Summer in a Jar: 5 Great Sites on Preserving Food

I was caught short my first winter as a serious locavore.  I did not know what any kid 4H would have known in 1950.4-H-preserves-in-1950

I decided in the fall to depend on what area farmers could offer when it was too late to put any local fruits and veggies in my freezer.  Two years ago, I finally decided to follow the Dane County Farmers Market (perhaps the biggest local-produce-only markets in the country) when it left its scenic and spacious Capital Square summer digs and moved to the more cramped quarters of a downtown senior center community room and kitchen.

I was pleased to see so much produce still locally available, and decided to test how close I could come to eating locally.  Fortunately, there were apples – mis-shapen but mouth-watering little heirlooms.  And hoop house-grown spinach that was so tender and sweet, it was a revelation.

    My tomatoes ripening on the table

My tomatoes ripening on the table

That was pretty much it for fresh greens and fruit the rest of winter — and it was enough for nutritional purposes, but by February I was fantasizing about fresh blueberries and strawberries the way someone lost in a desert dreams of  running water.

Tomato sauce simmering on the stove. Wish you could smell this.

Now I realize that with a little forethought, locavores can enjoy their area’s treasures all year long, and I am gradually learning toput  my favorites up while they are in season.  A miser couldn’t love his gold any more than I love the jars of tomato sauce standing tall in my basement or bags of berries packed like bricks in the freezer of my fridge.  I’m shopping for the most efficient chest freezer I can find and plan to add beans, corn, broccoli and as many more as I can to my stores.

..Tomatoes simmering on the stove.  Wish you could smell this.

..Tomatoes simmering on the stove. Wish you could smell this.

Here are 5 of my favorite websites on food preservation.

1.  Canning Across America: Join the Canvolution!

This website features anationawide collection of cooks, gardeners and food lovers who want to see “putting by” food become common and safe.  This is a treasure trove of recipes, resources and giveaways.

2.  Modern Beet: Thoughtful Eating

This website covers many aspects of fresh food besides preserving, but her preserve posts are detailed and her small selection of preserves are intriguing concoctions like Wild Elderberry Preserves with Honey and Almond or Nectarine and Strawberry Butter.  Whether I ever make them, it was a joy to contemplate them.

3.  Freeze That Thought: The Minimalist

This is an article that appeared in the New York Times by Mark Bitten.  I used to think I couldn’t start freezing produce till I owned an actual chest freezer, but this piece opened my eyes to the way I was wasting the freezer I already had available in my kitchen.  If you think you can’t freeze – you have got to read this.  It will change your life!  It has changed mine.

4.  National Center for Home Food Preservation

This website is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is vast and encyclopediac.  If you like your instructions detailed and graphic, they have slide shows and videos that take you step by step through each process.  It is all here.

5.  Drying Fruits and Vegetables

This is a page from the University of Georgia Coopeartive Extension Service that really spells out how to dry food, including details on how to improvise a solar dryer with a folding chair!  I haven’t dried anything yet, but I will get back to you on that.  What’s not to like about the “oldest method of preserving food, which is simple, safe and easy to learn”?

PLEASE HELP ME.  I NEED ADVICE BEFORE BUYING A FREEZER.  I WANT TO GET THE MOST EFFICIENT SMALL CHEST FREEZER OUT THERE.  LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE FOUND.

   Summer in a jar!

.. Summer in a jar!

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4 replies

  1. I lost almost all my tomatoes this year. I’m sad, of course, but interestingly, I think I can be carried on leftovers from previous years along with a few judicious purchases. I’d always shied away from those recipes that start with “Makes 12 Quarts” – mostly because I can almost exclusively in pints – but now I get it. Abundance one year, not to much the next, but all’s more or less o.k. Slow on the uptake, perhaps, but really glad to have sauce leftover from last year!

  2. These tomatoes in the photo are actually from last year, and I too, am happy to have a little left over because my crop was also cut short this year. I agree that a little left over can even out these highs and lows in seasons.
    Better luck to us both next year.

  3. Thank you for your very kind words about my site! Somehow I only saw the link now, over half a year later from when you originally posted it.
    Anyhow, I have two favorite preserving books that I read over and over again and always find new things to try: The Joy of Pickling by Linda Zeidrich, and Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber. So much inspiration in those two books! Have you seen either?

    • Hey! Better late than never.
      Now that we are coming around to preserving season again, I’m going to try to find the books you mentioned. I notice that The Joy of Pickling is not in Madison Public Library, but Mes Confitures is, and I have it on request right now.
      My grandma used to pickle in a very simple way with a 5 gallon crockery jar. I’m eager to learn more.
      What are you planning to pickle this summer?
      Denise

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