Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Preserving Food

Although we can and freeze a great deal of our harvested produce and hope to continue doing so, we're also interested in learning all we can about how people preserved their harvest before modern freezing and canning techniques were developed. These little known techniques for preserving foods maximize flavor and nutrition and are less costly and more energy-efficient.

The book, Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning by The Gardeners and Farmers of Centre Terre Vivante and with a new foreword by Deborah Madison offers a wealth of information and is a wonderful addition to the home library. We especially love the *recipe* for preserving cherry tomatoes. It requires tomatoes, onions, cider vinegar or lemon juice, fresh herbs, coarse salt, and olive oil. You do place them in scalded and sterilized jars, but that is all. They store for up to a year and are ready to eat in two months. I hated the thoughts of *wasting* all that olive oil once the tomatoes were gone, but one of my daughters suggested that we could use it for salad dressings and other things calling for oil and vinegar:) I also think it is good for dipping bread, and I've noticed that Whole Foods offers all sorts of oil concoctions for doing so.

Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning offers information for preserving in a root cellar, drying, by lactic fermentation, in oil, in vinegar, with salt, with sugar, as preserves, and in alcohol.

The method of drying zucchini also appeals to us since our gardens tend to produce bountiful amounts of those and we use them in lots of different ways. Last summer we used zucchini in place of apples in our crisps and cobblers and couldn't tell the difference. A friend of ours also gave us a good recipe for making *crab* cakes using zucchini:) Another of our favorite uses of FRESH zucchini is to put it through the spiralizer and make *pasta*. Sauteed in olive oil or butter, we can hardly tell the difference between zucchini *pasta* and the real deal. Gotta find some way to use it all:)

Our boys are making drying racks for outside using the two screen doors we saved after replacing them with new ones. Screen will be stretched tight and stapled, legs added from the scrap lumber pile, and they are going to be slightly tilted towards the sun. We saw something similar at a pioneer homestead we sometimes visit. One of our elderly relatives has successfully dried apples for years by placing them on a tin rack during the day and covering them with a sheet at night. I enjoy visiting with her and have much to learn from the wealth of information stored away over her lifetime of living and learning.:) I think she also enjoys visiting and is glad to know that some of us *younger* folks are eager to learn. She and her husband also gave us heirloom seed corn that has been passed down in their family for generations, but I digress. Sorry:)

Another free no-extra-energy cost method we've discovered is that of putting pans of herbs and other things we wish to dehydrate in our propane stove/oven. The pilot light is on anyway and produces just enough heat to slowly dry things just as an electric dehydrator would do. We fill the oven at night with good things to dry and continue nightly until the job is done. This winter we hope to have plenty of produce and herbs to dry on a rack over and behind our wood burning cook stove.

One last tip is one we learned from our off-grid friends. They can their pureed and diced tomatoes in the summer but save the long hot job of cooking them down to spaghetti sauce for the winter when the extra heat is appreciated. Since they cook and heat their home with the wood cook stove, they can have something simmering all the time during the winter months. They just open the tomatoes and cook spaghetti sauce as needed.

Do you have any tried and true preserving method you'd like to share or the name of a favorite book about putting food away?



And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:11-12

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  1. One of my projects to do with the children is make a solar dehydrator. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts here. We are pretty new to desiring to live a self-sufficient kind of life style and are enjoying learning as we go along. Love those photos of your tomatoes!
    Lusi x

  2. Lusi, Thank you so much for leaving a comment!

    I'd also like to have a solar dehydrator. Are you talking about the kind that looks like a box? I guess the ones the boys are making from the salvaged screen doors would be considered the old-timey kind.

    I'm also hoping my husband will be able to make some of the stackable homemade dehydrator trays to use in the propane oven. That way we can fit more in there at one time.

    I'm so glad you liked the tomato photos. They grow really well here in the southern part of the country, and I just love the beautiful red color on the pantry shelves.



  3. Sherry last year at the very last minute of my growing season...I bought a 1980 Ronco dehydrator..no instructions.I just tackled drying anything that was left in my garden.I had a blast.I even dryed some watermelon.Yummy!!
    I will be building a few solar ones also..you can go to you tube and find the how to build one.Love the screen idea..I will have my husband build me some of those.I will have to check out the book you talked about.I like the idea of the cherry tomatoes in oil.And yes I know you can use it for a dipping suaces! Love all the prep you are doing.I have been in Oklahoma for 13 weeks now with my daughter helping her get set up on her new property,Looking forward to going home this weekend and digging in on my preps at home.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Cindy from Rick-Rack and Gingham

  4. So sweet to find your blog! We like to dehydrate with out Excaliber. But want to experiment using simpler methods over our (new this year) cook stove and also in the attic. :-) SO we hope incorperate that this year. I used to hang things upside down from the rafters in our garage and that worked nicely too. I am also looking for good resources too. Thanks for the tip on the book!

  5. Cindy,

    Thanks so much for your comment. I'd LOVE to hear more about your dried watermelon. Is it anything like fruit leather? Watermelon is my FAVORITE!

    How sweet of you to help your daughter get settled. You must be a great blessing to your family:)

  6. Mommy Set Free, Thanks for stopping by to visit and for leaving a sweet comment.
    A good friend of ours has an Excaliber and loves it:) She's using it to dehydrate all sorts of good things and some of the items are being mixed together for ready-made soups.
    I've hung some herbs and flowers from the rafters before to dry but never in a garage. Do you think the moisture content would be similar to that of a large corn crib? One of my children mentioned that as a possibility. We no longer have a garage. I'll have to try it again in the house. I'd forgotten how pretty things look drying that way. Thanks for the reminder and the tips! Blessings:)

  7. Great post! I love the pictures and tips. I am going to have to see if I can find that book you mentioned. Thanks for linking up at the Carnival of Home Preserving! Hope to see you again this Friday for a new edition!