Preserving Food

Ginger commented on this post about doing more canning and preserving in order to build up food stores. This is something that I think about and hope to implement too.

I haven’t done much canning (why is it called canning when we put everything in jars? Shouldn’t it be jarring?) but the little I’ve done was challenging to say the least. I have a water bath canner compliments of my sister and attempted to can nectarines last year. I wrote about that experience. Next year, to do water bath canning I’ll need to get more organized at it.

For the past couple of years I’ve been doing different Lacto-Fermented items and some of those have turned out really good (last year I did a post on our hits and misses). My family hasn’t enjoyed any of the fermented fruits (except lemons) I’ve done but they have been quite fond of the varieties of sauerkraut, carrots and beets. Lacto- fermented foods sit for a couple of days at room temperature (during the fermentation time) and then must be moved to cold storage. Currently, I use our second fridge for most of our lacto-fermented storage. If we had a cellar or basement then I’d set something up down there for this storage.

Recently, Joe bought me a food dehydrator. It is nothing too fancy but we have been quite pleased with it so far. I’ve made three batches of apples and boy are they good! I hope to put the dehydrator to good use this year.

I’ve also used my oven as a dehydrator for things like jerky. That works quite well too. But the jerky doesn’t last long enough here for me to know if it has a very long life of being shelf stable.

My freezers also get a good work out. This past summer we added a chest freezer to our household. We currently have a side by side fridge with a freezer, a second apartment size fridge/freezer and the chest freezer. With the wild game and chickens this year our freezers are quite full. I also put quite a bit of nectarines and tomatoes in the freezer that I didn’t can or ferment.

With it being January and quite cold outside now seems like a good time to put together a Preserving Wish List for this year. Ideally, I would like to have everything shelf stable that has been preserved. We had a week long power outage when we lived in Oregon and we lost the contents of our freezer. I’d hate to have a repeat of that. But the reality is that we will be using our freezers at least for the time being while my food preservation skills and equipment increase.

My Plan for 2011 is to use a combination of the above methods. I’m hoping that our garden will be successful this year (and the grasshoppers will stay far, far away) and most of our vegetables will come from our garden. We planted fruit trees and berry vines last year but they did not survive the grasshoppers (and if they did would still be too young to produce) so for fruit I’ll have to find sources.

Lacto-Fermenting

I’m planning for plenty of Sauerkraut. I have made a variety of it. We love Cortido and Kimchee. We also love green cabbage kraut with or without caraway seeds in it. Purple cabbage kraut is good too but my family freaks a bit about the purple color getting on other things. I’ll also do Ginger Carrots and Spicy Carrots. Both are delicious. And pickled beets. These are soooo good. And our new favorite which I haven’t been able to make enough of is Lacto-Fermented Salsa. I could probably fill up the fridge with it and it still wouldn’t be enough.

We use these lacto-fermented vegetables as side dishes. We often add Cortido atop our burritos or tacos. Kraut is wonderful on top of soups or casseroles or just on the side. Lacto-fermented foods also aid in digestion. In our house, we consider things like kraut to be a veggie, a dietary aid and a flavor enhancer. Quite the all around food!

I have found that kraut, beets and carrots all last quite sometime. I still had spicy pickled carrots from last year in the fridge. They still had a great taste but were not as crisp as they had been.

Another thing I hope to ferment this year is Lemons. I made a half gallon of those in December of 09 that we are still eating on. They are delicious. Those lemons had been given to us by Joe’s Aunt who was visiting from California. They were fresh from her tree. I hope she comes to visit again this year and brings lemons along.

Water Bath Canning

I’ll focus on this for fruits since lacto-fermented fruit is not popular with my family. I hope to make jams and jellies (using ‘healthy’ sweeteners), butters and sauces. Plus maybe can (jar) some tomatoes or other veggies if it seems a good thing to do. For the health benefits, I think lacto fermenting is better but I’d rather have home canned over store bought canned any day.

Dehydrating

I’m hoping to utilize this as much as possible. We love dried apples and I’m guessing we would love pears too. I’m also thinking dried tomatoes would be good. I plan to experiment quite a bit with this method.
We also plan to do more jerky this year. With all of the wild game we have here, jerky seems a natural. I might also try making Pemmican again. I tried it before using the recipe in Nourishing Traditions but I did not have any tallow so substituted coconut oil. The taste was fine but coconut oil turns to liquid above 70 degrees so it is not exactly shelf stable.

Pressure Canning

I am hoping to add a pressure canner this year. I have never pressure canned and to be quite honest, it scares me a bit. But in order to move away from our freezer dependency, I think this is a necessary step. Pamela did a post recently on canning venison and another on canning chicken or turkey. She makes it look very easy!

Freezer

This will still be well used. Joe hopes to elk hunt this year, that should pretty much fill up the chest freezer if he is successful. Which means for the rest of the game I really do need to look at dehydrating and pressure canning.

Wish List

We have talked about adding things like a meat grinder so we can make our own hamburger and sausage (which can be frozen or pressure canned) and maybe even add a smoker of some sorts. I love the idea of smoking meat and fish but really need to explore this method of preservation. I’m not sure that home smoked meat or fish is shelf stable. Maybe what we need to do is build an outdoor storage unit like the pioneers would have had to preserve their meat with the help of nature. I believe that negative 10 would keep the meat plenty cold!

Do you have any tips or suggestions for me regarding food preservation?
Millie

Comments

  1. motherhen68

    >Millie, I'd really love to know how you LF beets. Do they taste like pickled beets in vinegar? I canned some pickled beets last spring and they were amazing good. So good in fact, my dad is going to buy all the supplies for me this year to make enough beet pickles for us to eat on all year.

    I have a pressure canner as well, but so far have been much too chicken to try it out. I really really really want to preserve a large batch of chicken or beef stock to sit out on the shelf. I'm tired of jars breaking in the freezer or trying to wrestle the ziploc bags to lay flat, etc.

    I'm thinking of buying a smallish chest freezer to go with the large upright freezer I have. In fact, my big freezer keeps leaking and I'm afraid it's going to cause structural damage underneath it where it leaks, so we're going to be moving it outside onto our carport. A chest freezer would fit right in that spot.

  2. Chris

    >Hi Millie, I want to learn how to pressure can but I have been scared too. I think I need to bite the bullet and get a canner. Maybe I should hint to the hubby that I would like one for Valentine's Day. How romantic!

  3. Millie

    >Paula,
    The beets are similar to the ones done in vinegar but certainly different. They turn out much crisper and have more of a beet flavor than a pickled flavor. Nourishing Traditions has an LF beet recipe that calls for baking the beets first. I didn't do that. I just peeled them, cut them in chunks, put them in the jar and pounded them down a bit and then put the LF solution on them. I used water and sea salt only this year. About 1 T of salt per cup of water. Last year I had added whey and that turned out okay too but they became less crisp sooner I think. This year, I was out of whey when I made them 🙂

    Not good about your freezer.

  4. ginger-n-wyo

    >I use the water bath canner quite a bit, but my garden space is very limited.
    My mother had a huge garden when I was growing up and she spent most of August and September putting up fruits and vegetables (including huge crocks of saurkraut.) Living in Washington, my parents were avid fishermen and my mother also canned tuna and salmon, in addition to smoking it to preserve it. I didn't realize until recently self sufficient we were. I would like to do even half as much as she did.

  5. Bill Robinson

    >I am all for home preserving and have a whole section on food preserving on my site. I also have an in-depth page about food safety and food poisoning. How can you reassure your readers that botulism bacteria is destroyed in your canning process? Normal boiling does not destroy this strain of bacteria and it is one of the most deadly – and fatal of all types of food poisoning.

  6. Millie

    >Chris,
    Sorry your comment took so long to show up- it was in the spam folder. I've suggested that my husband is welcome to bring me home a new food processor whenever he would like- I think I'm as romantic as you are 🙂

    Ginger,
    I thought I responded to your comment earlier but it appears not (maybe my comment was keeping Chris' company). Isn't it amazing how so many things that seemed 'normal' as children are now something unusual? My folks were quite sufficient too (not as much as yours) but I thought that was how everyone was. Now I know different. I also wonder how in the world the pioneers got so much done! Of course, maybe not having TV and a computer would help with that… hmmm.

    Bill,
    Thank you for the link to your site.

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