Thursday, July 14, 2011

There Is More Than One Way to Skin A . . .

From the fermented bean of Green Bean.

Hmm, wrong adage.  What I mean to say is that there is more than one way to preserve seasonal produce.  When I first began trying to eat seasonally, I envisioned myself scrubbing jam off the ceiling and cooking down bits of stone fruits into a brown mash that would last for years.

After preserving for four years now, I have to say that it is nothing like that.  Anyone - no matter where they live and how much time they have - can preserve produce in some delicious way, shape or form.

CANNING: Yes, I can!  Mostly with a water bath canner because, I'll be honest, pressure canners scare me.  I've brewed up more jars of jam than I can count over the last few years - covering all the different kinds of berries and even hitting on some straight up red pepper and plum pepper.  The latter were divine with cheese and bread but not exactly kid or waist-line friendly so I mostly opt for fruit jam these days.

You can also do pickles and relish in a water bath canner.  I've yet to land on a pickle recipe that I love but the pickle relish from the Ball Canning Cookbook is wonderful.  So are various tomato jam and relish recipes that I've tried over the years. Chutney also rocks!

Pressure canning takes more time and attention but it lets you can almost anything - just read the directions and recipes first!!  I pressure canned some pasta sauce using my own recipe and apparently that is a no-no.  I ended up sticking everything in the freezer because I was paranoid that I had messed it up.

DEHYDRATING:  Electric deyhdrators are everywhere these days - including the local thrift store.  There are also several models for solar dehydrating.  You slice your fruit or veggie - or meat if you are making jerky - real thin, plug it in and  day later, viola!  Persimmons that your family wouldn't touch are now viewed as candy.  An overabundance of apples because "apple chips" that will last for, pretty much, ever.  Tomatoes can be dried and put on pizzas in the winter.  Or, you can rehydrate your lovies later in soup, stew and what not.

I used to dehydrate blueberries but frankly they shrunk so small that I decided the better option was freezing.

FREEZING: This is not my preferred option for most foods - except blueberries!  And overripe bananas that are chopped up for smoothies.  In any event, to freeze blueberries just wash them, let them air dry and then stick them on a cookie sheet in the freezer until frozen.  I store mine in glass canning jars.  Other fruit and certain vegetables (corn, peppers) can also be frozen.  Most of my experience, though, has been that the fruit is only suitable for smoothies or cooking once thawed and the vegetables have tended to taste like freezer burn.

FERMENTING:  Last summer, I'll confess that I didn't preserve anything.  We moved in the middle of harvest season and, with all the packing and unpacking, I gave up.  I did sign up for the "Preserve Share" with my local CSA.  It ended up being a pricey endeavor that I doubt I'll repeat BUT I did encounter, among other things, fermenting vegetables and kimchi.  I'd never considered fermentation before but woohoo, I'm so trying it this summer!  Any tips?  Links to good fermenting sites, books or recipes?

NOT PRESERVING:  The final lesson that I have learned is that not all produce is worth preserving.  Watermelon rinds?  Um, I know that the pioneers did this big time but my dad was the only one willing to eat any of ours.  Also, for me, strawberries were not worth preserving in any form other than jam.  I live in California where we have strawberries 9 months a year.  I spent on summer dehydrating them like mad only to find myself eating dried strawberries when fresh ones were available.

Do you preserve the harvest?  Why or why not?  If you are interested in learning more about food preservation, check out The Green Moms Carnival this month over at A Farmer's Daughter.  It goes live on Monday, July 18th!


Leigh said...

I reached the same conclusion about blueberries! Better frozen than dried.

I love lacto-fermenting. I didn't think I'd care for these kinds of foods because I'm not too keen on pickles, but lacto-fermented foods are something I now crave. Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz is a good book for that. He has a website and forum too.

I agree that pressure canning is daunting. But -- it really takes less energy than water bath canning. I can keep my stove set to less than medium heat to maintain the pressure. Some things (like greens and meats) do take longer, than WB, true, but other things take way less time. It's another tool to consider.

Robj98168 said...

LOL GMTA! I put up on my blog today how to pickle strawberries. And I am currently dehydrating mushrooms from my mushroom kit!

Kate said...

Wow, rub it in about the strawberries, why don't you! ;) It just goes to show that where you live makes a huge difference.
We got about 3 great weeks of strawberries here in northern Ohio. So I froze a bunch and the when those run out I may treat myself to some of your "75% of the year" fruits occasionally.

Chile said...

I'll second the Wild Fermentation recommendation. I would also recommend The Joy of Pickling by Ziedrich. She has a very wide selection of pickling recipes from all over the world; there are sure to be some recipes that tickle your tastebuds. I picked up a vegetarian Korean cookbook at the used bookstore years ago, mostly for the chapter on kimchis. It was well worth it. Let me know if you want the title/author.

I don't remember where I got the recipe, but I made some delicious refrigerator pickles a couple of years ago - both sweet and dill. They last a good long time (stored in the fridge). One place I find a lot of good recipes, including a wonderful green tomato relish one, is the National Center for Home Food Preservation. They have info/recipes for canning, curing, dehydrating, freezing, pickling, and even smoking! Plus instructionals on how to can and pressure-can.

An unusual but handy use of the dehydrator is for camping food. I've dehydrated mashed potatoes and hummus. Works great and they taste just as good rehydrated later. And of course there are the kale chips. Yum!

Oh, and you can dehydrate spaghetti sauce! A friend did it for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She actually dehydrated entire meals, such as the spaghetti with the sauce.

As you know, I am compulsive about trying to avoid food waste. I like the pickled watermelon rinds (recipe from the home food preservation site linked above). Mustardy watermelon rind relish is also very tasty. Roasted watermelon rind seeds add a nutty flavor to cooked beans (grind roasted seeds, put in a sieve, and pour boiling water over them into the beans before cooking).

My candied grapefruit pith would taste better on cream cheese spread on crackers than without the cheese but it's still a unique and tasty item. And of course, the candied peels are tasty snacks and good in winter fruit breads. But, that's just me and my crazy compulsion...

Anonymous said...

I've never canned anything in my life, but I am determined to try tomatoes -- how lovely would it be to open up a jar of summer ripened tomatoes in the dead of winter? I'm also thinking of trying some tomato sauces so I can have roast tomato sauce for pizza and pasta at my disposal.

I do quite like frozen berries, including raspberries, which can really brighten up a boring smoothie or add some pow to ordinary muffins. I also freeze my veggie scraps so I can save them up and make stock. Once my stock is done, I freeze them into ice cubes and use them as needed.

Helena said...

I like pickled watermelon rind, so I did make a batch this year (just one, and that will last us for quite some time)--my husband has decided it makes a great hot dog relish, so if we have hot dogs he's willing to eat it. :)

Strawberries are worth preserving for us--we get amazing berries in early spring (we live in the heart of FL strawberry country), and the stuff that arrives from CA the rest of the year just doesn't compare (berries just don't ship that well). My two-year-old *loves* dried fruit--strawberries and peaches are favorites so far, which works for me because they're both "use it quick or lose it" fruits.

Pressure canners scare me too--we inherited one from my husband's Memaw, though, so I'm planning to take a class at the county extension office to figure it out.

Mike Lieberman said...

I so need to start getting on this. I make my own sauerkraut, but am lacking in the freezing and canning department.

Are there any brands, tools or products that you'd recommend to start getting?

Green Bean said...

@Leigh - Thank you for the recommendation on Wild Fermentation. I knew there was a good book out there on this! And for the push on pressure canning. I'm diving back in this year! I promise!! I think. ;-)

@Rob - Oh sure, rub it in on the mushrooms. Mine are just sprouting! Pickle strawberries, huh? I'll have to take a peek.

@Kate - Lol! Bear in mind that in exchange for the weather we get over-priced houses and under-funded schools! But the berries are great. ;-)

@Chile - Ah, my font of information. I knew you'd come through for me. I'd love the name of the Korean cookbook. I'm so making kimchi this year - though you've not convinced me on the watermelon rind thing. I am intrigued by dehydrating for camping . . .

@noteasytobegreen - I forgot about the broth thing! I totally used to do that and fell off the bandwagon. I'm going to try the tomatoes this year too!

@Helen - I'm glad I'm not alone on the pressure canning front. I too will try again this year. And I am totally with you on the berries. Heck, the ones we get from our farmers' market or CSA are 1 million times better even than the local ones in the stores just because they are fresher.

@Mike - I have a Ball canner and love it. I bought my first five years ago. Keep an eye out on my personal blog, www.greenbeanchronicles., I'll be doing two Ball Canning Discovery Set in the next two weeks!

Chile said...

Flavors of Korea: Delicious Vegetarian Cuisine by Deboah Coutrip-Davis & Young Sook Ramsay.

There's a quick and easy cucumber kimchi in it that can be eaten the same day. Obviously it's not fermented but it is very good. I won't post it due to copyright issues but I'd email it to you if you want (and if you're email's still the same as it was before).

Connie said...

Great tips. I got a pressure canner for Christmas and am embarrassed to admit I haven't used it yet – something about it seems a little intimidating.

Last summer I had a bumper crop of tomatoes and froze a big mess of them – whole (just cored and slipped into freezer bags) and crushed. It was wonderful to use them in sauces and soups throughout winter when supermarket tomatoes are dull and tasteless (wait a minute, they usually are any time of the year ... !).

Condo Blues said...

Canning scared me to death so I made freezer jam last summer. This year I had to face my fear of canning because I ran out of the room in the fridge for more jam!


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