Wednesday February 18, 2015:  Updated February 20, 2015

Preserving the Food You Grow

You can preserve all the food you grow in your garden through freezing, bottling or drying.

You can make lots of yummy treats by drying food; ranging from home-made apricot fruit leather, to dried kale chips that taste like buttered popped corn. 

Corn: By all means eat your corn fresh on the cob or if you have an over-abundance of fresh corn, take it off the cob and freeze it.

But if you end up with some cobs that weren't picked in time, just leave them on the stock and let them dry out. Remove the dried kernels and using a coffee grinder, grind them into cornmeal. 

Home made corn bread, made from home grown cornmeal. 

Water Bath:

Most fruits can be bottled using a steam or water-bath, (apple sauce, peaches, pears, apricots). 
If you can pick them at their peak ripeness, you won't have to add any sugar to them either, (or very little sugar). 

Steam Juicing Grapes: Picking grapes is kind of scary because (like it or not), you will get close and personal with all the lifeforms that live in the bunches of grapes. Don't worry though. You can get most of the creepy creatures out by soaking the grapes in water. After draining off the grapes, put the bunches (and everything still hiding in them), in the steamer. Grapes, stems, bees, earwigs, spiders and all.
Picking off the grapes individually is way too time consuming and you will come face to face with more living creatures than you will care to know about. What you don't know won't hurt you. 

From the steamer, the juice drips into jars and the jars go into a sterilizing water bath. This batch (made from Candice grapes) was the most delicious juice I have ever tasted. 

"No more 1966, lets splurge. Brings us some fresh wine, the freshest you've got. This year. No more of this old stuff."

Pressure Canner:

Tomatoes -- In spring of 2014, I planted a bunch of tomatoes from seed. Much to my discouragement, somehow, nearly all the plants that came up were cherry tomato plants. They were already growing in the soil that I used, moved from another part of the yard. 

With no time or desire to blanch and peel bushels of cherry tomatoes, we used the juicing attachment for our kitchen Aid. It made super quick work of our tomatoes. Putting them in whole, peels and seeds came out one end while the juice came out the other.

We bottled over 42 quarts of tomato juice from cherry tomatoes alone.

I don't know if it was caused by the cherry tomatoes or what. But some of the bottles ended up looking like this. Looks like a jar sampling of Jupiter's atmosphere. 

This came in very handy because once you draw off the water from the top, you end up with instant tomato paste for making fast soups, chile, or even home-made ketchup in under 20 minutes. 

Beans -- 
That’s right! Even dry hard beans that normally take all night to soak and hours to cook, can be bottled.

My 6-year old daughter asked me to plant beans so we did. 

By using the Mittleider method, we ended up getting over 15 lbs of hard, dry red and white beans from a 15 foot long, 18 inch wide row.
Next year we'll think ahead and plant them separately. 

Bottling Beans:

I love to bottle beans because it saves so much time later on. You can pressure cook 7 quarts of dry-hard beans in less time than it takes to prepare a single meal using hard beans. And you won’t have to plan ahead by having to soak beans the night before. From start to finish, it takes about 3.5 hours, but only about 30 minutes of that involves actively doing work. The rest is waiting for the pressure cooker to come up to temperature, cooking and come back down in temperature.

Kidney, black, white, lima, garbanzo, pinto. They all work.

One cup of dry beans will fill a quart jar.
1 cup of beans
1 teaspoon of salt
Fill with water, (leave 1/2" of head-space).

Pressure cook for 60 minutes, (90 minutes at high elevations).

No need to buy expensive cases of heavy cans of beans again, just bottle your own. 1 quart holds the same as two 15 oz cans of beans.

Bottled beans will keep for up to 2 years. But plan on using them up in 1. After bottling them, you may find that you use them up much faster than that. Beans and rice are a huge hit at our dinner table and we go through 35 quarts of beans in less than 3 months. When we get low, we just put up some more. Finally we are making use of our buckets of hard beans. Amazingly they are delicious!

Oh yeah, whenever you open a bottle of beans, rinse them off in a strainer before adding them to your recipe. That will de-gasify the beans making them less farty. You're welcome! 

Pumpkin --

Pumpkin isn’t just for pies. 

It makes great bread, muffins and soups too. 

Homegrown pumpkin black-bean soup. A favorite at our home. 

Pumpkin is high in fiber, low in calories, has tons of vitamin A as well as vitamin C, potassium, B-6 and magnesium.

You can get several quarts of pumpkin purée out of a single medium pumpkin. 

To prepare, clean out the pumpkin guts, (don’t forget to save some fo the seeds for next year or roast and eat them). Discard the guts into the compost. 

Cut the hollowed out pumpkin into large pieces and steam them in a large pot for 10-20 minutes. Filet the skin off, (it comes off easily after its been steamed), and cut the pumpkin meat into ½” to ¾” cubes. Put into jars (don’t pack them too tight or else the center of the jar won't reach a safe cooking temperature) and pressure cook for 60-90 minutes. Use within 18 months.

Purée the chunks before using in recipes. A 1 quart jar will hold the same amount of pumpkin chunks as a large 22 oz Libby can of pumpkin purée.

Cautions regarding pumpkin mold. Molds that grow in an old jack-o-lantern are poisonous. They contain toxins that can not be removed by cooking. If it has been more than a day or two since a pumpkin was carved, DO NOT USE IT!

Next Article: Food Storage