August 6, 2010

Harvest Preservation In High Gear

July brought on the harvest, and I've been busy canning and freezing ever since.

In June, green beans and Swiss chard presented themselves, and I canned quite a bit of those at a slow but steady pace..  In July the blueberries came on and the Roma tomatoes started ripening.  After that, every day became tomato day. As of this writing, I have 33 pints of pizza sauce put up, which is a bit short of my goal of 40. However, the Romas are nearing the end of production, and I wanted to do a few more things with them.

Okra production has been steady, requiring daily picking.  What we don't eat, I freeze...

It doesn't require blanching, just chop and pop into containers. The most popular way it's eaten is battered or breaded and fried. Also stewed with tomatoes or as a thickener in soups like Creole style gumbo. I did try some with tomatoes....
Just three quarts to see how well we like it.  My gumbo is more along the Cajun lines, using roux (darkly browned flour in oil) and filé (a seasoning and thickener made from sassafras leaves). We do like okra fried, but I sauté it instead. That method doesn't take as much oil and is a whole lot quicker and simpler. I can do this with frozen okra, just as well as fresh.

Also in preservation mode are the Early Prolific summer squash we aren't eating quickly enough. We like them sautéed with onion and fresh sweet basil. Overgrown ones are stuffed, as shown if you scroll down to the bottom of this post.

I used to have trouble with the blanching part, getting all the pieces out of the boiling water quickly and into the ice bath. One day I thought I might use some of the unused mesh bags I saved for washing fleece. I found this worked a whole lot easier.

We haven't been eating our cantaloupes fast enough, so I decided to try freezing one. The method is the same as for blueberries or green pepper: place pieces on cookie sheet to freeze, then transfer to freezer containers.

I'm also preserving the seed for next year.  These are Hales' Best, on open pollinated type.

This method is the same as for cucumbers, details here.

I'm still working on blueberries, too.  Besides freezing them, I've made blueberry pie filling (you can read what I learned about Clear Jel, here), blueberry topping, and blueberry jam.

Next up are figs! More on that soon.


Theresa said...

Come January won't your pantry be a satisfying experience!

Prairie Mother said...

Oh, all that wonderful harvest looks yummy! I'm jealous, I didn't have a garden this year so I have nothing to preserve this fall. I miss the experience much more than I thought I would.

Unknown said...

I am terribly jealous. It has been years since I have had anything but a tomato plant an some herbs. My favorite childhood memories revolve around canning and freezing. I know it's hard work but so fulfilling. I can't wait to be able to garden again.

Your blueberries look wonderful!

Renee Nefe said...

You sound terribly busy right now. Thanks for taking time to post (you're doing so much better than me!)
Also Thanks for that awesome idea with the squash. I tried to blanch my squash and it all came out mushy. Your idea looks so much easier.

What Pigs Don't Know said...

Wow, Leigh, there's some great information here for us newbie canners/freezers/seed savers. LOVE the idea of using the mesh bags for blanching, and after I write this comment I'm getting up to save my Hale's Best seeds using your method. Thanks! -Carrie

m said...

So far we are eating our way through the peas, beans, salad etc. Our potatoes are doing fairly well and we have started eating them. The first tomatoes may be ripe enough to eat this weekend. The only things we have preserved are raspberries and gooseberries which are filling the bottom of the freezer. Now we have enough windfall apples that are large enough to cut and and stew. So, I'm off into the garden to pick them up in a minute or two.

Leigh said...

Theresa, yes. It will be fantastic to look back at my labors, knowing that all there is left is to cook and eat it all!

Prairie Mother, I know what you mean. We spent three years in an apartment with no garden. I really missed it. I'm relieved to be at it once atain.

Angie, what great memories to have! I hope my daughter can say the same :). I agree that it's both hard work, and fulfilling!

Renee, I'm okay at posting my blogs but not visiting and reading others! Or answering emails!

I had the same problem at first with my squash, but the net bag works great and no more mushy squash!

Carrie, I know they have baskets for blanching, but buying one never makes it to the top of my financial priority list. :) I'm glad the seed saving tip is useful. I love Hale's Best!

Mary, one can never have too much fruit! I hope I can get some raspberries next year, but I can only envy your gooseberries from afar. And the apples, though hopefully in a few years we'll have our own.

Julie said...

Its so much fun to can and I'm looking forward to having a pantry like yours!

Michelle said...

THANK-YOU for that fantastic idea of using a net bag for blanching! I had trouble doing the green beans; couldn't figure out how to get them ALL out after three minutes without dumping the water each time (which I DIDN'T do).

Benita said...

Look at all those pretty colors - that will make this preserved food doubley welcome in January and February when all else is black, gray and white.

Leigh said...

Julie, it is a wonderful feeling to have a full pantry. I have to warn you though, it's never large enough!

Michelle, I was doing the same as you at first. A real put-off in terms of having to blanch things. This idea just popped into my head. It certainly makes the process much, much easier!

Benita, so true. Of course, we fiber artists always think in terms of color. :)

Sara said...

I know where I'm going to get some blueberry jam! :)

Lots of nice canning're doing so well.

Mama Pea said...

What an impressive variety of things you're getting put by! We may all be working with different fruits and vegetables, but we're all up to our eyebrows in preservation mode right now. My poor garden is really starting to look neglected because I just can't find the time to spend out there and in the kitchen too!

Sharon said...

Have you given any thought to deydrating some of your surplus? Somewhere in my many moves I ended up without mine, but I used to dehydrate both cantaloupe and apples which the kids loved. If anything finally ripens here, I'm going to order a Nesco American Harvester.

Sheryl at Providence North said...

Good idea with the mesh bags!

Have you tried making cantaloupe jelly? Cantaloupe wine would be good too!

Tina T-P said...

Things are looking good - Charlie is very handsome - congratulations! T.

icebear said...

I have heard of dehydrating cantaloupe too, have not tried it yet though. I am also growing Hale's Best this year, but no fruit ready yet.
The jars of blueberries look beautiful.

I haven't had enough of anything (or combination of things)come in yet for my first canning session, but i did freeze some green beans- i used my spaghetti insert to my stock pot to get everything out fast. I never use it for spaghetti cause it lets the noodles escape, but it worked ok for smallish batches. I like the onion bag idea though.
I have been dehydrating summer squash, thin slices. They become nice veggie chips.


Leigh said...

Sara, the amazing thing about the blueberry jam is that Dan likes it as well as strawberry! That's a first, LOL

Mama Pea, it seems that a neglected garden is the price of a full pantry. I dread that so many weeds are going to seed in mine!

Sharon, I've dehydrated watermelon, but not cantaloupe. I'll have to try it. Dried apples are wonderful. I'm hoping to get some from somewhere this year. DS loves my homemade apple butter, so that's on my "must do" list. You'll enjoy that dehydrator! I hope you get to use it lots.

Sheryl I've never made either cantaloupe jelly nor wine! More to add to my "must try" list. :)

Tina, thanks!

Icebear, the nice thing about freezing or dehydrating is not needing a large batch to process. I like your idea of using the spaghetti pot for blanching. I have one, but it's pretty little so I didn't think to use it. I like the sound of your veggie chips too!

Robin said...

I'm looking forward to canning (I can't believe that I just said that). We have been swamped with family BBQ's and stuff the last couple of weeks and I know that canning is coming up on my soon to do list. We did go blueberry picking last Saturday and I plan on going again as I only got 8 quarts picked before I wimped out.