Preserving Your Excess Veggies
by Patsy Harman
Once upon a time, Tom and I and our fellow hippies on the commune, had a root cellar full of hundreds of canning jars filled with tomatoes, green beans, beets, corn and winter squash and apples. Their colors gleamed like jewels in the dim cellar light. We grew and preserved all the produce that we ate, but those days are long gone. Now, we donÂ’t have the time.
The thing is you donÂ’t have to be the king and queen of mason jars to enjoy summer and fall produce, long after snow has covered the ground.
If your veggies are mounting up in the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter, donÂ’t abandon them to the compost pile. HereÂ’s some easy ways to preserve your produce that wonÂ’t take all day.
Easy ways to Freeze (and if your fridge doesnÂ’t have a big enough freezer you can buy an energy efficient new chest freezer for around $200. Used ones on craigslist are more like $100)
1. Tomatoes. Simplest way. Wash tomatoes, cut off the bad spots, pop a few in a freezer bag and chuck them in the freezer. Really!? Come on!
(I have a friend who always does this.) In the winter, you thaw them out, slip off the skins if you wish, cut them up and throw them in with your lentil beans, beef stew or casserole. Is that cool or what?
2. Multi veggie soup stock This is what I do, and itÂ’s not very hard. If I have a little of this and a little of that, one summer squash, four soft tomatoes, a handful of green beans and an onion, I get some V-8 juice or maybe some organic chicken broth and after cleaning and cutting up the produce cook it up until just barely tender, add salt to taste, let cool, pour it into quart freezer bags and put them in the freezer. In the winter, you can add meat or rice or pour over noodles. Yum! Summer veggies in February! Makes you feel rich.
3. Corn on the Cob Peel off the husks, rinse and blanch for three minutes, let cool enough so the cobs wonÂ’t melt the plastic and then put 5-6 ears in a gallon freezer bag. (You can save room by cutting the kernels off and put them in the bag without the cobs, only itÂ’s not as much fun.)
And thereÂ’s an even easier way. Take very fresh corn, peel off most of the husk, leaving only a thin layer of green and without blanching put the corn cobs in bags and freeze. No kidding. You donÂ’t even cook them. I havenÂ’t tried this method yet, I just found it on-line, but IÂ’m going to experiment. The blogger said she has kept the corncobs, with good results, for 6-9 months and they still tasted great. It works best if you get the fresh local produce in the freezer the day it is picked.
Drying IÂ’ll admit in the old days, back on the hippie farm, we dried both veggies and fruit on window screens out on the yard, but thereÂ’s a newer better way and IÂ’m thinking of trying it. Online or at Target or Sears you can buy a dehydrator for between $40 and $100. WouldnÂ’t that be great in the winter? To have dried tomatoes with basil and oregano? Dried green beans with a little salt or hot sauce? Dried apples? Dried slices of squash?
Whatever your method of preserving, donÂ’t kill all the vitamins. You are saving a bit of sunlight for the cold and stormy days ahead.
Farmer SkyÂ’s Mom, Patsy Harman
pick list this week:
sweet corn- the first of many!