Saturday, November 30, 2013

Preserving the Harvest

I have been slacking on updating the blog but with school, fall harvest, lambing, a visit from the newlyweds, Halloween, wood cutting, Thanksgiving and hunting its been ...a bit busy!

One of the things we have enjoyed learning is preserving what we grow for use during the winter months. Not only does it help reduce the grocery bill and give us some great tasting fare, I think its an important skill to know particularly if you care about what you eat and where it comes from. We freeze, can with both a water bath and pressure canner, and we have discovered the wonders of dehydrating.

We took the green tomatoes and made a great green tomato relish that came out just like hot dog relish. We added in some of the green peppers, some onions, some pickling spices and vinegar and cooked it down and canned it and it tastes great.



We cut the bigger tomatoes into cubes, salted them and let the juices drain in cheese cloth and then cooked them down with all the spices and canned it.
The small ones we made into green tomato pickles and they are delicious and retain their tomato flavor.
We are pickle people and love pickles of all types and these guys are now some of our favorites.
We have been wanting to try dehydrating for a while now but it always seemed so complicated...its not. This NESCO dehydrator cost less than $50 and does a fine job.
We started with some of our late harvest green peppers..

We washed and cut them into small pieces, loaded them onto the trays, and turned the machine on and.. 

At the end of about 5 hours we had these dried up green pepper pieces that are so concentrated in flavor they would be a good snack. They will be great in soups and stews this winter and they got put into a freezer bag for storage in the dehydrating project down.
Then we washed and slit the various Serrano and Thai chilies and loaded them on the trays. Please note the use of Nitril gloves, I always have them on me in my medical bag but I highly recommend using them when your preparing your chilies.
We loaded up the trays (there are three) and took them out to the garage to turn on. The fumes will drive you out of the house if you don't.

We keep the seeds in them for an extra kick but it works fine if they are de-seeded. These are the dried result and again, they have a concentration of flavor that is amazing.

These also got put into freezer bags for storage in the freezer. Even though they are dehydrated you want to make sure they don't get moldy so just sticking them in the freezer is a good preventive measure.
Not all the peppers got dehydrated though. We decided to make some pickled peppers and they are very tasty in addition to being colorful.

That right there is a whole lot of heat and I have to be careful because I can sit down and eat half a jar...then pay the price all night!

We got a pretty good pear harvest this year after our fire blight scare last year (we thought we were going to lose all the pear trees in the orchard) and we canned a bunch for tarts and pies this winter. We lost the entire apple harvest (literally about 100lbs of apples) to deer. We just waited too long to harvest them and the deer wasted no time.

I love this time of year and we all enjoy canning. There is just something visceral in preserving what you grow and the smells as they cook are intoxicating.
And finally, we dehydrated a lot of herbs from our herb garden like this Basil.

Its important to wash everything thoroughly even though we don't use chemicals on our food gardens and we only dehydrate unblemished herbs.
So the pantry and root cellar are full to the point we have to buy more cupboards to hold it all but we will eat well and as I said before its a deep down feeling of satisfaction to be fortunate enough to have such a bounty to preserve. We grow our own vegetables, fruit, nuts, and herbs, we raise our own chickens who give us meat and eggs, we raise our own beef and lamb and next year we are going to try for some grain crops, peanuts, turkeys, quail and a hog or two.
Most people don't have the land to grow a lot of crops or raise livestock but even apartment dwellers can take advantage of sales and can preserve through canning or dehydrating. Give it a try.

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