Preserving The Harvest - My "To Do" List for 2020

There is nothing that compares to eating fresh produce picked right from your backyard.  I'm always so excited at the anticipation of the year's growing season.  What's the next best thing?  Eating produce that you've picked and put up for enjoyment later in the year.  There's such a satisfaction in grabbing something you've grown and/or preserved from the shelf or freezer and serving it up for a meal.

Part of keeping to a tight budget is planning ahead and making the most of the produce we grow.  Although I don't currently grow even close to everything we need to sustain us year-round, I am able to provide us quite a bit to eat fresh as well as to put up for eating in winter and spring.

I'll be honest, freezing and canning takes planning, time, and energy.  Particularly anything with tomatoes.  We reserve a full day for those and the kitchen is a disaster at the end of the day.  But one day of hard work equals months of enjoyment, so it's well worth it.  We eat a ton of veggies so it certainly helps our grocery budget remain in check.

What I won't be freezing, drying or canning are greens.  I eat a TON of fresh greens every day so I would really prefer to try and grow them year-round.  I've had it on my wish list for a while, but I believe this year we will (finally) set up a cold frame so I can try to grow greens throughout the winter.  I'm also considering trying to grow microgreens since they are such a nutritional powerhouse.

Where do you put all of the frozen food?  I get that question a lot.  We have 2 stand-alone freezers in addition to the freezer/refrigerator combo in our kitchen.  We dedicate one (the larger) freezer to fruits and veggies and the second one is dedicated to buying meat in bulk from local farmers as well as any make-ahead meals or meal components (i.e. chicken stock, pre-made meatballs, pizzas, lasagna, sauces, etc.).

Here's what's on my to-do list for preserving this year:

(**books/recipes listed at the bottom of the post**)
Salsa - I'm continuing my search for a canned salsa recipe that we like.  They are usually either too vinegary, too sweet, or too salty.  I'll try a couple new recipes this year.

Tomatoes - I did not can tomatoes last year and within 2 weeks of tomato season passing I was regretting it.  I had oven-roasted quite a few and put them in the freezer for use later.  That was helpful for making tomato soup and spaghetti sauce, however, we do use a lot of canned diced and whole tomatoes (recipe at food in jars) throughout the year so I should have canned them.

Tomato Jam - Marisa's recipe is SO incredibly delicious.  It's the perfect blend of sweet and spicy.

Pickled Jalapeno Slices - we use these for so many things so they are a must every year.

Spaghetti Sauce - we usually use 2 jars per month in winter and the first part of spring so I try to can enough to cover that.

Arrabbiata Sauce - a nice spicy alternative.

Pickles - because I have converted to using little to no salt I'm no longer a big fan of pickles but I'll probably put up a couple of jars to have on hand.

Sushi Ginger - I don't grow ginger but I want to give this a try.  I like to make sushi bowls from time-to-time.

we love making small batch strawberry-honey jam with frozen strawberries

Jam - I probably won't can much because I like to make it from frozen fruit in small amounts through the winter so I am able to lower the sugar (we use honey or maple syrup) dramatically.  Also, one of our vendor-friends at the farmer's market makes and cans amazing lower sugar jam.  I'll probably do a few different jams such as Salted Brown Sugar Peach Jam, Honey Sweetened Peach & Vanilla Jam (recipe at food in jars), Mulled Cider Jelly (it's like fall in a jar!)because I always end up with leftover cider, and Cantaloupe Jam with Vanilla (we've made this one before and it's sweet but amazing).

Enchilada Sauce - we use about a jar per month so I won't need too much.

Sweet and Sour Pickled Red Onions - I like to add these to tacos.

Spicy Apple Cider and Mustard Glaze - perfect for pork or chicken.

Tomatillo Simmer Sauce - I always end up with TONS of tomatillos.  We use as many as possible fresh as sauces or salsas.  Instead of getting tomatillo-d out this year I'm going to try this plus a tomatillo salsa recipe.

Garlic - I don't have a lot planted this year but will increase the yield for next year.  What I do have I will dry.  We use 2 cloves typically per day so every bit helps.

Apple Slices - I love adding these to oatmeal but we also like snacking on them when we are at farmer's markets or craft shows.  We don't grow apples and I haven't found an organic local source as of yet so currently these are store bought.

Pumpkin Seeds - I've been adding these to my salads daily so I'll bake up the seeds from any pumpkins we eat or bake up for freezing.

Herbs - we grow quite a few herbs for cooking and for tea so I'll dehydrate many for use throughout the year.

Elderberries - I began dehydrating these last year and it worked perfectly.  This way I can make elderberry syrup in small quantities, using honey instead of sugar, to use as needed.

Broccoli - I eat broccoli every single day and I grow a lot of it so this is a must.

Peppers - bell peppers, roasted poblanos, jalapenos, and stuffed jalapenos (for my husband).  We use these every single week.  I know that bell peppers lose much of their nutritional value once frozen (or cooked), however they are just so expensive to purchase in the winter.

Blueberries - we don't grow enough to freeze but there is a blueberry farm down the road from us and we pick a TON of blueberries every summer for freezing.  We eat blueberries every single morning now so we will be picking and freezing a lot more starting this year.

Strawberries - we no longer grow strawberries so I usually get these from a farmer at our farmer's market.  We eat these quite a bit throughout the year too so I will be increasing the amount I freeze of these too.

Corn - another item we don't grow enough of to freeze so we buy it in bulk from a local farmer and freeze it.

Corn Salsa - corn, chopped roasted poblano's and chopped onion.  Then I can add cilantro and lime juice when I go to use it.

Zucchini/Summer Squash - I freeze a small amount of shredded squash to add to soups, muffins, or quick breads.

Winter Squash & Pumpkin - we do not have a root cellar so we keep them fresh as long as possible and then eventually bake and freeze.

Winter Squash Soup - spiced and ready to eat!

Peas - sugar snaps and regular peas, whatever we have extras of.

Carrots - we grow quite a few so I'll put any extras in the freezer.

Onions - again, only what we have extras of.  I'm ok with buying these in the winter and spring since they are relatively inexpensive and store well.  I may oven roast them first and freeze them as a starter for French onion soup.

Mirepoix - I like freezing chopped carrots, onions and celery together because I use it as the base of so many soups.

Green Beans - we eat these just about every day during growing season because we love them fresh. Yes, they are rubbery when frozen, but we still enjoy their flavor so I usually try to freeze some of the massive amounts that we grow.

Oven-Roasted Tomato Slices - we really enjoyed adding some of these to tomato soup, sauces, etc.  It just adds a little bit of fresh and roasted tomato flavor.  I roasted them without oil (on parchment lined sheets), sprinkled with spices and slivers of garlic, then transferred them to pint canning jars and kept them in the freezer.  When I used them I could either add them in the chunks as they were frozen or I could blend them up first.  It was perfect, I'll do it the same way again.

Ratatouille - I've never put this in the freezer before so this will be a trial.  I'd love to hear from you if you've ever given it a try!

Canning Books
Here are the sources that I use for recipes. (affiliate links)

  • Food In Jars (tomato jam, cantaloupe with vanilla jam, diced and crushed tomatoes, classic dill pickles, and sweet and sour pickled red onions)
  • Preserving By The Pint (salted brown sugar peach jam, tomatillo simmer sauce, spicy apple cider and mustard glaze, and 2 salsa's we'll be trying)
  • Canning For A New Generation (pickled jalapenos, sushi ginger, peach & cilantro salsa, and tomatoes)
  • America's Test Kitchen Foolproof Preserving (mulled cider jelly, arrabbiata sauce, roasted tomato and lime salsa, and enchilada sauce)

What types of things do you preserve?  


Kathy said...

You certainly have a lot of your garden growing / canning sorted out. I would love to grow enough food and have plenty to give away. I only have roughly 2 and a bit beds so just grow quick growing things herbs, lettuce, spring onions, tomatoes and occasionally corn however that takes up a full bed. We don't get snow here too so we don't have the huge need to stock pile away.

Sharon @ Laurelhurst Craftsman said...

With two full freezers, do you have a backup generator? I've always been worried that some extended power outage will take out all our frozen food.

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Kathy - that's great! Growing even a small amount makes quite a difference on your grocery budget I'm sure. And wonderful that you don't need to stock pile excess because of your moderate temps. :)

Sharon - yes, we do have a generator which helps tremendously. Losing all the food due to a power outage is a very valid concern. We have well water which means we lose even water during power outages so a generator was one of our first purchases when we moved into our home. We've lost power in the summer a few times which is even more concerning than winter and we've been so grateful for the generator keeping everything safe. And then there's human error... Unfortunately two years ago we had some new electrical run to our outbuildings and the electrician forgot to plug one of our freezers back in and we didn't go check (we absolutely should have). We lost that entire freezer's contents, and of course it was the meat freezer...….

daisy g said...

That is an ambitious list. No doubt you will be able to complete it. I love how self-sufficient y'all are.

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Thank you Daisy! Yes, it's ambitious indeed!