015 Preserving food is hard (work)

015 Preserving food is hard (work)

Preserving food is hard. Or rather, learning how to preserve food is hard. The last week’s were a fun trip through my early adventures in canning while the weather was too moody to work on the garden.

The dark days of summer have brought rain and thunderstorms, wind and colder temperatures, so I have had plenty of time to spend in the kitchen.

My balcony garden has turned into a jungle. I harvested the New Zealand spinach and chard to make room. Green tomatoes, tiny pepper, and the first signs of cucumbers are showing. Soon, I’ll have a harvest from my tiny balcony jungle. Some things are unhappy. My second batch of radishes was devoured by bugs that appeared during the storms, so I didn’t see them until it was too late. I hope the seeds can still be saved.

The unhappiest pots are those on the top rack of the shelves I placed. The nasturtium seems to be recovering, so I have hope for it yet. The cucumber and zucchini didn’t like the vast amounts of rain that built up in the pots. While the cucumber has found room to spread toward the house and is looking better, I’m pretty sure the zucchini isn’t going to make it.

But that’s okay.

My garden neighbor had a huge zucchini harvest this year and asked me to take whatever I can use up. So, I harvested a bunch of them with no clue how to preserve them. I also harvested the rest of the white currant. Okay, I harvested the easily accessible ones and left the rest for the birds and insects. My baskets filled quickly, and I had more than enough before it felt like I was making a dent. There is plenty left for the birds.

Dreaming of a pantry stocked with home-canned foods is one thing. Actually preserving food is hard… and hard work.

Some misplanning and miscommunication added a bunch of potatoes that needed to be dealt with, so I added them to the pile, and started my research.

How do you preserve zucchini? Make jam? Can potatoes?

I wanted to try as many methods as possible. And then I realized things weren’t that simple. Most people seemed to just freeze zucchini. We don’t want to rely on a giant freezer, so that was out of the option.

So, I learned how to can zucchini raw. Despite my immersion blender being in for repair, I decided to make also some zucchini soup. I’d blend it up with some coconut milk when I was ready to eat it–or not. We’ll see.

When I was done, I still had a giant pot of chopped zucchini left, so I decided to try making zucchini-onion powder from the rest. I dehydrated them completely, and ground them up with a few dried green onions.

It is amazing to see how much of the zucchini is water. An entire bowl of squash turned into two tiny jars of powder.

I went down a rabbit hole on canning safety after learning that things are done very differently in the US. Apparently, I’m a rebel canner… or an Amish canner. I would say, I grew up in Europe. So, be warned, the USDA probably doesn’t approve of how I do things.

The first batch of potatoes was excellent. Having pre-chopped, pre-cooked potatoes ready for stir-fries, roasting, or as salted potatoes made the busy days a lot easier.

The second batch didn’t go so well. I forgot to add some vinegar which might have been the reason why two of the jars opened after a few days–along with the lovely smell of fermenting potatoes. Eww!

I’ll definitely be canning more soon. Canned potatoes are easy to make and easy to use. I had no idea.

Making marmalade, jam, preserve, whatever you wanna call it, was a lot easier. I’d made a simple preserve from the first batch of currants to use with pancakes and such, but I really wanted to make jam from the second batch. But I am completely unable to follow recipes and pectin sounded annoying, so I decided to follow the instructions from a Mennonite homesteader for pectin-free jam.

I spent quite some time picking all the tiny berries from the stems, then cooked it all up in a pot in the kitchen. After hours of work, I had three small jars to show for my effort–one of which has already been eaten.

Soon, the blackberries will be ripe on my new land. I’ve left the brambles, even though they are overgrowing where my garden beds will go, to get a huge harvest. Hopefully, there is a lot of blackberry jam in my future.

Preserving food is hard work. Preserving food is hard. But there is nothing quite like opening a jar of home-cooked, home-canned food, and enjoying the fruits of one’s labor–sometimes quite literally.

So long, and thanks for reading.