Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Preserving

Blackcurrants, July 2016
In the past, most of my preserving has been jam.  I actually made jam this year:  strawberry rhubarb, and we gave three out of the five small jars as teacher gifts;  and I promised the six year old we'd make one jar of blackcurrant jam.  But we really don't eat much jam these days as it's just too high sugar.  Instead, I'm on a quest to preserve our fruits and vegetables that's more aligned with our low carb eating habits. 
"Don't make a silly face!"
Freezing

Freezing is one of the simpler methods I use to preserve my harvest.  I froze our morello cherry harvest, and have been freezing excess leafy greens.  It's nice to be able to pop open a freezer bag and have a little parcel of greens to drop in a stew or casserole.  Freezing's downside is that it's vulnerable to power failures and limited in space;  our freezer is pretty small, and it's where I keep our monthly supply of milk, containers of homemade stock, and extra meat (I buy a lot if it's on special).  There's not a lot of room for much else.

Drying

A goal this year is to make a food dehydrator.  Initial experiments with drying on a tray in a hot car have been disappointing.  I don't think the car actually gets hot enough for long enough (after all, this is a rainy, rainy island)--so a solar dryer may not be feasible either.  I've oven dried things like apple rings in the past, but it takes ages--like all day!  I can't be hanging around watching apples dry (I tried overnight but they got a little too crispy).  At least I can air dry herbs on trays on top of my fridge pretty successfully.  I'm doing it with mature peas (in pods), too.  I'll have to work on my dehydrator ideas a little longer.

Fermenting

Though I've not been doing it long, I occasionally lacto-ferment vegetables like cabbage into sauerkraut.  I love the sour taste of kraut and other fermented vegetables:  especially if fermented with garlic.  I've done carrots, cauliflower, rhubarb, green beans, chard stems.  Nearly everything has been good--though my fermented kale was a bit of a slimy disaster.  Vegetables preserved this way can last a long time, though I usually keep them in the fridge after fermenting for a week on the counter.  This slows fermentation:  otherwise they just get more and more sour.  I recently used a jar of fermented green beans which were a full year old, and they still tasted great.  Pretty soft by this point, though, as though they'd already been cooked.

Then there's the other kind of fermentation:  alcohol!  I like to preserve the bulk of our wild harvested apples this way.  Since we don't cook/pastuerize the apples or juice, the minerals and other good stuff stays in it, preserved in the alcohol.  I even let some of it convert to vinegar, which has the same good stuff--and is legal to give to children!  Actually my homebrewed apple cider vinegar tastes pretty good and I use it interchangeably for white wine in recipes like beurre blanc.

Bottling

I prefer not to cook the life out of my harvest, so pressure canning is not in the agenda.  Jam is also out, and bottled fruit too (again too much sugar).  What's left?  Pickles!  I don't have much experience with pickling vegetables, but this is the year I have a go.  So far I've put up a small jar of chard stems with garlic, and a few jars of rhubarb with garlic.  I won't be opening them until winter.  Other pickle possibilities:  onions, cucumbers, zuccini, green tomatoes, beans.  I can't guarantee all (or any) of these will be pickled, but if I do, here's hoping they're edible. 

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