Archive for October 26th, 2008

Independence Days Update: Focus on End of Season Food Preservation

Sharon October 26th, 2008

It has been a while since I’ve done an Independence Days update - seems like a good time.  For those of you who are new readers and don’t know what this is, you might check out the “Independence Days” topic on the sidebar of the blog.  We’re working on doing just a little bit every day to grow and preserve food, and also preserve our security.

I thought we’d focus on food preservation late in the season a bit here.  For those of us heading into winter, planting is winding down and it may feel like food preservation is done.  And there’s some truth there - although we’re still adding food to our root cellars and I still have a few projects left to do, including starting the sauerkraut and other lactofermented stuff on a large scale.  I write more here about the cycle of the food preservation year here but remember, like everything in my life, it sounds impressive all written down, but shouldn’t intimidate you. A. I never get it all right and b. that’s part of the point of the Independence Day challenge - when you write down your accomplishments, without all the caveats “but I forgot too…” or “but I didn’t…” it always looks impressive.  And that’s how we get to some kind of self-assurance here - we have to find a way to let go of our mistakes and limitations and sometimes just be proud of what we have done. 

Anyway, I’m seeing the benefits of the IDC every day here - my shelves are fuller than they’ve ever been, and breaking it down into little bits has made me less stressed about food preservation.  There were definitely failures - tomatoes didn’t ripen because of cold, rainy weather, and I put up fewer than I have in years - but successes as well - the same weather lead to a bumper crop of cucumbers, so I’ve got 3 years worth of pickles.

For me, the preservation year is definitely settling down, but I do want to remind people that now, when the heat of a stove or dehydrator is welcome and a lot of us are indoors more, is a good time for certain kinds of preservation.  Some of these that we do include:

1. It is butchering time, and a good time for canning meats, if you do so.  Even if you don’t have animals, you might consider buying some meat - or animal parts that sell cheaply like chicken feet (which, if you get over the weirdness, make a fabulous chicken stock) and consider canning that.  Make sure you are pressuring canning, and that you understand how to do so safely.

2. It is a good time to make a few cold frames out of hay or straw bales and an old window.  You can put these over your existing kale, spinach or other cold hardy crops.

3. Now is a good time to start keeping a close eye on root cellared stores - an apple that gets bruised or a bad spot can be dehydrated (you can slice them into rings and hang them on thread to dry in most houses that have low humidity with winter heating), or sauced.  A squash or sweet potato that isn’t keeping well can be canned up or made into a leather.

4. I sometimes throw tomatoes or fruit sauces in the freezer if I have space and no time to preserve them - these can be defrosted and the tomatoes chopped up for sauce, the fruit sauces canned.

5. If you are prone to or concerned about extended power outages (and these happen in wintery and icy places in the country), it might not be a bad idea to get your canning skills honed just in case you lose your freezer for a while.  Many of the things we freeze can also be canned, if you have a source of non-electric cooking energy.  Some things you’ll want to dump -  I wouldn’t eat frozen green beans that were then canned unless Iwas really hungry - give them to the dogs, chickens or compost.  But your hard spent money shouldn’t be all lost.

6. Now is a great time to get good deals on large quantities of root vegetables - and it is getting cold enough to store them well.  There’s a lot of information about root cellaring here:

7. Cold weather is the ideal time for fermentation - cole crops are at their best, and whether fermented beets for borscht (yeah, yeah, I know, the poor maligned beet!), kimchi, sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables - you have no idea how good fermented turnips are - they are worth trying.  Fermented foods have more accessible B vitamins, natural antibiotics and better digestibility than unfermented vegetables - and they are delicious.  More on this here:

 Ok on to the update:

1. Planted something: Garlic, winter wheat

2. Harvested something: Quinces, apples, popcorn, dried corn, herbs.

3. Preserved something: Made sauerkraut, applesauce, dried apples, pickled beets, dilled carrots, pickled onions, dehydrated garlic, quince jam.  Froze the last of the garden broccoli. 

4. Stored something: Added some pasta, matches and peanuts to our storage.  Ordered some more dried cranberries and flaxseeds.  Bought

5. Prepped something: Still plugging away at moving the office up to our bedroom, began serious firewood stacking and moving.  Bought three led headlamps for night milking in winter.  Bought sunflower seeds to use as a goat and chicken feed supplement.  Got chickens butchered and delivered to the people we sold them to, which frees up the freezer again - now for a serious organizing of the freezer.

6. Cooked something new: I’ve been making various new versions of labneh with our goat’s milk and herbs, made sweet-potato peanut stew.

7.  Worked on community food systems - worked on getting the local foods luncheon at our synagogue going, talked about a local foods cookbook with someone who might be able to get it done, planned a food pantry garden for a local group.

8. Managed my reserves - sorted out the early apples for sauce.

9. Learned a new skill - Can’t think of any.

 How about y’all?