What to do with all that veg???
WHAT TO DO WITH IT ALL???
|Blackberry Raspberry Jam made the same day the berries were picked...Ohhhh....it's so good!!!|
Okay, you’ve sown, and now you are reaping the benefits of last spring’s work. In fact, sometimes I reap a lot more than I thought I would. The question that comes to mind is, “what to do with it all?” I always end up throwing away produce, and this year I am desperately trying to avoid the garbage can. It’s just too much work to throw away! Here are a few things that I have resorted to in order to avoid tossing away my blood, sweat and tears:
- DRY! I have become a huge fan of drying fruits and veggies. You can use a food dehydrator or you can simply use your oven turned down to a very low heat (200 F). I have dried apricots, cherries, tomatoes, apples, bananas. You name it, I have probably dried it. The great thing about drying food is that it makes it a bit more compact and easy to store. Once my food is dry, I put in in freezer bags and pop it in the freezer just to ensure that my extra work doesn’t go moldy.
- FREEZE! I LOVE to freeze things. It is my favorite way of preserving. The thing that I love about is that it keeps the amazing flavors of fresh produce and it doesn’t make the produce loose nutrients. I swear that I can freeze just about anything. My grandmother taught me to freeze tomatoes. Blanch them in hot water, plunge into a ice bath. Peel the skins and chop them into large cubes. Put in freezer bags in a serving size that works for you. Pull one bag out on a winter’s day, put in in a skillet with a little olive oil, butter, garlic, salt and pepper. Simmer until tomatoes are broken down, add a little cream, and you have an amazing sauce for fresh pasta, and you will swear it’s August instead of December!!! You can also freeze tomatoes whole. Just place on a baking sheet, freeze and put into a freezer bag. When you unthaw it, the skin will peel right off and you can add it to soups and sauces all winter long. Cherries are simple. Wash, pit and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment (make sure they are not touching each other or they will stick together). Freeze and them put in freezer bags. Add to smoothies or be a rebel and make a “fresh” cherry pie in the middle of winter! Peaches are quick and easy. Blanch, shock in icy water, peel the skins off and chop into manageable pieces. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet (not touching again), freeze for a few hours and then put into freezer bags. Add to smoothies over the winter, or do what Woodman does and put a handful into a bowl, pour over some heavy cream with a drizzle of agave and you have breakfast! There are so many things that you can freeze, my list could go on and on.
- PRESERVE! This is a great way to add to your food storage without the need of a freezer. Canning is a method that has been around forever. The problem that I run into, is that I don’t have enough space for all of those blasted bottles. I do can a few things almost every year: peaches, jam, jelly, chili sauce, pickles, etc. I love seeing all of the colors of the garden looking back at me when I walk through the pantry. This is also a great way to get to know older relatives. If you don’t know how to can, invite a grandmother, aunt or mother over for a day of “girl’s only” canning. It is a lot of fun and I have many great memories of my grandmother, grandfather and even my mother-in-law teaching me how to do this. A few tips: be prepared - have all of your supplies on hand BEFORE you start; keep clean - make sure your jars are sterile and clean the kitchen before and after you can; take your time - nothing is worse than having a rotten batch of something you canned just because you were in a hurry; do this with love and your jars of preserved bounty will be so beautiful, like eye candy in the storage room!
- SHARE! If you can’t get to it all, there are neighbors around you that probably haven’t had time for a garden or who weren’t as successful as you. Nothing boosts your neighbor relations like a basket full of fresh produce that you have grown. Not only are you sharing amazing nutrition, but your hard work and a bit of your heart. Let’s face it, I put my heart and soul into the garden and when I share my produce, a piece of me goes with it! You could also bribe a sister or friend to come and help you preserve. Offer some of the produce you plan to put up as a reward for spending the day talking and learning together. My favorite memories of my grandpa are of us preserving something together like pickles or peaches. I miss him, but he is always with me because of what he taught me.
Get creative and find new ways to preserve all of that hard work. Nature’s bounty is too precious to let rot, so get drying, freezing and preserving while the sun shines and you will have a lot to look forward to this winter!