Thursday, July 14, 2011

Getting Ready for Winter

That might seem like an odd title for a post when the forecast is for five days with heat indexes over 100F, but in northern climes like Minnesota winter is never that far away.
#81 - Minnesota Gothic
So, like squirrels we started stashing aways fruits and vegetables at their peak to eat when the fields are covered with snow. Since we try to eat locally and seasonably where we can, putting local food away for the winter is important to us. Freezing and canning our are two main ways of preserving summer's bounty. One of the first things we bought when we moved into a house in Minnesota was a freezer. We filled that first little one up so quickly that we had to buy a bigger one pretty quickly. (Don't worry that old freezer didn't go to waste, it's now a cask temperature beer fridge and will someday be a kegerator for homebrew.) As for canning, don't let it scare you. It's really not the hard, just takes some time and the right equipment. We also highly recommend Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Check out this post for our tips on getting started in canning.

Here's some of the main things we are doing this time of year to prepare for the dark days ahead...

Strawberries and Blueberries
We turn a bulk of the berries we get into jam (here are some good strawberry and blueberry jam recipes).
strawberry balsamic jam
We haven't bought jam in almost three years. The rest get cleaned and hulled for the strawberries then frozen in a single layer on a cookie sheet.
  The first strawberries of summer
Once frozen I put them into small freezer bags. The frozen berries are good in smoothies or I can make more jam if needed. Really thought the best is having strawberry shortcake in the middle of February.

Kale, Chard, and Spinach
All three of these dark leafy greens get processed the same way. We wash them and put 8oz amounts into freezer bags. Each bag get microwaved for one minute unsealed, this does the blanching. We let the bags cool open then seal them and put them in the freezer. The spinach is perfect for things like lasagna while the chard an kale get thrown into all sorts of soups and stews.
Kale Harvest
Last year we processed a ton of kale, way more than I ever thought we'd use, but we ran out before winter was over. This year we are growing twice as much in our garden.

Sweet Corn
There is nothing like sweet corn when it is in season, so we always buy extra. We blanch the cobs in boiling water and then cut off the kernels.
sweet corn for the freezer
I then freeze it in one cup and to cup quantities. This is another thing that goes fast in the winter in chowders and chilies.
Corn Relish
We also can a corn relish that is amazing with pork!

We preserve peppers in a couple of different ways.
Pepper Salsa
Hot peppers get used in salsa which we can, but we also slice an freeze them in small amounts to throw in chilies. Pepper jams are a favorite around here as an appetizer with cheese.
Hot Pepper Jelly
I make a plain pepper jam, but the fig and jalapeno I made last year was a huge hit. This year I'm going to try a hotter pepper in the jam. Sweet peppers we tend to roast, slice, and then freeze. We've also pickled peppers, but found we didn't have enough uses for them.

We mainly can tomatoes.
Tomato Sauce
My cousin and I will spend a whole day in the fall can jars of crushed tomatoes. We got through a ton in the winter and its so much better than those in metal cans. I also can tomato sauce, pizza sauce and salsa.
#237 - Oven Dried Tomatoes
Last year I also made my own oven dried tomatoes which we keep in the freezer, taking one or two out when needed.

Zucchini and Carrots
Our first year here I froze a ton of grated carrots and zucchini to use in cakes and bread, but barely touched any of it. I also froze blanched carrot rounds, but thought they cam out a little soggy. Our zucchini pickles weren't a big hit either.

Green Beans
These are quickly blanched and frozen. I like these in soups, but find they are a little to mushy to just eat as a side.

Ok, this one may seem totally out there, but most of the farms we by chicken from stop butchering them at the end of the summer. We try to fill out freezer with as many whole chicken as need to last the winter since we eat almost one roast chicken a week.
Homemade Stock
Bonus, we have chicken bones to make stock all winter.

Garlic Scapes, Green Garlic and Other Herbs
The easiest way to preserve these items is through pesto. I prefer garlic scape or green garlic pesto over basil myself. Heck, I've even made pesto with pea tendrils.
Pesto can be frozen in small amounts to use all year long. A lot of herbs can just be frozen, but you can also do other things with them like flavor homemade mustards such as this Champagne and Thyme Mustard.
Homemade Champagne Thyme Mustard

Kept in a cool, dark place apple can actually last for awhile into winter to eat fresh, but we also like to can apple sauce.
#280 - Ginger Peach Applesauce
It's good just dolloped on some oatmeal for breakfast, but it also makes for a great filling for turnovers or a side with pork.

I hope we've inspired you to started putting things away for winter if you haven't started yet. If you are already a preserver, share some of your favorite ways of saving the best of summer with us.

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at OR at then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at katbaro AT yahoo DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author unless otherwise noted. © 2007-2011 Kathy Lewinski


Elle said...

Wow, there are so many great ideas here! My goal is to get into canning later this summer and fall. Then once I get the hang of it, I can really do more next year.

Looking forward to it!

Gretchen P said...

Great post -- and today (Thursday) was a great day for spending some time over a hot oven or stove. I didn't can anything today, but I did make a slew of pie crusts since (1) I like to do that in cool weather and (2) I don't have time to mix the crust during the apple season.

Amy P. said...

Kathy, you inspire me. I love the tip for freezing greens in particular, never knew that you could blanch them in the microwave.

Lori said...

I love Matt's face in that photo. You all looked thrilled!

Your canning is so inspiring. On my list this year is apple butter and lots more salsa, if the tomatoes would ever turn in the garden. I really want to try your mustard too. I froze tomatoes last year, but I think this year I'm going to make them into sauce first, then freeze the sauce so prep is easier later.

The one thing I don't have luck with are pickled peppers. A food preservation specialist I work with said that it has to do with the variety we grow here. I guess they aren't the best for canning. Mine always turn to mush. Just means I have to concentrate on other more successful things!

Deborah said...

Wow - I am so impressed!! One day I will be just like you!!

PG said...

Love it! I made the strawberry vanilla jam. It turned out really well. I'll post about it soon. I've also made a raspberry jam. I'm excited to make something with some stone fruits and apple sauces/butter. My new challenge is to figure out how to deal with cucumbers. I recent realized that my two cucumber plants are actually English cucumbers and I have no idea how to use them up. Unfortunately, I'm not a big fan of relish or of sweet tasting pickles.

shopgirl said...

such a great post! I know that is "normal" to you, but it is just so cool and so inspirational!

lpdnvr said...

I really want to try your mustard recipe. I miss the days growing up and canning with my mom and g-ma in Iowa. One other thing I like to do with extra peppers is dehydrate them and grind them up for a good seasoning mix to add to dishes all winter. So much more fun to use your own rather than the seasoning mixes you buy in the store.

Lori said...

I think the temperature for storing apples is around 50 degrees. I wish we had a refrigerator just for apples. We love em. I, like you, can and freeze as much as possible. I love having pepper in my freezer already chopped or already roasted. They come in handy. While I make a lot of jam I do buy one on occassion.

Love, love, love that picture with the shovel, instead of pitchfork.

Barbara said...

That first photo is great! I know this is the time to be canning and preparing...but not for me any longer.

coleen~ said...

My husband and I always cook up a dozen ears of corn. What the 2 of us can't eat (usually 6-8 are left) and then we cut them off and freeze those. (no need to blanch) Then I never have to do lots at one time. What a great idea for freezing the kale! I love your pesto ideas and do quite a bit of it on my own. Have you tried rosemary pesto? I leave the cheese out and it is simply amazing!

Jacky Hackett said...

Great tip on freezing kale. Just prepped a few bags for Winter. Thanks!

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