Preserving the Harvest

I have had a lot of questions lately about how do we extend the harvest, so I thought I would do a quick over view of different methods to do this. There are a few different methods: freezing, canning, dehydrating, or storing properly. I have and do all four of these methods depending on my different needs. I determine these needs with a simple question…how do I use this item throughout the year?

When I ask myself how do I use garlic throughout the year, my first thought it fresh is better, that is why I braid my garlic to dry. (If you missed my video on braiding garlic check it out here.)2016-07-20 17.14.49.jpgDrying garlic thoroughly will allow it to not sprout for most of the winter, but once I see the little green sprouts start poking through, I then have to take the bulbs of garlic, break them down into cloves without the skins on them anymore and store them in canning jars in the freezer then (pictured below).

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freezing these garlic cloves have stopped the little sprouting that started in march of this year

When I ask myself how do I use onions and potatoes throughout the year, my thought is fresh, so I keep these guys UNWASHED and in crates in the basement where it is cooler and darker so they are less likely to go bad. When storing potatoes and onions it is always good to store them separate and that you don’t have them packed too closely together (if they generate heat by being too close together this will be the thing to cause them to go bad faster.) When storing potatoes and onions it is also important to remember that certain varieties do not store as well, this is why we use our sweet onions and our red potatoes first as those won’t store as well. I have in the past dehydrated sweet onions that start to sprout and then blended them to make onion powder. I have also froze chopped onions that are starting to sprout so that I can toss them into soups and stews for the flavor but it doesn’t need the crunch you may want from a fresh onion.

When I ask myself how do I use peppers throughout the year, I would love to say fresh but these do not store fresh. I chop my peppers as I would like to use them (diced and sliced), put them on a cookie sheet to freeze and then place them in a freezer baggie to store them.

These are just some examples but here is how to decide what you want to do as general guidelines:

1. Dehydration- if you want to eat something that is dehydrated that is great (ex. fruit chips- apple chips, banana chips, etc.; beef jerky, fruit leather) or if you want to make something into a powder then you can dehydrate it and then put it through a blender to get the powder (I did this with my kale so I could store it this winter for smoothies without it taking up a ton of room…see my kale video here.)

2. Freezing- if you want to store something in the freezer you may need to blanch it first…if something is “dirty” from the dirt or there is something that could contaminate it then go ahead and blanch, a great example of that is carrots. Blanching is where you take a boiling pot of water, add the item to the boiling water for a very short time and then quickly pull it out and place it in ice water. Blanching is to just kill the contamination, but not to cook the item. Whenever I am going to freeze something I chop it to the size I want, then I either blanch it and then put it on cookie sheets (so it doesn’t clump in the bag) and then place it in freezer bags; or if I am not going to blanch it, I then just put it on the cookie sheet and then put it in the freezer bags (ex. shelled peas, herbs that loose their taste by being dried- basil or parsley are some examples that I prefer frozen).

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Freezing tomato paste for storing

3. Storing-if you want to store something, make sure it will be something that can keep and then store it in a cool, dry, dark place this will keep it from thinking it is time to grow more, which will lead to rotting or sprouting. Good things to keep would be potatoes, onions, garlic, winter squash. You can also hang dry herbs, in a bunch, in a dark and dry area until dried (ex. oregano, thyme, etc.)

4. Canning- there are two kinds of canning. The first kind of canning that most people do is water bath canning. Water bath canning uses high acid foods (think fruits) and uses the acid to keep them from growing bacteria, and the canning is to seal the contents into the jar. It is always important when canning to follow recipes that are proven so you don’t expose yourself to botulism.  The second kind of canning is pressure canning. This is for low acid foods (ex. vegetables and meat). The pressure canning requires the pressure to raise the boiling point of the water so it heats the canning jars at a much higher temperature than a regular water bath canner can. This higher heat is what kills anything in the jars and then will seal them too. I love canning and do use both kinds of canners as I love to can broth in the pressure canner and lots of fruits in the water bath canner. Beware that you can choose to pressure can some high acid things that would normally be placed in a water bath canner but not all of them. For example, I would pressure can pizza sauce and most sauces, but you can not pressure can peaches as this will cause the peach tissues to break down in the process.

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Chicken broth canned

I hope that this quick over view of storing is helpful and I will try to remember to post more videos and blog posts on how I am storing my harvest this year!

Happy harvesting! 🙂

PS if you missed the new recipes over at the Tried and True Recipe page go on over and check it out! They are even labeled with what the new ones are!

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