|Preserving the harvest effectively Part I|
The garden continues to grow even when we are busy with other tasks. I find this to be one of the best things about a garden, it does not need constant care. Yes watering on regular intervals and some weeding, but honestly the weeds won't stop the growing of food, thankfully. We try to inspect daily or nightly depending on our schedule, if something needs picking, we pick. And that is where waste can happen if you are not careful. Picked is not processed. Which has been my story from time to time.
I have mentioned before the difficulties in cooking for a large family, to only two people, in what seemed like overnight. There is no getting around it, while I knew how to cook for large groups, for two people only, not so much. Waste happened. In the past couple of years I have learned or more accurately relearned how to process food. It isn't any harder and some of my suggestions might help others along the way.
Keep in mind these ideas are more geared to garden processing of small batches, of food ready to be picked. In past years, and many years ago (30+), I would drive down into the Yakima Valley and purchase large quantities from an organic farmer. At the time we did not have a garden, but I still canned all our food. Having made the financial investment in food, I now had to make time to can and process for the freezer. I would set up what was actually a production line and many hours later, be done with that task. Until the next trip.
Through the years I got the large batch/production line process, perfected. And then something happened, the kids were now adults and had moved on to lives of their own. Not only were they starting over, I had to. In just about everything. How much food I bought, how much food I cooked, how many other household supplies I bought and other things one does not think of until there is not more room on your shelves.
One trick I use is to tray freeze produce. This helps for two reasons. Each piece freezes individually and once frozen, it can bulk stored in gallon freezer bags until you have enough to freeze in individual sized packages for long term storage. In our household we do use a seal a meal device. For us, the cost of the bagging material is worth the improved long term storage conditions.
A colander of snap peas or beans might not seem like enough to process for the freezer, but it should be. It takes hardly any time at all to put a pan of water on to boil. Drop in the cleaned vegetables and let them blanch for a minute or two. Drain and cover with ice and water to stop the cooking and cool them down fast.
Some other tips to think about:
Freeze food in the size or shape you will want for the recipes you know you will make in the future. For instance rhubarb is frozen in chunks for poaching, thin slices for pie and diced for muffins and cakes.
Green beans freeze just fine with no blanching. Simply snap and freeze! Our green beans from last year were not blanched and they tasted wonderful and had a great texture. With that said, I do plan on experimenting with a quick blanching of whole green beans and try this delicious salad in the heart of winter with home grown green beans. For the salad I think all I will have to do is thaw the beans and toss it all together.
Applesauce freezes well, however it become a bit watery when thawed. Counter that by adding but 1/2 cup water to get the cooking started. Once the apples begin to cook, they will release natural juice. This will help with a thick and chunky sauce even when thawed. Sugar will also thin the apple sauce, so don't be alarmed if your cooked apples start out as thick as mashed potatoes.
Extra fruit for pie? Toss together the fruit portion of your favorite pie recipes and place in gallon sized bags. Lay the bag into a pie plate smoothing the contents into the plate. Let freeze and then simply remove the bags and store, stacked in your freezer. When you want pie, make up the crust, remove the frozen pie shaped block of fruit from the freezer bag and lay in the crust. Add top crust and bake. Some fruits do water a bit when frozen this way, counter that by sprinkling 1-2 tablespoons of minute tapioca over the bottom crust before adding the fruit. No sense wasting those good pie juices on the bottom of the oven floor.....
Diced tomatoes freeze well and are perfect to cook with. That honest tomato taste will be appreciated, especially in the winter.
How do you process the garden bounty?
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