October 30, 2010

Jewels of the Summer Harvest

Benita (Basically Benita) asked to see the fruits of my garden preservation labors. I delayed that somewhat, hoping to wait until I had canned, frozen, dried, shelled, and cured everything I could. But since I'm still waiting for our first frost, I'm still harvesting and preserving from out summer garden, plus I've started to preserve from our fall garden. I'm thinking it may be awhile before I can finally can sit back with nothing more to do than simply admire it all! Benita told me once that her mother called her own jars of harvest canned goods her "jewels." I can honestly say I feel the same way. These make me feel richer than money in the bank!

[The curious can click on any image for a larger view. Really, these are larger than I usually upload.]

This is not the original pantry that came with the house. That one was 4x6 foot, and it quickly became obvious that it was terribly inadequate for the type of food storage we were planning to do. We did quite a bit of brainstorming about that earlier this year, and came up with a new plan, requiring only minimal remodeling. Basically it only required repurposing the rooms in the addition. You can see photos of these rooms (before we moved in) here, and how they fit in to the floor plan, here.

By moving Dan's office and studio into the spare room, we had an 8 x 12 foot room to use as the pantry. The original pantry is going to become the utility room. It will house the ironing board, vacuum cleaner, cleaning supplies, and will be where we put the new water heater.

We planned to build shelves, but found the ones you see for about a third of the cost for lumber. They are rated at 120 pounds per shelf, and although the shelf with all the jars of green beans sags a bit (photo below), they are holding up admirably. What I don't like about them, besides that they are plastic, is the wasted space in between shelves. Well, for my purposes it's wasted, except for hanging handfuls of herbs to dry, like you see in the above photo.

I put cardboard in between the stacked layers of canning jars. Not sure if I like it that way, or storing them in stacked boxes. They're easier to assess and access this way.

All my empty canning jar boxes are on top, as are various pots, pans, my dehydrator, canning utensils, and egg cartons I saved. Heavier items, like bins of potatoes (now in fridge) and sweet potatoes, cooler of turnips, 5 gallon container of coconut oil, cases of empty jars, etc., all fit on the bottom.  Canned goods, dried beans and grains, gallon jugs of vinegars and blackstrap molasses, various mixing bowels, a box of veterinary supplies, winter squashes, and my lone pumpkin, reside on the middle shelves. There's still quite a bit of room, for more good things to eat.

The green cupboards and island aren't meant to be permanent fixtures here. They will be replaced if I can incorporate them into the design for my new kitchen, whenever we finally get around to that, hopefully by 2012. I already have a replacement for the island, an small, old cabinet that was left in our outbuildings. It will fit better and be a more sturdy base for this...

... my Country Living grain mill. Yes, it's a hand job, purchased during our old Y2K preparation days. DS used to have the daily chore of grinding flour for me, back in our homeschooling high school days. Now the honor will fall to me. Who needs to go to the gym, when such fantastic homestead equipment is available to give my bi's and tri's a workout!?!

I'm using the island to store tools, and also empty glass jars and bottles. I've gotten where I don't even recycle glass containers anymore. I save them to reuse myself.

Inside the green cupboards ...

.... mostly store bought items. I purchase them on sale, from clearance bins, or discount grocery stores, all as storage items. I do try to buy at least a couple cans or boxes of something extra every time I shop. With the garden doing so well, these are mostly convenience foods or things I can't grow for myself: macaroni and cheese, coffee, black olives, sugar, baking soda, canned soups, canned tuna, olive oil, pastas, seasoning mixes, stuff like that.

To the right of the green cabinets, is my extra fridge, the one that came with the house. It's small, but even so, when I bought a new one, I kept it with a mind for future surplus eggs and goat milk.

Right how it hold the last of my spring potatoes (I originally had two bins full, which I kept on one of the bottom shelves), my remaining handful of onions, flours, cereals, my sourdough starter crock, a few condiments, opened coffee container, and seeds.

The freezer is a small one and a perfect fit along that short wall.  I can't hang much on that wall because of the freezer lid. In some ways I feel like that makes it wasted space, but I have started to hang my canning tools there.

I've tried to organize the freezer contents with smaller boxes. In addition to my frozen fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, and broth, I store grains, flours, nuts, seeds, and a few miscellaneous items in here. This is because we always have a moth problem in warmer weather. Just can't seem to get rid of those things. Since I buy so much in bulk, I don't want to risk losing those things to moths, which we have every summer. I'm running out of space though, so I think a future project will be to can all the meat broth I've made and frozen.

As I mentioned above, as long as the garden keeps producing, I'll keep preserving. But here are my 2010 food preservation totals so far. (The ** indicates locally, but not home grown):
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
    • 2 quarts frozen broccoli
    • 1 cup dried tomatoes
    • 22 pints canned Swiss chard
    • 33 quarts canned green beans (yup, we like 'em canned)
    • 3 quarts tomatoes & okra (just to see what DH thinks)
    • 2 quarts dried onions
    • pumpkin - 1 pint frozen puree and 1 in storage
    • 13 stored buttercup squashes
    • 1 pint frozen cut corn
    • 8 quarts frozen yellow squash
    • 3 quarts frozen sliced sweet peppers (so far. They're still producing)
    • 25 quarts frozen okra
    • 24 pounds stored potatoes
    • couple pounds stored turnips (can also overwinter in garden under mulch)
    • 13 quarts canned sweet potatoes
    • 3 pounds stored sweet potatoes
    • 1 pint dehydrated tomatoes (more if frost continues to delay)
  • Proteins
    • 11 frozen chickens
    • 12 dozen frozen whole eggs (so far, hopefully more)
    • 3+ quarts dried black turtle beans (still shelling)
  • Soups & Sauces
    • 33 pints canned pizza sauce
    • 7 quarts canned veggie soup
    • 4 quarts frozen potato soup
    • 10 pints tomato soup
    • 5 pints frozen sweet basil pesto
    • frozen broth (various amounts) totally about 4 gallons
  • Jams & Jellies
    • 12 pints strawberry** jam
    • 19 half pints apple** butter
    • 10 half pints blueberry jam
  • Pickles & Relishes
    • 3 pints pickled beets (more to come I hope)
    • 11 pints dill pickles
    • 2 pints sweet pickle chips
    • 5 pints pickle relish
  • Dessert ingredients
  • Herbs (all dried) amounts in ounces
    • sweet basil
    • thyme
    • oregano
    • dill seed
    • catnip
    • rosemary
    • garlic - about 12 bulbs worth, which I replanted
  • Miscellaneous 
    • 2 & 1/2 pounds popcorn
    • pecans - just beginning to collect
I haven't included the amaranth and sunflower seeds we grew for the chickens. Also, I have some relishes and pickled hot peppers from previous years. Of course we've already eaten some of it, and with the fall garden now producing, I'll have more to add before the end of the year.

Considering our long term goal to become food self-sufficient, the real question is, do I have enough of each item to last until I harvest it again? The answer to that question, is here.

Jewels of the Summer Harvest © October 2010 by Leigh at http://my5acredream.blogspot.com/


Leigh said...

I've had to publish this post several days earlier than I origianlly intended. However I'm having major computer problems (a Windows problem), so I'm at the library. Hopefully It will be fixed soon.

The Mom said...

Great job! I'm trying to do the same thing. It's a challenge to see exactly how much we need of certain things. I'll probably figure it all out just about the time the kids leave for college.
I'm sorry about the computer problems. I wish you lived closer, Hubby could fix it for you.

Mama Pea said...

What a nice pantry! Don't you just love to walk in there and look around every now and then? Thanks for the tour.

We have the very same grain mill . . . and you're right. No need to go to the gym. Just grind some flour! But it is really a nice grain mill.

I just HATE computer problems. Probably as much as I do because I have absolutely no ability to fix them. :o( So frustrating.

Alla said...

OK, that is impressive. Never thought to use an extra room! My daughter and her family are living with me right now but as soon as they move(???) I am turning a spare room into my canning, freezer, etc. room. That would be so nice to have jars, canning equipment, canned, dried and frozen goods all in one place. Thanks for your post, it inspired me!

Anonymous said...

The jars are like jewels and the pantry is wonderful. It is always so satisfying to use your own food.

Anonymous said...

OMG...this is so wonderful! You are truly in your element girl.....congrats and what a bounty! You want my address to ship some of those goodies too?....ha ha! Hugs!

Kids and Canning Jars said...

What a fun tour! I love to see that other people are as nuts in the canning world as I am. Love it!

Thanks for the inspiration.

Mr. H. said...

I really like the way your pantry is set up and it is so full already. You really are rich and will eat like kings and queens this winter.:)

Yes, those hand grain mills are quite the good arm workout. Thanks for the great tour.

Vicki said...


Michelle said...

Loved the tour, love your space & the way you are using it. I have a small kitchen & it has 5 doorways! I am trying to love it & take good care of it & use the space wisely.

Nina said...

Very comforting pictures. The size of your pantry is great! How nice that you had the space to repurpose. I also like your sometime to be kitchen island. I like that it's clean, functional and not too modern looking

Sibel said...

I cannot believe you have done all these preserves. You have such a nice organized pantry.Thank you for sharing your house. I am following you and invite you to visit my blog if you like it follow me too.
I ll see you soon.

Leigh said...

Thanks Heather! The calculating part is the hardest. Rather than weighing and counting though, I'm just going to keep track of how long a given amount planted lasts. It helps to look at things as food groups, i.e. I need X amount of fruits or vegetables. If I can at least get a combination that meets my goals, it doesn't matter whether it's peaches or pears.

The computer problem is resolved. I usually use Linux Ubuntu but thought "just in case" I should install Microsoft's new free antivirus program on my windows partition. When I uninstalled McAfee, it wiped out my boot menu, so that I couldn't get on to either OS! Fortunately Ubuntu has great support at Ubuntu Forums, where I got a solution. It meant I had to go use library computers, but fortunately, alls well that ends well.

Mama Pea, now that it's finished, it makes all the hard work worth it. A real motivation. Hopefully next year I'll have even more to add.

Alla, I reckon necessity truly is the mother of invention! You're right, it's wonderful to have everything together, in a room dedicated to that purpose. I feel very fortunate to be able to do that.

Evelyn, that is so true. It's rewarding plus, I know it's the best quality there is. I know where it came from, what was added (or not added), and how it was processed. That's a sense of security too.

Pam, in my element and lovin' it! I was truly frustrated for a number of years, not being able to be myself. Fortunately I also love weaving, spinning, and knitting. Those are the things that kept me sane.

Melissa, I know what you mean. And who but another canning nut would get excited by a photo of a bunch of jars of food! I can't imagine anything better though.

Mr. H, I feel so fortunate to have the space to do it. I admit that it took awhile to get it arranged and organized. The only thing I haven't figured out is where to put my herbs. I have a big cabinet in the kitchen that I'd like to move, only I can't figure out how to incorporate it into the pantry. I need to keep my thinking cap handy!

Thanks Vicki!

Michelle, I really, really empathize with you on those 5 doors. I only have three, and two windows, but they really limit my wall space. What a challenge. I'm working on kitchen designs and boys howdy, what a challenge.

Nina, "comforting." I love that word. This is one of my comforts, truly. The kitchen island was a find on craigslist. I was very pleased to find it and love the color. It definitely will have a place in my "new" kitchen.

Sibel, I have to admit that I'm a little amazed at it all myself, LOL. Thank you for the visit and taking time to comment. Welcome as my newest follower! I'm on my way over to visit your blog right now.

Flower said...

Your hard work has paid off and the sense of satisfaction must be immense! I wonder if there is a "helps" list written somewhere to exact the amount of food to put up for two, four, or six people for a year?
The pantry is very nice! You have really done a good job!!

Cynthia said...

How do you like your bins in the freezer? I used to keep things in paper grocery sacks and could never find the right bag. Couldn't find plastic tubs the right size locally so ordered some online for far too much $$$. They are very sturdy but I am surprised by how much space they waste -- I can't fit nearly as much in the same freezer. I think I am going back to bags for most of the freezer but will try color-coded ones to help with the confusion.

Leigh said...

Flower, good question. I have pretty much decided to approach the concept of amounts by experimentation. The long term goal is total (or nearly so) food self-sufficiency, but for this year, my short term goal was just trying to get enough vegetables.

FEMA used to have guidelines for amounts on their website, and we followed those when we prepared for Y2K. In reality though, I found they weren't very accurate. Or at least for what our family eats.

Variety may or may not be important to various individuals. For example, my goal is for a total amount of vegetables, rather than for so much green beans, so much spinach, so much broccoli, etc. In other words, one can substitute for another, so individual types aren't as important as having enough till next harvest.

Things like grains are more specific, because grains can't substitute as well; I can't make yeast bread with cornmeal.

My next post tallies what I've got. Whether or not it lasts until next harvest remains to be seen. Stay tuned!

Cynthia, that's exactly the thing that frustrates me about freezers. I tried bags last year, and as long as they were well labeled, I did okay. Unlabeled bags came under "out of sight, out of mind" category. Your color coding sounds like a good idea. I haven't decided about the bins that came with the freezer. I agree that other plastic containers are space wasters. I'm finding cardboard boxes with not lids to be helpful. As long as I keep things in the same locations, I can tell at a glance what I've got. I'm keeping a clipboard with my items handy too. Hopefully that will help.

Woolly Bits said...

I can understand the "better than money" sentiment - you can't eat money and there can be times where you need food and can't (won't) go shopping! our last winter taught me a lesson - even in our developed countries there can be times, where you have to rely on yourselves... and at least you know exactly what's in your jars!! enjoy it come winter....

Tina T-P said...

Oh, Leigh - how beautiful! And what a nice lot of space. (I would be cautious about your green bean shelf though - sometimes those plastic shelves will just fail and I'd hat to see all those beautiful jars of green beans end up on the floor.) Thanks for the tour!

P.S. - I put two pumpkin recipes on the blog today - not the buttermilk pound cake though - it was icky... T.

Leigh said...

Bettina, excellent points. Having enough food around the house in case of weather or other difficulties is so comforting to have. One never knows!

Tina, that'd disappointing about the pound cake! I was hoping for a good recipe.

Yes, I need to move some of those green bean jars to another shelf. We're well within the weight limit, but like you say, who wants to take a chance!

Geodyne said...

Leigh, I'm in love with your pantry It puts my 4 by 6 pantry to shame!

I'm going to have to bookmark this post and come back to it, because I'm about to give all my carefully hoarded and preserved food away. There's an international move in the offing, of which more later. The move will allow me to move further towards self-sufficiency than I have here...but I'm going to have to come back to this post to remind myself of what I can have while I'm living the short-term urban life!

Benita said...

That is a beautiful post indeed!! All those lovely colors and all that wonderful food. You will eat well this winter, but I can hardly wait for your next post - you evaluation on whether you hae enough to last all winter. When do you plan on planting next year's spring garden? You get to plant ealier there than here, I know, but how much earlier?


That was a great tour, I love the way all your jars are so neat and accessible. I think you should be good for two season with all that you have done. You would definately be ready here in Florida for a serious hurricane, good job!

Leigh said...

Geodyne, that is so exciting! Definitely sounds like an excellent opportunity. I'm very curious now and look forward to more about it.

Benita, thank you! I'm finding it a little harder to calculate what our needs will really be. I'll explain in the next post.

I can start planting cool weather crops in February and March. I need to remember to start my cabbage seeds (indoors) around the first of the year, as well as other things. As long as the ground doesn't freeze (and stay frozen), I'll be able to dig up turnips, beets, and carrots all winter. :)

Bety, accessibility was really key for me. I've tried storing them in the canning jar boxes in the past, but I never knew which boxes still had food, and which just had empty jars. I do think I'll have more than enough veggies for the winter. The other things, we'll just have to see!