Preserving the Harvest

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Cloudfire's picture
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Preserving the Harvest

 

Well, if you're living at a similar latitude as I am, you're just starting to reap substantial produce from your gardens. There have been a number of food-related threads, but, as far as I can tell, none specifically related to preserving the bounty from our gardens.  Until now . . .

There are oodles and oodles of books and websites devoted to canning, drying, pickling, and other food preservation techniques . . . . So, what's one more?   Seriously, I still think it might be useful to have a thread for recipes that are useful to like-minded people who are looking toward a future of less, and hoping for abundance and bounty, nevertheless . . .  .

So, I'd like to kick this off with one of my favorites, which, in my husband's family (of farming ancestry), has always been known as "Sweet Refrigerator Pickles" . . . But, first a word about why I like this recipe, and why I use it so often. 

In the beginning and end of the season for harvesting any particular vegetable, there's always this period of time when the harvest per day is not heavy enough to warrant firing up the canner.  Freezing small amounts of veggies, say, a crown of broccoli, is a great solution (as long as the power is on!) for some veggies.  But, the poor cucumber does not like to be frozen, and simply turns into an inedible blob of mush, if one is foolish enough to try it.  That is where this recipe is perfect. 

Today, I harvested precisely two 5-6 inch pickling cucumbers.  They're OK, but not ideal for slicing onto salads.  So, I whipped up a batch of the vinegar/sugar mixture, sliced the cukes and a bit of onion into a pint jar, and poured about 1/4 cup of the solution over the veggies . . . Popped the jar into the fridge  . . . Add in 5 to 7 days . . .Voila!  . . . Sweet pickle slices! 

These tasty little treats last, without canner processing, for several months, if refrigerated.  They're not the crispy sort of pickle that some folks are used to . . . but they're not really mushy, either.  And they're not syrupy sweet . . . but rather, a refreshing tangy sweet.  We find them to be a perfect side dish for say, a ham sandwich, or on a hot dog (Chicago style, only, please  . . . ), or, if you're my hubby, straight out of the jar, when the cook isn't looking. 

So, without further ado, here's my husband's family recipe:

 

Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

  • 2 to 3 hours ahead of harvesting the pickles, simmer the following in a saucepan for 5 minutes, and cool:
    • 1 c. cider vinegar
    • 2 c. sugar
    • 1 tsp. canning salt
    • 1 tblsp. celery salt
  • Use regular or pickling cukes, about 2 to 2 1/4 lbs.  It's best to get them before they get too seedy.  That's usually about 5 to 6 inches long.  Cut off the ends and score the skins lengthwise with a fork.
  • Slice to about 1/8 inch thick.  A mandolin slicer really saves time with this. 
  • Slice 1 cup of white or yellow onions, 1/8 inch thick.  The little rings look really cool if you have 1-2 inch onions, but any size will do . . . but also cut them in half or quarters.
  • Toss the onions and cukes together and pack into four 1 pint jars. 
  • Distribute the cooled liquid among the jars.  (That's about 1/4 cup per jar.)  Cap the jars.
  • Refrigerate.  Wait about 5 to 7 days for the flavor to permeate the cukes.  To speed up the process, you can invert the jars once or twice to distribute the liquid.
  • Don't think you've done something wrong . . . Initially, there will only be a little liquid in the bottom of the jar . . . But over time, the cukes will lose their water to the higher tonicity soution (for you chemists, in the house).  The cukes will become less crispy, but will retain that very fresh cuke flavor.  The contents of the jar will shrink, so that the jar is no longer full.
  • Hide one or two jars in the back of the fridge, so that your husband or wife will inadvertently leave some for you. 

Wait, you say!  I thought you said you harvested only two small cukes today . . . . Yup . .  . I sliced those two cukes and a bit of onion into a pint jar, added just 1/4 cup of the solution, and kept the rest of the solution on my kitchen shelf for "mini harvests" over the next few days.  Took me about three minutes.    The solution has so much acid and sugar in it that it is highly resistant to spoilage.

That's it!  Happy pickling!

 

 

Cloudfire's picture
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Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

 

Oh, and by-the-by, let's try to list the recipe or veggie names in the subject lines of posts, so that this thread is easily searchable. 

(Sweet Refrigerator Pickle preparation is described in the original post of this thread.)

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Re: Preserving the Harvest

C1oudfire,

Excellent post, excellent topic.
Thank you very much for bringing this up!

Cheers,

Aaron

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Re: Preserving the Harvest
Aaron Moyer wrote:

C1oudfire,

Excellent post, excellent topic.
Thank you very much for bringing this up!

Cheers,

Aaron

 

My pleasure, Aaron.  And let's not forget that this thread is still active:  http://www.peakprosperity.com/comment/42547#comment-42547.

 

 

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Re: Preserving the Harvest>> Bulk Food Drier

When the harvest starts around here we have tons of extra to put away for winter and I need huge amounts of space to dry our food - prefferably to be able to dry large quanities even for the crab apples for the horses or extra drying of the grains we thrash . . by hand).

So we didn't want to spend a lot on a giant food drier so we made one out of old refrigerator (See: MyBackAchers.com) The neat thing is - I can use wood to heat it too and dry enough for 30 days every time I start it up. Old refrigerators make good smoke houses too if you are handy.

before we got the solar heated/wood fired food drier made, we opted for drying stuff in a wire mesh in the barn but the animals got it before winter (when they need the most calories). This is dry enough to store in air tight 55 gal drums.

EGP

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Re: Preserving the Harvest

My favourite preserved food at the moment is semi-sundried tomatoes which are stored in the freezer. 1kg tomatoes stores as a good handful of very tasty ingredient for stews, pizza, fritata etc. I also do this with yacon, but its flavour seems diminished by drying.

Over winter here in southern Aus, I keep as many autumn veg in the ground as possible. We are currently harvesting as needed: potatoes, carrots, oca, yacon, beet, kale, spinach, onions and celeraic. Unfortunately it is too hot here over summer to keep root veg in a clamp - would need to dig meters deep, so I leave them growing in the ground and cover with shadecloth and straw mulch.

Would love to get a pressure canner, which is not a traditional preserving practice here, but they are very expensive to import from America (see they do still manufacture something) - will keep surveying ebay and hoping for better exchange rates.

 

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Re: Preserving the Harvest>> Bulk Food Drier
EndGamePlayer wrote:

When the harvest starts around here we have tons of extra to put away for winter and I need huge amounts of space to dry our food - prefferably to be able to dry large quanities even for the crab apples for the horses or extra drying of the grains we thrash . . by hand).

So we didn't want to spend a lot on a giant food drier so we made one out of old refrigerator (See: MyBackAchers.com) The neat thing is - I can use wood to heat it too and dry enough for 30 days every time I start it up. Old refrigerators make good smoke houses too if you are handy.

before we got the solar heated/wood fired food drier made, we opted for drying stuff in a wire mesh in the barn but the animals got it before winter (when they need the most calories). This is dry enough to store in air tight 55 gal drums.

EGP

 

Hiya, EGP;

I'd love to hear more details about your food drying experiences.  I clicked on the link, but didn't find what I was looking for there . . . .

Until then,

C1oudfire

 

 

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Preserving the Harvest, in the Ground
suej wrote:

My favourite preserved food at the moment is semi-sundried tomatoes which are stored in the freezer. 1kg tomatoes stores as a good handful of very tasty ingredient for stews, pizza, fritata etc. I also do this with yacon, but its flavour seems diminished by drying.

Over winter here in southern Aus, I keep as many autumn veg in the ground as possible. We are currently harvesting as needed: potatoes, carrots, oca, yacon, beet, kale, spinach, onions and celeraic. Unfortunately it is too hot here over summer to keep root veg in a clamp - would need to dig meters deep, so I leave them growing in the ground and cover with shadecloth and straw mulch.

Would love to get a pressure canner, which is not a traditional preserving practice here, but they are very expensive to import from America (see they do still manufacture something) - will keep surveying ebay and hoping for better exchange rates.

 

Hi, Sue;

Hehe (on me) . . . . I kept thinking it was a typo, but it didn't make sense that you'd store bacon in the ground, lol . . . . . For others who would have to look it up, here's a bowl full of yacon tubers:

,

C1oudfire

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Re: Yacon? Now I get it

I had the same reaction to the preceived misspell.  Thanks for clearing that one up

Addendum:  My grandmother would always throw in a jalapeno (or 2) into the jar with her sweet pickles.  Thanks for sharing your family recipe.

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Re: Preserving the Harvest

Hi all

Here is a brief, but by no means exhaustive, summary of methods for storing and preserving the surplus as we gather it, now that the productive season is upon us here:

1. Vegetables

Clamping - potatoes and other roots covered in straw and then earth.

Burying in dry sand - carrots, beetroot, sweet potatoes

Heeling-in - jerusalem artichokes, celery and leeks left where they grew until needed

Hanging in nets - squashes, pupmkins and marrows out of the frost, or on a cshelf if you turn them regularly

Stringing onions in a cool place, having dried them in the sun or wind

Drying pulses, peas, fungi, maize etc - for instance powder dried fungi and store in a jar

2. Fruits

Wrapping and storing apples and pears - leave on the tree as long as possible, then store in well ventilated place at 2 to 4 centigrade, wrap apples in old newsprint

Drying - apples peeled and sliced then dried over a stove or in a solar oven until crisp and stored in an airtight jar. Plums and damsons similarly dried to make plums.

3. Preserving

Brewing - using the sugar in the sweet enough crops, like grapes

Chutneys and pickles - Chutneys are fruits or vegetables cooked in vinegar which is sweetened and spiced and cooked until excess liquid has evaporated. Pickles are soaked in the spiced vinegar but not heated. Ketchups are strained juices of fruits or vegatables cooked in vinegar.

Bottling fruit and veg is heating food in jars, heating them to kill all bacteria, moulds etc and then sealed in airtight jars. Good with fruit especially and tomatoes.

Jams preserve fruit by boiling with sugar and then sealing in jars.

I hope this hasn't been too dry!

Cheers

Bill

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Re: Preserving the Harvest
Bill MacGregor wrote:

Hi all

Here is a brief, but by no means exhaustive, summary of methods for storing and preserving the surplus as we gather it, now that the productive season is upon us here:

1. Vegetables

Clamping - potatoes and other roots covered in straw and then earth.

Burying in dry sand - carrots, beetroot, sweet potatoes

Heeling-in - jerusalem artichokes, celery and leeks left where they grew until needed

Hanging in nets - squashes, pupmkins and marrows out of the frost, or on a cshelf if you turn them regularly

Stringing onions in a cool place, having dried them in the sun or wind

Drying pulses, peas, fungi, maize etc - for instance powder dried fungi and store in a jar

2. Fruits

Wrapping and storing apples and pears - leave on the tree as long as possible, then store in well ventilated place at 2 to 4 centigrade, wrap apples in old newsprint

Drying - apples peeled and sliced then dried over a stove or in a solar oven until crisp and stored in an airtight jar. Plums and damsons similarly dried to make plums.

3. Preserving

Brewing - using the sugar in the sweet enough crops, like grapes

Chutneys and pickles - Chutneys are fruits or vegetables cooked in vinegar which is sweetened and spiced and cooked until excess liquid has evaporated. Pickles are soaked in the spiced vinegar but not heated. Ketchups are strained juices of fruits or vegatables cooked in vinegar.

Bottling fruit and veg is heating food in jars, heating them to kill all bacteria, moulds etc and then sealed in airtight jars. Good with fruit especially and tomatoes.

Jams preserve fruit by boiling with sugar and then sealing in jars.

I hope this hasn't been too dry!

Cheers

Bill

Wow, Bill, thanks for the very detailed information . . . Just to take it in context, what is your climate?  That is, what are your typical winter lows/highs and summer lows/highs? 

Until then,

C1oudfire

 

 

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Re: Preserving the Harvest

Thanks for the thread C1oudfire, indeed my garden is beginning to have excesses and I'm not prepared to deal with it!

Coop

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Re: Preserving the Harvest
ckessel wrote:

Thanks for the thread C1oudfire, indeed my garden is beginning to have excesses and I'm not prepared to deal with it!

Coop

My pleasure, Coop!

 

 

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tomatoes, grapes

 As our tomatoes come in we often wash them then put them in a bag in the freezer until we accumulate enough to can a batch, since our garden is small and we grow various varieties of tomatoes that mature at different rates.  The best thing about doing them that way is that the skins slip off very easily when you put the frozen tomatoes briefly in warm water (just do a couple at a time or they'll get mushy and harder to handle).  All you have to do then is core the stem area.

With grapes -- wash, pick them off from the stems, and freeze; when enough accumulate for a batch of juice or jelly just take them out and do them up.  Last year we were too busy to do them at the normal time and we waited until a cold winter day to make our grape juice and jelly.  The house smelled wonderful that day.

 

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Re: tomatoes, grapes
homestead wrote:

 As our tomatoes come in we often wash them then put them in a bag in the freezer until we accumulate enough to can a batch, since our garden is small and we grow various varieties of tomatoes that mature at different rates.  The best thing about doing them that way is that the skins slip off very easily when you put the frozen tomatoes briefly in warm water (just do a couple at a time or they'll get mushy and harder to handle).  All you have to do then is core the stem area.

With grapes -- wash, pick them off from the stems, and freeze; when enough accumulate for a batch of juice or jelly just take them out and do them up.  Last year we were too busy to do them at the normal time and we waited until a cold winter day to make our grape juice and jelly.  The house smelled wonderful that day.

 

 

Thanks, Homestead;

I especially like these tips for those not-quite-enough-for-a-batch days. 

 

 

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Re: Preserving the Harvest

Hi C1oudfire

Thanks for your kind comments.

I'm in the eastern UK - semi arid region with average summer highs c. 25 C and winter lows c. -2C.

The techniques are applicable anywhere, really. The whole point is maximising effective storage periods to cover times of non-production. Apart from this, manage your planting to make sure that you have as much fresh produce as possible available to harvest at all points of the year.

By the way -  a small erratum: Plums and damsons are dried to make prunes !

Cheers

Bill

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Outlook on Peak Flavor

Well this site is about Peak everything so here's something we want to peak - Peak Flavor.

There are a lot of garden harvests that last all summer long (like zucchini, beans, salad greens) which can be picked constantly once the harvest starts. But those fruits and veggies which can only be picked at thier peak flavor take a talent to recognize. Most store bought items are picked pre-peak and ripen during shipping. . . thus store bought food is neither at the peak of it's nutrients nor flavor.

I have a theory as to why so many people are so over weight --> they are starving to death from lack of good healthy food that fills all thier nutritional needs. Add in all the preservatives in food and it doubles the "I'm hungreeeey affect", so they graze. This would stop immediately if people ATE FRESH FOOD - it has everything a body needs. Only Peak Flavored Food should be preserved - and it should be done ASAP. Freezing until you have a full batch is a really good idea when you are doing peak flavor food.

How to pick food at the Peak of FLAVOR:

  • Tree fruit: Do NOT tug fruit from tree. The tree will give it up when ready. Simply put 2 fingers around the fruit and twist up lightly. If the fruit comes out in your hand - its ready. If not try again tomorrow and the day after.  Nuts will simply fall off the tree and collect them off the ground before the squirrels get them.
  • Tomatoes - same thing - do not pick early or you will loose the best tasting tomato you ever had. Simply do the 2 finger twist. Most tomatoes actually look like they are past peak and the skin is "thumb-able" meaning you can feel the fruit by pressing a thumb and it has a bit of softness.
  • Strawberries get the 2 finger twist. And a lot about strawberries depends on how well they were fed fertilzed the year before.
  • For checking cantaloup on the vine, avacadoes in the tree. . . use the soft thumb. A ripe cantaloup has an aroma about it.
  • Watermelon are hard to tell if they are ripe unless you look for several things all to be ready. First tap it - does it sound hollow? Next tip it over - does it have all but a small yellow discoloring from where it sat? Last - is the curly twist on the vine near it dried and brown - or has the vine given it all its energy to fruit. Then and only then is that going to be the best watermelon you have ever had in your life.
  • Corn - different varieties have different signs but most of the silk will be brown. If it is too brown - your past peak and let it dry on the stalk as seed for next year or to toss to birds or animals for winter feed.

Anyone got any more tips on how to pick at the Peak?   EGP

 

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Climate and Fresh Veggie Storage
Bill MacGregor wrote:

Hi C1oudfire

Thanks for your kind comments.

I'm in the eastern UK - semi arid region with average summer highs c. 25 C and winter lows c. -2C.

The techniques are applicable anywhere, really. The whole point is maximising effective storage periods to cover times of non-production. Apart from this, manage your planting to make sure that you have as much fresh produce as possible available to harvest at all points of the year.

By the way -  a small erratum: Plums and damsons are dried to make prunes !

Cheers

Bill

 

Thanks, Bill! 

For all of us Yanks, that's 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and 28 degrees F.

Here in northern Illinois, where it gets to -20F (-28C), the in-the-ground techniques are less useful, unless an huge amount of mulch is used.  (Still possible, if you have access.)  Root cellars are the cat's meow, though . . .

 

 

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Pick-at-the-Peak -- Black Raspberries
EndGamePlayer wrote:

Anyone got any more tips on how to pick at the Peak?   EGP

 

 

Hi, EGP;

I loved, I mean, I loved your post . . . . That's just the sort of in-the-trenches, experiential stuff that helps folks round out their skills.  Thanks!  

And, yes, I do have a Pick-at-the-Peak tip:

It's black raspberry picking time, here in northern Illinois, and mmmm . . . . . They are fantastic.  But the season is truly short, maybe a week long.  So, hubby (bless his heart) braves the skeeters to find the best wild black raspberries, and picks them by the gallon. Then, it's my turn.  I've got a centifugal juicer (Omega brand), that is a powerful tool for separating pulp and seed from juice.  It's a messy job . . . . If you have one of those 2.3 million dollar countertops, you'll want to cover it with something nonporous, because this stuff stains permanently, and instantly.  Once the berries are "juiced", I pour it, undiluted, into ice cube trays and freeze it.

Now, you ask, isn't that juicer an electricity hog? . . . . Um, . . . . yeah.  But, I've also got a few types of manual juice strainers, for when the lights go out, temporarily, or terminally. 

So, with all them skeeters, and juice that will stain diamonds, why, you ask, would anyone go to all this trouble? . . . . . That's an easy one:  Because nothing, I mean nothing, packs more flavor and more nutrients (antioxidants, immune boosters, antiinflammatories, as well as agents that are beneficial for female health) than black raspberries.  You can drop one cube of this super-concentrated power food into a blender full of fruits and juices, and the whole thing turns deliciously raspberry, in color and flavor. 

One of the reasons I am a complete convert to the black raspberry cult is based on a personal experience.  Some years ago, I met up with an old friend in northern California and we decided to backpack the Eastern Sierra.  She had a bit of backpacking experience, so, since she was in the area, we divied up the preparations thus:  I packed the food and supplies, she secured the maps, researched the area, and planned the route.  So far, so good.

Well, the first night out, we got to our first camp late, and dusk was approaching fast.  This is bear country, and the bears are acclimated to humans, and are highly skilled in getting the campers' food.  So, the rangers kept "bear boxes" at the best camping areas, which are heavy gauge steel boxes, secured with a lock, fastened to some large boulder or other immovable object, to secure the campers' food for the night.  Well, my friend hadn't gotten proper directions on where the bear box was located, so, in the twilight, we found one of the few scraggly trees around (we were near the tree line), and hung our stash as high and as far (from the trunk) as we could. . . . . Predictably, it was not high and far enough.  The next morning, all we had was shredded ditty bags. . . . Power bars, granola, freeze-dried meals (Yuck!  Without cooking?) were gone.  The only thing left was two squeeze bottles of black raspberry juice that I'd packed for our morning pancakes.  And those had been punctured by bear teeth, then left alone.  (What's with that?  I thought bears liked berries . . . ) 

Anyway, my friend was a bit traumatized, and not up for hiking out.  She was ready to throw in the towel.  So, not wanting to ruin a good trip, I determined to hike out, hitchhike back down to the nearest town, buy food, and hike back, in one day (Not as gutsy as it sounds . . . . Our trailhead was in the middle of an extremely barren desert -- the morning paper had predicted "mild" temperatures that day -- a high of 105F -- not the sort of country where rapists and muggers like to troll for victims.) . . . . or maybe two days, if I ran out of steam.  So, I packed up a few essentials, in case I had to bivouac on the trail, and did just that.

Well, (this story is getting absurdly long . . . bear [] with me now . . . ) Powered by nothing but those two little bottles (maybe 12 ounces total) I managed to hike out and back, with a break for hitching to the next town and shopping, in one day.  If I said how many miles it was, I'd be lying, because I don't clearly remember, but, it was the farthest I'd ever hiked in a day, in that kind of rugged terrain, . . . .  powered by only those two little bottles of black raspberry juice, and the residue of bear spit . . . . Amazingly, my energy never failed me (though, when I finally stopped moving, I realized how much energy I had expended, and had to put on every ounce of fleece I had in my pack, to stop shivering uncontrollably.)  I was mightily sore the next day.  But the amazing thing was how far beyond my usual stamina I was able to push myself. 

So, to this day, I sing the praises of black raspberry juice.  Sure, it's an anecdotal tale . . . . But a good memory, too . . . .

I couldn't find it to post a link, but I recently read about ongoing studies to test the efficacy of topical black raspberry extract in treating skin cancer.  I understand that preliminary results are looking good.  Now, don't make fun of me, but I also use the juice as a substitute for the highly toxic cosmetic version of blush.  Just a tad on the cheeks gives a remarkably natural looking color.  Or, mixed with a bit of glycerine, it can be used over the whole face, to add a bit of color in the winter.

Although I haven't yet tried it myself, I understand that black raspberries yield a good natural dye.  It's hard to imagine a more useful fruit.  Well worth braving the skeeters and having stained fingers for a few days, I'd say . . . . . 

EndGamePlayer wrote:

Anyone got any more tips on how to pick at the Peak?  

 

 

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Lehman's Coupon Code -- Time to Buy Canning Supplies?

 

Hi, folks;

For those of you who have been putting off ordering nonelectric homesteading tools and supplies from Lehman's, http://www.lehmans.com/, here's a coupon code for the website, good for a $10 discount per order (so, I suppose you could split your needs into several orders to take full advantage of the offer).  For those who don't know, Lehman's has an intriguing and useful array of supplies for manual farming, gardening, forestry, nonelectric lighting, nonelectric household appliances, cooking and canning supplies, tools and supplies for livestock, and a host of other fascinating tools.  Lehman's local customers are largely Amish, and some of their merchandise is made by local Amish craftsmen.  If you haven't checked them out yet, now would be a good time.

I'll be ordering bulk canning lids from them this week . . . much less expensive than buying them in those little packages. 

So, here's that coupon code:  save10.  It's good until July 31, 2009.

 

Happy Canning,

C1oudfire

 

 

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Re: Preserving the Harvest

Hey all!

Was wondering if you are able to can different types of tomatoes together?  Say, can Roma's with Better Boys or Early Girls with Goliath?  Or should I freeze them as I go and keep the types seperated?

Thanks in advance!

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Re: Preserving the Harvest

 Fellow Preservers ,   This year   we bought "Our Best Steam Juicer " from the Lehman Catalog.   It is working well .  After you have steamed the fruit you just pour the juice into the the jars and put the lids on ...  seals right up .   Go ahead and hot bath them if you  want .

  This years harvest is so bountiful!  We run out of energy before we run out of produce each day .   Today Wild Plum jam and the last of the pickle relish . Tomorrow Tomatoes .   And Yes you can put all types together .  We are getting a bushel or so each day ! Many people are having a fungus on their tomatoes here but we planted ours  in holes cut in flattened cardboard boxes  . I think this protected them .

   Many day this month we have eaten meals totally homegrown and this make me feel a lot more secure but would feel a lot better if the last  few thousand  were paid off on the place .  

  All of these worries seem so petty when you talk with your neighbor .. a momma of three little ones loosing the battle with cancer .

 Sorry  guys, I just had a humbling day after several  pitty party days where I could not keep up with everything that needs done but so glad to have produce to share with them .

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Cold Creamy Cucumber Soup

Hi, Folks;

Here's a recipe that I've developed for using all those cucumbers that run our crisper over this time of year, and ingredients that I routinely have on hand.  I've found that it's even a great way to use those two foot long, three inch diameter monster cukes that get away from me . . . I found one of those yesterday . . . it was hiding under a rhododendron . . . and I made a full batch with it today . . . tasted great . . .

Of course you can substitute regular salt for the Celtic sea salt, and regular sugar for the unrefined sugar, but IMO, it just won't taste as good, and it certainly won't be as healthy and full of trace elements that are especially needed on a hot day.  Also, I do recommend using high quality, organic, full fat milk and sour cream.  Not only will it taste better, but it's better for you than the fake-o-food nonfat alternatives.  (If you doubt this, read Nourishing Traditions.

We make up a batch of this, and freeze it in 1/2 pint wide-mouth canning jars.  Hubby throws them in his lunch box on hot humid days when he expects to be exerting himself heavily.  By lunch time, it's thawed, but still icy cold and refreshing.  Because it has a fairly high fat content, it gives a nice slow "burn" that lasts all afternoon, without feeling heavy in the tummy, in the same way that ice cream goes down easily on a hot day . . .

Cold Creamy Cucumber Soup

Ingredients:
3 pounds cucumbers
1 cup well-chilled whole milk
1 ½ cup well-chilled sour cream
1/4 cup mild olive oil
2 1/4 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
1 tblsp unrefined sugar
1 tsp Celtic sea salt
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
fresh dill -- for garnish

Directions:

Peel cucumbers sloppily (leaving a bit of green, here and there to give the final soup a minty-green color), and halve lengthwise, then remove and discard seeds with a spoon. Coarsely chop cucumbers and stir together with remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Working in 2 batches, puree mixture in a blender until smooth, (this may take a few minutes), transferring to another large bowl.

When done, taste and tweak with more sugar, salt, vinegar, or dill, as needed. 

For something different, throw in a bit of fresh mint and blend in thoroughly.

Serve immediately, garnished with dill and/or some finely chopped cucumber, or freeze in small portions that can be barely thawed before serving for a very refreshing, icy cold cucumber soup.

 

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Cloudfire
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Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
You simply must try these . . .

Hello, all;

Well, it seems that I'm just a canning fool these days . . . I'm running out of places to put 'em, which is alright with me, because there's really nothing that says "home" like the cheerful colors of various sizes and shapes of canning jars filled with yummies.  Which brings me to my canning tip of the day . . . I stumbled across a wonderful old gnarly crabapple tree on the road easement, about a mile from our house.  Unlike the modern hybrid ornamental crabapples, which are usually small, deep red, and persistent (they stay on the tree after maturity), these were the good old-fashioned golden yellow, with a brilliant red "blush".  They looked magnficent, as the tree is perched on high ground, facing west, so the late afternoon sun positively made them glow . . . Well, I couldn't resist pulling over to get a closer look, and I wasn't disappointed.  These little puppies were a good inch and a quarter in diameter, and tasty . . . So, returning with ladder, extention pruners, tarp, and baskets, we made quick work of harvesting.  (I'm a shameless scrounge . . . )

Later, back on the ranch, I cooked them up into spiced crabapples.  Mmm . . . mmm . . . mmm . . . My, my, my, they are tasty!  For those who haven't had the pleasure, crabapples are intensely apple-ish, and they are utterly delectable when cooked with unrefined sugar, a bit of vinegar, whole cinnamon, allspice, and cloves.  I love them with any kind of salty meat.  You can use the liquid in which they are canned to glaze a ham, and then serve them with the ham.  They are as much at home, in the morning, with Canadian bacon as they are with pork chops at dusk.  This evening I discovered, by serendipity, that they are the perfect foil for a fine cheddar cheese . . . as one would have wine with cheese, only better.

In the jars, spiced crabapples are the picture of wholesome living . . . They're so inviting with their diminutive bite-size, and fun to eat with the stems still attached.  The color of the skins intensifies at first, but then fades a bit after they're fully cooked.  This, combined with the inevitable disfigurement that comes with cutting away the "bad" spots (I usually collect only from trees that haven't been sprayed.) has inspired me to try something different this time . . . As the crabapple and syrup were ready for packing into the jars, I added just a pinch of beet powder* to give the syrup a wonderful warm glow.  The results were magnificent . . . The apples look even more irresistable, on the shelf, in their neat little jars . . . and the skins and flesh of the apples took on the color in wonderful contrasts and gradations, so that the skins are now warm melon and raspberry tones, the flesh is in softer shades of raspberry and melon, and the core remains a glowing soft yellow . . . The translucence of the apples makes them glow like sunset after a perfect summer day . . .

Happy Canning!

-- C1oudfire

 

*  Beet powder is one of the items that I originally purchased in bulk, to put in my food storage pantry, thinking that it would be a good source of vitamins.  I've found it wonderfully useful in everyday cooking for adding a touch of color without resorting to red dye #[whatever].  For those who are interested, turmeric is a wonderful source of yellow coloring in foods.  Of course, one has to be careful, as these additives have flavors of their own.  In spiced crabapples, that pinch of beet powder is undetectable against the other intense flavors.  However, I unsuccessfully tested it for improving the color of a batch of applesauce that had turned an unappealing shade of brown . . . Though my husband couldn't detect it, the beet flavor was apparent to me (of course, I knew it was there).  So, instead, I used a bit of freeze-dried raspberry granules to "fix" that batch, and called it "raspberry apple sauce".  Viola!

 

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Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
More on Black Raspberries
C1oudfire wrote:

It's black raspberry picking time, here in northern Illinois, and mmmm . . . . . They are fantastic.  But the season is truly short, maybe a week long.  So, hubby (bless his heart) braves the skeeters to find the best wild black raspberries, and picks them by the gallon. Then, it's my turn.  I've got a centifugal juicer (Omega brand), that is a powerful tool for separating pulp and seed from juice.  It's a messy job . . . . If you have one of those 2.3 million dollar countertops, you'll want to cover it with something nonporous, because this stuff stains permanently, and instantly.  Once the berries are "juiced", I pour it, undiluted, into ice cube trays and freeze it.

Now, you ask, isn't that juicer an electricity hog? . . . . Um, . . . . yeah.  But, I've also got a few types of manual juice strainers, for when the lights go out, temporarily, or terminally. 

So, with all them skeeters, and juice that will stain diamonds, why, you ask, would anyone go to all this trouble? . . . . . That's an easy one:  Because nothing, I mean nothing, packs more flavor and more nutrients (antioxidants, immune boosters, antiinflammatories, as well as agents that are beneficial for female health) than black raspberries.  You can drop one cube of this super-concentrated power food into a blender full of fruits and juices, and the whole thing turns deliciously raspberry, in color and flavor. 

One of the reasons I am a complete convert to the black raspberry cult is based on a personal experience.  Some years ago, I met up with an old friend in northern California and we decided to backpack the Eastern Sierra.  She had a bit of backpacking experience, so, since she was in the area, we divied up the preparations thus:  I packed the food and supplies, she secured the maps, researched the area, and planned the route.  So far, so good.

Well, the first night out, we got to our first camp late, and dusk was approaching fast.  This was bear country, and the bears were acclimated to humans, and were highly skilled in getting the campers' food.  So, the rangers kept "bear boxes" at the best camping areas, which are heavy gauge steel boxes, secured with a lock, fastened to some large boulder or other immovable object, to secure the campers' food for the night.  Well, my friend hadn't gotten proper directions on where the bear box was located, so, in the twilight, we found one of the few scraggly trees around (we were near the tree line), and hung our stash as high and as far (from the trunk) as we could. . . . . Predictably, it was not high and far enough.  The next morning, all we had was shredded ditty bags. . . . Power bars, granola, freeze-dried meals (Yuck!  Without cooking?) were gone.  The only thing left was two squeeze bottles of black raspberry juice that I'd packed for our morning pancakes.  And those had been punctured by bear teeth, then left alone.  (What's with that?  I thought bears liked berries . . . ) 

Anyway, my friend was a bit traumatized, and not up for hiking out.  She was ready to throw in the towel.  So, not wanting to ruin a good trip, I determined to hike out, hitchhike back down to the nearest town, buy food, and hike back, in one day (Not as gutsy as it sounds . . . . Our trailhead was in the middle of an extremely barren desert -- the morning paper had predicted "mild" temperatures that day -- a high of 105F -- not the sort of country where rapists and muggers like to troll for victims.) . . . . or maybe two days, if I ran out of steam.  So, I packed up a few essentials, in case I had to bivouac on the trail, and did just that.

Well, (this story is getting absurdly long . . . bear [] with me now . . . ) Powered by nothing but those two little bottles (maybe 12 ounces total) I managed to hike out and back, with a break for hitching to the next town and shopping, in one day.  If I said how many miles it was, I'd be lying, because I don't clearly remember, but, it was the farthest I'd ever hiked in a day, in that kind of rugged terrain, . . . .  powered by only those two little bottles of black raspberry juice, and the residue of bear spit . . . . Amazingly, my energy never failed me (though, when I finally stopped moving, I realized how much energy I had expended, and had to put on every ounce of fleece I had in my pack, to stop shivering uncontrollably.)  I was mightily sore the next day.  But the amazing thing was how far beyond my usual stamina I was able to push myself. 

So, to this day, I sing the praises of black raspberry juice.  Sure, it's an anecdotal tale . . . . But a good memory, too . . . .

I couldn't find it to post a link, but I recently read about ongoing studies to test the efficacy of topical black raspberry extract in treating skin cancer.  I understand that preliminary results are looking good.  Now, don't make fun of me, but I also use the juice as a substitute for the highly toxic cosmetic version of blush.  Just a tad on the cheeks gives a remarkably natural looking color.  Or, mixed with a bit of glycerine, it can be used over the whole face, to add a bit of color in the winter.

Although I haven't yet tried it myself, I understand that black raspberries yield a good natural dye.  It's hard to imagine a more useful fruit.  Well worth braving the skeeters and having stained fingers for a few days, I'd say . . . . . 

An amazing anecdotal update on the dermatologic use of black raspberry juice:  Over a few months, I developed a raised lesion, about the size of one hemisphere of a small pea, just under my left eye.  "Doggonit" I thought, "I don't have time to see the dermatologist . . ." . . . Not to mention that I didn't relish the idea of a scalpel within a centimeter of my eyeball, and the resultant scar and medical bill . . . So, remembering that study that I'd read about (bolded above), I pulled some black raspberry juice out of the freezer (I freeze it in ice cube trays), strained out the pulp, put it in a small shallow dish, set that on the stove near the pilot light, until it had thickened (over a day or so) into a tarry consistency.  Then, over the course of a month, several times a day (each time I went into the B.R.), I dabbed a fingertip of the paste onto the lesion. 

Well, after sweating in the garden, naturally it looked like I had a shiner . . . But I just smiled to myself when my neighbors looked at me, as if they were thinking, "And her husband seems like such a gentle fellow . . . "  Laughing I have had the last laugh, however, as, miraculously, the lesion, which had steadily and inexorably grown over the past three months, shrunk at a rate that was noticable on a day-to-day basis, and has finally disappeared altogether.  Under a very high intensity lamp, or in full sun, I can just barely detect where the lesion used to be . . . It's too good to be true, but there it is! . . . No inconvenience . . . no scar . . . no medical bill.  So, who needs em?

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
Help with the Aesthetics of Sauerkraut, Please

Does anybody know what happens when you mix green and red cabbage to make sauerkraut (by the natural fermentation method, not vinegar)?  Specifically, does it combine to yield a yucky, muddy color, or is it a nice contrast?

Thanks, in advance.

 

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Cloudfire
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Posts: 1813
More on Sauerkraut: Raw Sea Salt and Kraut Kutters, Anyone?

WE NEED MORE HOMESTEADERS ON THIS SITE! . . . . .  OK, I'm done ranting, now . . . Innocent

I was just wondering:  Has anybody tried using unrefined sea salt for making naturally fermented sauerkraut?  I've been using canning salt, but it occurs to me that it would be more nourishing, in terms of trace elements, to use the Celtic sea salt that we normally use in edibles.

Also, has anyone used an old kitchen tool called a Kraut Kutter?  In rummaging through a couple of old family farmers' basements, we've stumbled across two of them, both in apparently good condition.  They're really solidly built, something like a giant mandoline slicer . . . But I haven't figured out how to use and/or adjust them properly yet.  Neither has been used since, perhaps, the '40's . . . and the folks who had them squirreled away in their basements can't seem to remember how to use them.  Any help would be much appreciated.

Also, just a note for others who are struggling to put up the bounty this month . . . Though I have a healthy dose of German, Polish, and Austrian blood, myself, I never quite got the sauerkraut thing . . . until now.  What a relief it is, during this very pressed time of year, to simply chop up some veggies, and layer them in a crock with the appropriate amount of salt, stomp and weigh it down, then just wait.  This is so much faster than canning . . . And, an added plus is that no fuel is needed for processing and no energy is required for refrigeration  . . . . Veggies preserved in this way will keep for months at room temp . . . . And, the flavor and texture of homemade sauerkraut is nothing like that slop you get at the hot dog stand . . . It's much crisper . . . and there's a real fresh cabbage flavor, too.  One can limit the intensity of the flavor by refrigerating when it reaches the acidity that tastes best.  Or, one could process it in canning jars, but that would kill all of the healthy beneficial flora contained in the fresh kraut. 

Happy Fermenting?!  Undecided

--C1oudfire

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Full Moon
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 14 2008
Posts: 1258
Re: Preserving the Harvest

 Maybe everyone is so busy "Putting By "  that  we do not have much time to be posting ,   Right this week  the garden is slowing down some . I wish I had time to make a journal and check list of what needs be done because there is sure to be something better I should be doing  but   It is good to take a break and check in to be recharged .  After the 200 th jar of 'maters '  and  you think you do not want to see one more veggie  you remember the carrots are still in the  ground and get overwhelmed by all that needs be done. We have juiced 24 quarts of elderberry concentrate and if that does not get us through the swine flu I do not know what it will take .

  I found a neighbor that has organic white winter wheat that  sells for $9 a bushel  but will barter if I grind some for his family .   Also another near by that sells his grass fed beef at $.90 on the hoof  so I am on a mission to find if this is my best deal .

 The slow down  is   reaching the Midwest a little more .   Rail traffic is down more  with a few more  lay offs, less and less cars at Wal-Mart and restaurants  and we see more hitch hikers  come through each week looking for work .

 The harvests are bountiful  ! We Should see lower corn prices and Wheat prices  but who knows  what they will  sell for .  This should drive the price of meat and milk down  but again  a control issue .

  OK  my brother called and said he ran onto a lot of wild grapes and so now we have that spare moment filled .

 Blessings to your harvest and preserving !

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
Foraging and Networking
Full Moon wrote:

 Maybe everyone is so busy "Putting By "  that  we do not have much time to be posting ,   Right this week  the garden is slowing down some . I wish I had time to make a journal and check list of what needs be done because there is sure to be something better I should be doing  but   It is good to take a break and check in to be recharged .  After the 200 th jar of 'maters '  and  you think you do not want to see one more veggie  you remember the carrots are still in the  ground and get overwhelmed by all that needs be done. We have juiced 24 quarts of elderberry concentrate and if that does not get us through the swine flu I do not know what it will take .

  I found a neighbor that has organic white winter wheat that  sells for $9 a bushel  but will barter if I grind some for his family .   Also another near by that sells his grass fed beef at $.90 on the hoof  so I am on a mission to find if this is my best deal .

 The slow down  is   reaching the Midwest a little more .   Rail traffic is down more  with a few more  lay offs, less and less cars at Wal-Mart and restaurants  and we see more hitch hikers  come through each week looking for work .

 The harvests are bountiful  ! We Should see lower corn prices and Wheat prices  but who knows  what they will  sell for .  This should drive the price of meat and milk down  but again  a control issue .

  OK  my brother called and said he ran onto a lot of wild grapes and so now we have that spare moment filled .

 Blessings to your harvest and preserving !

Great to hear from you, Harvest Moon;

Grass fed beef, with winter grains (non-GMO corn, GMO soybeans) are $1.20 on the hoof, here, so it sounds like you've got a good deal, there.  Ditto, on the wheat . . .

We haven't found a mother lode of grapes, yet, but we've got our eyes peeled for them . . .

Indeed, it's a bountiful year . . . Last Saturday, we foraged two bushels of apples, a half bushel of crabapples, 2 gallons of hickory nuts, and several gallons of elderberries, all without breaking a sweat.  While harvesting and driving between foraging sites, we met a landowner who has unused buildings and land, and is interested in having us raise livestock there, in exchange for part of the bounty SmileSmileSmile, a local alpaca farmer who has offered us free manure for the hauling and  free organic eggs (but we insisted on paying), and who is also selling fiber from the alpacas, and two farmers who are happy to have us collect the apples from their old [unsprayed] trees.  We asked one of the farmers if we could hunt deer and pheasant on his land, and he said it was up to the gentleman that he rents the land to . . . The good news is that his renter was once my fiance . . . who, I happen to know, has dinner every Tuesday night at the local pizza joint . . . so, we should be able to secure permission for that, too.  And, best of all, most of these resources are within a mile or so of our home, and none of them are farther than 7 miles away.  A very fruitful day of foraging and networking!

Well, back to the kitchen with me!

-- C1oudfire

 

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Bill MacGregor
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 29 2009
Posts: 28
Re: Preserving the Harvest

Dear Cloudfire

Despite you having winter lows at 28C below (our earlier posts in July), and everything CM and others on the site tell us about impending meltdown in the US, you make me feel like bringing my family from the UK to Northern Illinois for its bounty and community - you guys rock!!

Best

Bill

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
Re: Preserving the Harvest
Bill MacGregor wrote:

Dear Cloudfire

Despite you having winter lows at 28C below (our earlier posts in July), and everything CM and others on the site tell us about impending meltdown in the US, you make me feel like bringing my family from the UK to Northern Illinois for its bounty and community - you guys rock!!

Best

Bill

C'MON DOWN, FARMER MACGREGOR!

We'll lay out a feast to celebrate your arrival!

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