and was amazed at how much of their time and effort went into storing food for the winter. They also put squash and apples up in the loft and ate them fresh all year round! If you have a garden, or a friend who has a garden with abundance, learning the basics of food storage is just a good idea.

Freezing produce is a great plan if you have a deep freeze. Freezer storage bags have come a long way, and there are many sizes to choose from to fit the need of your produce. I love the quart size baggies for cut up tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Just pour a bag into a jar of tomato sauce and you have a yummy garden "fresh" sauce for your pasta. Slice peppers and onions for use in stir fry or fajitas. You can even freeze peppers whole and use for stuffed peppers later- just defrost under running water! Don't forget to blanch them first to get rid of any bacteria- stick in boiling water for 10 sec then immediately into an ice bath. Dry off and freeze. Peeling the skin off the tomatoes makes the finished product much tastier, as well!

I also spend some time at the food processor making baby food, if I know that's going to be a need in the next year. Cook up the food (squash, carrots, peas, etc) and throw it in there. I love the small 1/2 cup size plastic containers for this. Some folks freeze in ice cube trays then pop them into a gallon size baggie.

Canning is another great way to preserve your produce. You can literally can anything, if you have the proper instructions. Last summer I took some jars to a friends' house and she showed me how to use a pressure canner. It's so much faster than the water bath method! I have canned fruit syrups, pickels, salsa, and marinara sauce. I'm waiting find a good deal on a used pressure canner. At that point, I will also be able to can fruit, beans, and anything else I can think of!

There are so many ways of preparing and preserving our garden produce for use throughout the year. And I haven't even mentioned my food dehydrator! There's no reason to let the bugs or the composte pile have the food that could be feeding your family in January.

Preserving websites to get you started:
Fresh Preserving
General Info (and pick-your-own directory)

Now, the next time your neighbor brings you a sack full of tomatoes, you'll know what to do with them!

1 comment: