Saturday, July 1, 2017

Preserving My Garden Crops - July 1st, 2017


Summer heat has finally started showing up a couple of weeks ago, which means everything is growing like crazy! The winter crops finished up and I always have way too much to eat at one time ( I would have had twice as many carrots if it wasn't for a vole!) so today I thought I would share some of the things that I do.

By far the quickest and easiest way to keep anything is by freezing it, which is probably obvious to you as well.But how you freeze something really does matter as anyone who has had to throw food out because of freezer burn can tell you. When I was nearing the end of the citrus season and had too many lemons and blood oranges .. still... I decided to go ahead and juice them and freeze them. You can do this using an ice cube tray to freeze them and then pop them in a freezer bag. But I didn't have any ice cube trays so I decided to use my food saver and make a vacuum bag for the juice. Vacuum bags take out all the air and really do work better than a plain "freezer" storage bag. First I washed them all and then juiced them.. and then I measured the juice that was going into each bag. That way if I know I need 1 cup lemon juice for lemonade, I have it written down because I will never remember otherwise. I have used the food saver for freezing meat (of course!),veggies and now juice. It was a bit messy but the end result is awesome!

The other way to preserve your crop is to let it dry out or "cure" and the store it in a cooler dark place. With my onions and garlic, there is so much that I have to store them. The trick with these kinds of plants is to let them cure or dry out a bit before you store them. I have a few racks in my garage and I put my onions with the green stems still intact, on that rack for at least 2 weeks. Don't wash them! Just dig them up and lay them out and let them be.. 

Once they are cured you can clean them up by cutting the stems and roots and brushing them off. This year, I bought a storage bin off of etsy instead of my usual plastic tub. It looks good and there is good airflow which is important. Plus it looks great!

Finally, there is canning which can mean either via a standard water bath, like you would do for jams and jellies, or pressure canning. I was trying to figure out what to do with all my carrots and decided to can them using a pressure canner AND freeze them! I know that is crazy right? But there is a reason for both.. freezing is fast and canning lasts longer...  Here is how I did it. 
First, cleanliness is everything with canning and in case you didn't know this before, carrots grow in the dirt and are really messy. You have to wash them a few times and I like to use a scrubbing brush as well to get all of the dirt off. Now you know I am not afraid of a little dirt, but when you are canning that dirt has micrbes and bacteria that can make you sick. 
To make sure these pretty carrots got cleaned - I soaked them in the sink with a small amount of bleach. Basically a teaspoon and then I was sure they were clean...
Then you just have to cut them up the way you want to have them in the jars and I did both round slices and sticks.
Clean carrots waiting for their turn to be cut
Carrots cut up and being measured for the jars
And finally, after all that prep work, you put them in jars with some hot water and tiny bit of salt, and process them in the pressure canner. 

When you are done, you have jars of pretty carrots that don't need refrigeration and will stay tasty for a long, long time..

There are so many ways to preserve food, that you just need to figure out what works best for you. If you are short on time, freezing is the best way to go. But if you have an extra couple of hours, try canning. I really enjoy it..