I’m not really into zombie-apocalypse style survival preparation. But I am into saving as much of our own food as possible for the winter. Why?
- It saves us on grocery bills through winter. A LOT.
- It’s really satisfying to eat the food you grew yourself in the middle of the winter.
- It tastes way better. (Ever compared home canned tomatoes to store canned tomatoes come February? Hardly a comparison to talk about.)
There are certain foods I’m really excited about preserving, and others that I find either impractical for us. Things that have to stay in the fridge, for example, are rather difficult to keep long term because we just don’t have a lot of fridge space. (What we need, my friends, is a real root cellar… building project???)
We try to save every last scrap of food from the garden that we can. But the top preservation items for us this year have been… drum roll please…
1) Tomatoes. Canned whole tomatoes, canned sauce, canned salsa, sun-dried tomatoes, frozen chopped green tomatoes. That’s my list for this year. My husband planted about 40 tomato plants last spring, mostly Brandywine and Amish Paste. While several of them fell prey to blight, the rest are producing a lot of scrumptiousness that should really be saved for when the snow flies.
2) Squash. For zucchini and yellow squash, I chop, grate, and freeze. Winter squash actually keeps a good long while just sitting someplace cool and dry, but you can also freeze purees or mashes (such as those from pumpkin, Turk’s turban, or acorn squash). You can safely can cubed winter squash at home, but not pureed squash (read why here– we actually canned pureed pumpkin for about 3 years before hearing that we shouldn’t, so I guess we were in the safe zone, but it turns out we were taking a risk!)
3) Cooking Greens. Cauliflower greens, broccoli greens, turnip greens, spinach, chard, etc. Collect them, wash them, blanch them, freeze them. Then they’re all ready for side dishes, casseroles, sauce, soups, eggs- you name it- they’re an easy and super nutritious add-in.
4) Broccoli & Cauliflower. Why should the greens have all the fun? I’m blanching and freezing florets as well, since in the past I bought the frozen versions on a very regular basis all year round.
5) Berries. We live near a couple of pick-yer-own farms around here, so we turned somewhere in the neighborhood of 31 lbs of strawberries and blueberries into frozen food and home-canned jam. We also made this elderberry syrup recipe. (Thanks mom & dad, for all of your help picking and preserving those berries!)
6) Apples. We have 3 old apple trees on our property that were not very well cared for before we arrived. While Tim is working on pruning them back to reasonable size, we do still get some good tart green apples. I do pick out what I am able to salvage and make apple sauce, apple butter, etc. to put away for winter. It’s more of a pain than orchard apples, for sure, but hey, they’re free!
7) Peppers. I try to pick my peppers and freeze them at different stages so we have green & red. I also add them to canning recipes (salsa, for example). I would like to try preserved roasted red peppers… has anyone else done this?
7) Fish. These aren’t home-grown, but they are fresh-caught close to home. We live just above a creek full of bass, sunnies, and trout. My hubby catches them, guts them, and we freeze them. We don’t have the right type of equipment or a lot of experience to do a really good job of this yet. However, we try to eat them fairly quickly (within a couple months), and it’s always been tasty, almost-free meat for our family.
While there are certainly other things we are working on preserving for winter (black walnuts, beets, etc.) the ones listed above have been our biggest producers and best savers so far this year. What is easiest to preserve in your area? What do you use most frequently throughout the winter?