Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Preserving Fresh Vegetables the Lazy Way

After our first year of gardening , Husband and I learned why our friends, co-workers, and relatives pawn off their garden vegetables to us at the end of summer. There is a point where you are tired of eating your garden day after day but the veggies keep rolling in.



I don’t want to waste the food we worked hard to grow (or be haunted by dead relatives ticked off because we wasted food.) I had to learn how to preserve garden vegetables with minimal effort because I always have 10 balls in the air at once. I don't have time for marathon canning sessions. Fortunately our garden is small so neither of these methods took much time at all.

Lazy Food Preservation #1 How to Freeze Fresh Vegetables




Freezing fresh vegetables is my go to way to save any slightly squishy vegetable
we can’t eat right away from the compost bin. It is easy:

1. Wash and slice the vegetables.
2. Blanch the vegetables in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes or less.
3. Put the vegetables in a container and pop it in the freezer.

Unfortunately, I don’t always get the air out of the container if I open it and reseal it after freezing. I am the undisputed Queen of Freezer Burn *royal wave*.

Orange peels I freeze to grate for orange zest.


(Not So) Lazy Food Preservation #2 Can Fruits and Vegetables




Last summer we had so many garden cucumbers, a gift of berries, and no freezer space I had to face my fear of canning. Fortunately making and canning basic jam wasn’t as hard to do correctly as long as I followed a canning recipe and didn’t mess with it. I made refrigerator pickles from the cukes first. Later I made and  canned pickles once I confident (and inundated with cukes.)

Most canning recipes appear to use a very large amount of sugar and lemon juice or vinegar but that is what helps safely preserves the food so don’t mess with the amounts! Besides, the stuff you buy in the grocery store probably has a lot more sugar (and fake sugar at that) in it.


Lazy Food Preservation #3 How to Dry Fresh Herbs and Vegetables


Sure I can make salsa but I need the jars for leftovers :)

Husband and I bought a cheap dehydrator (a $30 Aldi special) to deal with the oops-we-planted-maybe-a- bit-too-much basil because every spare tray and dish we had  was in use drying herbs without adehydrator.




My tomato plants are cooperating. They are ripening in drips and drabs. It is hard to gather enough to can more than a pint or two at a time.

Two weeks ago. As I was staring at the tomato plants and alternating between:
  • begging the tomatoes to ripen
  • trying to use my mind control powers (which are on the fritz as usual) to get the tomatoes to ripen

  
Then big fat duh moment slapped me.

I can use the dehydrator to make sun dried tomatoes.



  • I washed the vegetables.
  • Blanched the vegetables in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes or less.
  • Sliced the vegetables approximately ¼ inch thick after they cooled.
  • Popped them on the dehydrator racks and turned it on
  • Wait. And Wait. And wait. (Rotating the trays every four hours or so makes everything dry more evenly. It is easy to manage if I remember to set a kitchen timer.)
Now I am a dehydrating maniac! Well, actually more like a kid with a new toy (that I have and used for the past three months.)

This Summer’s Garden Haul




Most of these numbers are approximate because we are eating and using the food I put up. Put up? Lookit me sounding all Ma Ingalls!

Awesome.

  • 1 quart and ½ each of dried Chinese and Genovese basil
  • 1 quart Cilantro. Some say you should freeze cilantro instead of drying it for better flavor but I don't have much freezer space and have to conserve it when I can.
  • 6 jars each of spiced blueberry jam and raspberry Moscato jam in the pantry ready for sandwiches, toast, and holiday gift giving.
  • 2 wine bottles full of lavender essential oil (tincture)
  • 1 big jar of dried lavender buds for cooking and gift making
  • 1 12 oz bottle of peppermint essential oil (tincture) for DIY projects
  • 1 pint of dried peppermint and chocolate mint for DIY project and gift making
  • 5 quarts and 2 pints of canned tomatoes - I thanks to Food in Jars for the recipe and information
  • ½ quart sun dried tomatoes
  • 2 sandwich bags of frozen bitter melon
  • 1 salsa jar of dehydrated bitter melon
  • ¾ quart of dried blueberries (to use in granola if we don’t snack on them all first)
I want to play with the dehydrator more and try making jerky. Do you have any food dehydrator recipe book recommendations or recipes that use dehydrated ingredients besides soup?


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