preserving the harvest

It’s been busy…

Goodness! I’ve been so busy cooking and creating and putting up that I haven’t exactly had time to write about anything.

20 (twenty!) quarts of sauerkraut, 8 pints of roasted corn salsa, and 5 half pints of blueberry butter

The cabbage for the sauerkraut came from Signal Mountain farm as did the blueberries for the blueberry butter. The corn in the salsa is from Rainbow Hill Farm. The variety of this corn is Luscious and Rainbow Hill is growing it as it is available in organic seed. Their farm is not certified organic yet but they are making strides! It was delicious but the ears are a bit small.  The tomatoes and onion in the salsa came from the market but neither farm appears to have a name.

15 bags of purple hull peas for the freezer

These peas came from The Dekalb County Farmers Market in Atlanta. They are local to that area and I’ve decided the Dekalb Market is my best option for buying peas in bulk as I’ve had bad luck with my pea ventures in Chattanooga. If you are anywhere close to the Dekalb Market you must check it out. It is an international market with the most amazing selection of just about everything. The prices are wonderful as well.

Sometimes I get so caught up preserving and putting away that I forget I can enjoy the goodness right now. Luckily I don’t forget for too long…

Blueberry butter…who needs bread??

Blueberry butter is something I just discovered this week in a new preserving book, Food in Jars. It is a more sophisticated version of jam. There is less sugar and the addition of lemon zest, nutmeg, and cinnamon give it a spicy flavor. Delicious!


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Puttin’ up…

That’s a mess of beans! Sunday afternoon we put up about 5 lbs of beans, bell peppers, and shiitake mushrooms. The beans need to be briefly blanched before you freeze them. (Refer to this post for more information  about blanching). I love these purple beans. It’s too bad they turn green as soon as you cook them.

We quartered these peppers and put them in the freezer. No need to blanche or treat them; just toss them in a freezer safe bag. Let them thaw briefly when you are ready to use.

I love having a jar of dried mushrooms in the kitchen. They are great to toss in to a sauce or soup to ramp up the flavor. Of course, you can always rehydrate them and use like fresh. The stems are great to add to the stock bags you have in the freezer (you do have bags of chicken bones and veggie scraps for stock, right??) We just chop the tops off and leave in the dehydrator over night.

Sigh…I love seeing the freezer and pantry fill up with goodness!


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The beginning of the canning frenzy!

This is the best time of year. All the lovely fresh fruits and veggies appearing at the market give you option after option for yummy meals. It’s also the time to start putting all that away to help you get through the winter. I know, you could go to the grocery in December and buy a jar of strawberry jam but it just wouldn’t be as good, I promise. When you make it yourself you know exactly what goes in and it’s usually less expensive. My first year of canning was pricey. I had to buy all the jars and a jar lifter and a giant pot. But, jars are reusable (with the exception of the tops but those are cheap) so it gets less expensive as you build up your supply of jars.

Last weekend my little kitchen produced 10 jars of cabbage relish, 6 jars of peach jam, and 8 jars of peach salsa. I also made a batch of spent grain bread. It was a busy, messy, lovely time!

The peaches were seconds from Hazelrig Farm. Seconds are a great option for canning. They are perfectly edible fruits (or veggies) that may have a few blemishes and/or be just a day or so from being overripe. People aren’t usually willing to pay full price for something that doesn’t look perfect so you can score a great deal on a basket of fruit.

The cabbage was caraflex cabbage from Signal Mountain Farm


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Storing Broccoli

I don’t there is much better than a freezer full of veggies when it is the middle of winter and getting dark at 4:30 in the afternoon. This broccoli from Signal Mountain Farm became the first of our summer veggie storage last week.

The first step when you are freezing vegetables is to blanch them. Inside your vegetables there are enzymes that are breaking down the vitamins and pigments. Freezing actually enhances these enzymes and causes them to work faster. When you blanch you inactivate those enzymes and allow the vitamins and color to be better preserved.  If you are a serious food and science geek and want to explore this reaction further, Harold McGee is your man. His book, On Food and Cooking is an excellent reference when you want to find out what went wrong with your cooking.

So, chop your broccoli and have a pot of boiling water and a bowl of ice water ready. Drop your broccoli in the boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes.

After 3 minutes, remove the broccoli and plunge into ice water. This stops the cooking process. When the broccoli is cool, drain well. I find the salad spinner works best for this to really get all the water off. Store the broccoli in labeled Ziploc bags. Always squeeze as much air as possible out of the bags.

Frozen broccoli does get a bit limp so it won’t stand on its own very well. It is great to add to soup, frittatas, stir fry, or casserole type dishes.


Categories: preserving the harvest | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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