I didn’t think I was going to get to do much preserving this year. Time being one issue and availability of affordable produce being the other. Imwalle Gardens supplied me with produce I could afford to preserve and as for time? I always make time for preserving. I admit that I stay up late coring and scoring and blanching and peeling tomatoes. I just squeeze these projects in because I don’t feel right if I’m not putting food up for the winter at the end of summer.
I’m feeling right in my bones this week. Except that my hip actually hurts really bad (probably from all the standing up while canning) so my actual bones aren’t all feeling super – but taking part in food preservation along with thousands (maybe millions?) of other Americans is giving me a feeling of self empowerment and unity. I’m enjoying the knowledge that the food preservers working hard across the country come from all walks of life, all spiritual beliefs, every kind of sexual orientation, every kind of racial combination, and every kind of political affiliation. While we may have different motivations for canning and drying and freezing food – what we have in common is that we think it’s work worth doing. No matter how our religious beliefs might clash (or lack of religious beliefs, as is the case with me) and no matter how much we might argue over the direction this country should go – we agree that there is value in putting food up for later. I like to think that most of us also think it’s FUN. Because I love it. When I considered not putting anything up this year my husband asked me how I could consider not doing one of my favorite things in the world?
He also made a tiny selfish plea for pickles!
So while I’m canning I’m thinking about what brings us all together, not what might tear us apart. Oh – and us food preservers? We’re the people everyone else will want to know during a zombie apocalypse. That’s a good position to be in.
So what have I been preserving? I’m going to list what I’ve done so far:
5 pints of Thai red curry paste (freezer)
13 pints of elderberry syrup made with raw honey (freezer)
9 pints of corn (freezer)
2 quarts of thick tomato sauce (freezer)
5 quarts of bastardized ratatouille (freezer)
5 quarts of summer vegetable soup (freezer)
21 quarts of diced tomatoes (freezer)
2 quarts pinto bean chili (freezer)
23 half pints of peach jam (canned)
7 quarts garlic dill pickles (canned)
2 big jars of pickles fermenting in brine (lactic acid fermentation)
Most of that has been done in an 8 day period. I still have 40 ears’ worth of corn kernels to process (planning to make corn chowder and also saute some with zucchini, onion, and peppers) and on my counter this morning is 40lbs of peeled de-seeded tomatoes waiting to be processed. As soon as I’m done writing this post I’ll have to make a decision about what to do with them. I think I’ll make a couple of pots of sauce and if there’s any left over I’ll dice them and can them in their own juice.
Money and time allowing I would still like to do more:
80 lbs more tomatoes – canned
dilled beans – canned
40 more ears of corn for sautes and corn chowder – for freezer
peach chutney – canned
5 more quarts of summer vegetable soup – freezer
Random notes and observations:
- 14 jars of my peach jam were made using pectin – this accounted for 8 lbs of peaches. The jam did NOT set. The flavor is very good the color is bright. The other 9 jars of peach jam were made without pectin and were thickened by cooking it down for a long period (over an hour) and accounted for 8 lbs of peaches. It set but the color is much darker and the flavor is, I think, not quite as good.
- I was lucky to find any pickling cucumbers that were worth buying this year. I’d seen some at the farm stands and in the supermarkets that looked old. It’s really important to can freshly picked cucumbers. Not only that – most of them were $2 per/lb or more. !! I got around 6lbs of them and it turns out that only half of them were small enough to fit a few in a quart jar. So after canning 7 quarts of the smaller sized ones I had the problem of the big ones. I couldn’t fit 2 in a quart jar but one per quart jar was ridiculous. Such an awkward size! I decided to ferment them instead of can them.
- I followed an old Russian recipe I found in my Culinaria Russia book. However, I didn’t have any marigolds and it didn’t specify which kind of oak leaves to use. Yep, oak leaves. I need to know more about oak before putting it in my pickle. I did have access to my friend Sharon’s sour cherry tree, though. I shared my pickle adventure on fb and I’m going to put it here because it amused me:
“In a pickle related emergency I sped through the night to my friend Sharon’s house and begged for an ounce of sour cherry leaves from her tree, explained to her laughing husband and kidlets what constitutes a pickle emergency and then, like a pickle-bandito, stole back into the night with a fistful of leaves and some dark plans for a bunch of cucumbers.”
- So my pickles (pictured in this post) are fermenting in my office window. Tomorrow they go into quiet darkness to experience the wild and strange transformation from cucumber to nasty smelling rotting things, to a gorgeous crisp garlic dill pickle. I keep thinking it’s magic, but really it’s cool science.
- Freezing tomatoes and other things in jars instead of in vacuum sealed plastic bags: out of a total of 39 jars put in the freezer I’ve had only one jar break. This was my experience last year as well. Out of about the same number of jars I had one casualty. I’m freezing in jars because glass is inert but plastic is not. Glass is a safer and healthier vessel for storing your food. No chemicals can be released into your food when it’s in glass. Though vacuum sealed bags are BHP free (the ones I buy, anyway) they are still capable of leaching chemicals into your food. Not only that – their quality after one use goes down so far that I don’t tend to reuse them at all. The jars can be used over and over. Much greener. Much less going into the landfills. There are some obvious disadvantages too – they take up more room in the freezer and can break. I’d like to hear from anyone else who’s tried freezing in jars – a friend of mine had a ton of breakage and I’d like to know if others have had lots of breakage too? Please share!
- Incidentally – I do actually prefer more canning than freezing. It’s more work but having shelf stable food that doesn’t require electricity to keep it good is very appealing to me. However – I had to empty out my freezer to move and an empty freezer uses more energy than a full one. I have a stand alone freezer for freezing the stuff I can’t safely can. The frozen corn, for instance. If I had had better results from pressure canning I’d probably just do that and get rid of the freezer. Maybe. Although the freezer is better for things like elderberry syrup – the freezer won’t destroy the enzymes in raw honey but the heat of canning will.
That’s all I have to report today. I need to get in the kitchen and make sauce. Please share with me what your canning projects are and thoughts or observations you’ve been making about your preserving this year.