Is your garden overflowing with vegetables, but the thought of spending endless hours in a hot kitchen makes you break out in hives? No worries! Here are some strategies to help you stock your larders without the stress and headaches.
Do a Little at a Time
Instead of saving all your food preservation for one day, do just a few tasks each day.
Harvest and process one thing at a time. You won’t feel so overwhelmed and your preserves will taste better because your vegetables were so fresh.
Double up on dinner. Cooking with fresh garden ingredients is more fun, so why not make a double batch and stick half in the freezer for another time? Many soups, stews, and casseroles freeze well.
Keep your pot boiling. When you are steaming vegetables for dinner, steam-blanch a few extra batches for the freezer. You might have a couple pounds of green beans, a few broccoli shoots, or some beet greens. It only takes a few extra minutes, but it can really add up!
Try Different Techniques
Sure, canning can be hot, sweaty and time consuming, but other methods of food preservation are not.
Fermenting: You can ferment many types of vegetable and you don’t need any fancy equipment to do it. We ferment in wide mouth pint or quart canning jars. When it is done, simply put the lid on and put it the refrigerator or cold storage to slow down the fermentation. Our favorites are dilly beans, tomatillo salsa, and hot peppers.
Drying: I love to put a load of something in the food dehydrator after dinner and take it out in the morning. Herbs, apple slices, fruit leather, mushrooms, and vegetable chips are all great preserved this way! This is an easy task for children to help with as well.
Freezing: Don’t have time to can your tomatoes? Stick them in a bag and throw them in the freezer to be made into sauce r other goodies when you have more time. Berries can also be tossed in with no blanching and made into jam, smoothies, muffins, or simply eaten frozen (my kids’ favorite!)
Photos by Saskia Esslinger
Make it Social
You don’t have to suffer through this alone! Many hands make light work.
Teach a class. Many people would love to learn how to can and freeze. The class can do most of the work for you while you teach, and you get to keep the preserves.
Invite your friends over for a canning party. Let your friends help harvest, wash, prepare and preserve and send them home with a few jars. Pop open a bottle of wine or brew up some yummy tea and make a fun night of it.
Schedule a food exchange party. If you have a lot of friends that can and preserve, you can invite them to bring their extras to exchange for something new. You probably can’t use that whole case of blueberry chipotle jam, anyway, so you might as well trade it for a can of beets. It is fun and you will come away with inspiration for next year!
Split the harvest. You did all the work growing, so find a friend without a garden that would be willing to harvest and preserve the produce and then give you half. This works great when you have truly way more than you can use.
Food preservation doesn’t have to be drudgery. Have fun with it and soon it will feel effortless. Sure, this is a busy time of year, but just think how glad you will be this winter when you are still eating your very own organic food from your stash. Your family and your pocketbook will thank you!