Category Archives: Freezing and Canning

Finally! Productivity

September 2nd…Where has the summer gone?  It feels like I haven’t gotten anything done this summer!!

After missing the harvesting window on so much of our garden bounty this summer, we finally managed to be productive today and do some canning.  We set up a summer kitchen out on our back deck for sterilizing and processing jars in a hot water bath.

It worked fabulous because all of that moisture from the boiling water that usually ends up saturating my kitchen stayed outdoors.  We used the two-burner propane stove that Jesse purchased for making maple syrup this spring and it was perfect!

We started out with our tomatoes.  I don’t know about all of you, but our tomato plants suffered from a serious case of blight this year.  We have nonetheless still managed to enjoy a good harvest.  Cheating a bit, we use a package mix that has all the spices and all we have to do is add the freshly chopped tomatoes.  We processed 35 pints of salsa.

After the tomatoes, we started processing our apples.  This turned out to be a lot more work than I had anticipated.  This is really the first year that our tree has produced a decent amount of apples and I’m not sure how I feel about harvesting apples after today.  Peeling, coring, cutting up, boiling until softened, grinding up in the food processor, heating again until boiling….what a mess!!

We processed 7 quarts of applesauce and approximately 8 pints of apple butter.  Based on the amount of work that went into these jars, I sure hope we enjoy them.
So, finally…a day of productivity here on the farm.  We have managed to preserve some of the produce from our garden.  It makes me feel good…giddy…happy…satisfied.

Some time this winter, probably in January, I will be feeling even happier as I pop open a jar of salsa or apple butter for us to enjoy.  It will remind me of summer and of how grateful I am to live here.

-Lynell

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Freezing Frenzy

We have been doing our best to preserve some of the garden bounty for enjoyment during the cold winter months here in Minnesota.  The flavors of garden green beans and sweet corn in the depths of winter just cannot be beat.

I must admit, however, that in the last few summers I have went a little crazy with freezing.   In particular, I was obsessed with harvesting and trying to freeze as many green beans as possible so that none would go to waste.  The result was a lot of wasted effort.  We never managed to consume all the beans and each season’s leftovers ended up on the bottom of the freezer when I covered them with the newest harvest.  I finally decided to clean out all the leftovers this summer, thaw them out, and throw them on the compost pile.  Time for a fresh start and a more realistic amount of freezing this year.

Over a two-week period in July, we harvested our green beans and froze around 20 quart-size bags.  I do my best to estimate the serving size for our family, and pack the bags accordingly.  After blanching the beans in boiling water and cooling them off in ice water, we pack them into Ziploc freezer bags and squeeze out as much air as possible before placing them in the freezer.

Last year, for the first time, we also froze some sweet corn for winter consumption.  Not surprisingly, when given the choice, the kids preferred the corn over the green beans.

We planted our own sweet corn this year, increasing our patch to at least two times the size.

Even with the larger sized patch, we did not have enough of our own for freezing.  We were too busy picking it and eating it fresh as it ripened!

Instead, like last year, we went out and purchased some from a neighbor at a road-side stand.  We bought 8 dozen at $3.00 each.  The corn was perfectly ripe and freshly picked that morning out of the field.

The kids helped with the process:  peeling the ears, cutting off the kernels (after blanching the cobs in boiling water), and putting the corn in the freezer bags.

Freezing corn is a very sticky and messy process.  The worst part is the clean-up, which I usually end up doing on my own.  We ended up with a total of 20 bags of frozen corn, with about 4 cups in each bag (approximately $1.20/bag).  Although it might be cheaper and far less work to just buy frozen corn at the grocery store this winter, I know from our past experiences that we will all enjoy this corn much more.  Not only is the flavor far superior, but there is definitely satisfaction that comes with knowing exactly where your food came from and that you participated in its preservation.

Often times in the past, pulling bags of our veggies from the freezer for a meal starts conversations about the summer, the harvesting, or the preserving.  Veggies from the frozen food aisle certainly do not have the same effect!  My hope is that the kids will carry these experiences into their adult life and consider gardening, or that they will at least occasionally consider the source of their food.

So, once again we are headed into winter with our own frozen veggies in the freezer.  Hopefully, the 40 bags will be just the right amount!

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Filed under Food, Freezing and Canning, Kids

Dilly-icious Beans!

Thanks to the ranting and raving of various people, I have discovered a great new way to use all of those green beans and wax beans that I am harvesting at the moment.  Over the past few years, when discussing preserving the garden harvest I have heard numerous people mention dilly beans and how much they love them.  I must admit, the thought of pickled beans did not sound that good to me at first.  At some point, however, I just could not ignore the fact that a LOT of people seemed to like these dilly beans.

When the bush beans started producing a few weeks ago, I dug out my canning books and looked for a recipe.  I found several variations and decided to use the following simple recipe out of  The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving:

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Preserving Rhubarb

Like most people, we have more rhubarb than we know what to do with. After all, there are a limited number of things you can do with rhubarb, and all of them involve a LOT of sugar to tone down the sharp flavor.  During the harvesting period of spring through the end of June (in my zone 3-4), our daughter usually makes us pans of rhubarb crisp, rhubarb muffins and rhubarb cake to enjoy.  She loves to bake and we love to eat her creations.

This year I decided to attempt preserving some rhubarb to enjoy past its short season.  My first project was to make some simple rhubarb jam.  My husband’s co-worker had an easy recipe for refrigerator jam.

Simple Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

6 c. diced rhubarb

3 c. sugar

Combine and sit at room temperature for 4 hours.

Heat mixture to boiling for 10 minutes.  Add 3 oz. package of strawberry gelatin.

Pour into canning jars.

I am not an expert at canning, or anything else for that matter, but I am trying to learn more each summer as I try to preserve food from the garden.  I boiled the jars of jam in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes just to seal them up.

The resulting jam was very tasty and the consistency out of the fridge was good.

The next recipe I attempted was this ginger rhubarb chutney recipe that I found over at tigress in a pickle.  I discovered her blog a few months ago, along with her companion site, tigress in a jam.  These sites are great resources if you are looking for a collection of recipe ideas for preserving your garden bounty.  In addition to standard pickling and jam recipes, you will find unique and creative recipes with some wild flavor combinations.

Anyhow, this sweet, tangy, and intensely flavored chutney turned out delicious.  After finishing a batch, my daughter and I took some fresh bread with a piece of cheese and put a scoop of chutney on top to test it out.  I loved it and to my surprise, she did too!  Over the weekend, we smoked some pork chops and covered it with the warm chutney, which was also a great pairing.

What other ideas are out there for using or preserving all that rhubarb?

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Filed under Food, Freezing and Canning, Gardens, Vegetable