With summer coming to an end here in Zone 3 I usually find myself awash with crops. We continue to enjoy harvests as a part of our meals however there is more now than we can eat fresh. In order to support my ongoing goal save money by producing my own food I am in the full swing of preserving so we can continue to enjoy garden produce over the winter months.
Today I thought I would go through some of the methods we use to preserve crops from the garden.
The quickest and simplest method to preserve crops is to find a cold spot in your house such as a cold cellar. Cold Cellars often keep the room temperature around 4 Celsius or around 40 Fahrenheit. At that temperature shelf stable things such as squash, potatoes and some varieties of apples can stay good for months.
Usually Cold Cellars are dug below ground where the soil insulates the room from both heat and cold. Although I do not have a cold cellar I usually store my potatoes in the basement where it is cooler. I have them in a dark and dry location just off the ground. My potatoes are usually good this way for a few months.
Another alternative is to just toss those same crops in the refrigerator however as I am sure many of you know there is rarely enough space.
Some crops such as berries you can toss into the freezer for use later however other crops may require more.
Dehydrating crops is a great way to preserve crops and just store them in your kitchen where they can be easily accessed over the winter.
Dehydrators come in very cheap to very expensive models. What I have found for dehydrating garden produce the cheaper models work perfectly fine. The only feature I look for is a temperature control as herbs keep their flavour better when dehydrated at a lower temperature whereas fleshier things like peppers need a higher temperature in order to dehydrate them completely.
One of my favorite things to do with my dehydrator is to process excess peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. I then use our food processor to turn the mixture into a powder. In order to keep my dehydrated produce good I make sure to store it in a sealed container, like a mason jar, to keep the moisture out.
I love to use my pepper topping on eggs or to season my home made tomato sauce.
Speaking of tomato sauce canning is another great way to preserve crops. Canning does take a little bit of equipment and time however once you get going you can preserve a lot of food.
We make tomato sauce from all sized tomatoes if we cannot eat them fresh. This year however was the first year that my heirloom grapes from my grandfathers produced. So we decided when it was time to harvest that what we did not eat fresh was going to become Jam and Jelly and can it.
I will put links to the recipes I used in the description below if you are interested. They turned out fantastic!
My son and I have tried both the jam and jelly on toast, yogurt and even ice cream. It is absolutely fantastic and was not that hard to make. The best part is I should have enough to give some away to my family at Christmas!
Another gift I love to give is wine and cider I have made from garden produce. Although you are not preserving food per say it is a great way to use some of the excess produce such as apples, rhubarb, strawberries and even hardy sour cherries.
Brewing is fairly simple to get into and by watching local buy and sell websites I have been able to accumulate the equipment I need at a fraction of the cost.
Our annual favorites to brew are hard apple cider, rhubarb wine and strawberry wine.
In some cases not all of these options will work for each crop so often I will treat them individually and if I do have any wastage I make sure to take those lessons into account for next year’s garden to make sure I get the most use out of the food I produce from the space I have available.
Preserved crops such as dehydrated peppers, jam and wine are able to spread the enjoyment of my crops over the winter months. Preserving is also a great way for my wife son and I to share the bounty with friends and family.
Grape Jam Recipe:
Grape Jelly Recipe: