I think one of the less talked about topics, when it comes to veg gardening, is storing/preserving/putting up said veg. But what a huge part of the equation it is! I often find myself heading to homesteading-type sites to get the information I need. Thankfully, those sites are super helpful and informative, but often the recommendation is canning.
Readers, I AM LAZY. Canning is both too time consuming and too fraught with pitfalls for me to have the energy to leap into at this point. This means my methods of storing tend to lean heavily on the freezer. We are lucky enough to have a small chest freezer and a large upright one in the basement, so running out of space isn’t an issue for us (thankfully!).
I thought it might be helpful to everyone for me to share what I do, and for you all to share what you do, so that we can all have more options and learn better/different ways to store our (hopeful) bounties. What do you say?
I take two different approaches to tomatoes and it really depends on the year, the yield, and the variety.
Most often, with the Roma and Paste types, I do the Confit Method. It boosts the tomato flavor, makes for easy freezer storage, and the skins peel off so easily once they are thawed again. These confit tomatoes are amazing in stews, sauces, risotto, soups, you name it. I don’t tend to season mine with anything other than salt and pepper so that when I go to use them in winter I can season them as needed according to the dish I am making. I also vary the baking time according to the size. AND, if I’m strapped for time, I’ll pop them in the oven at its lowest setting (170-108F) overnight. Works like a charm!
The other method I use it just cooking up huge batches of plain sauce, seasoned only with some garlic, salt, and pepper. I core and quarter them, throw them in a large pot with olive oil and said seasonings and cook until reduced to a good, saucy consistency. I’ll then use an immersion blender to avoid the pesky peeling step and pop it into containers for freezing. Again, this allows for maximum versatility and can use up any tomato type, even Cherry and Beefsteaks. Also, easy peasey.
This coming year I will deviate a little and make a few jars of this Sweet-and-Savory Tomato Jam. We bought a jar from Trader Joe’s on a whim and it was DELICIOUS and we put it on everything- so we’d love to make up a few jars for use throughout the holidays and snacking season (football season).
I have recently started coring, rough chopping, and freezing our peppers. Its been a revelation! Of course you can’t use them for any sort of “fresh” application, but they defrost well and can be left large for things like sweet and sour chicken or Philly cheesesteaks, or cut up small for things like soups, stews, or breakfast hash. I can’t envision going through winter again without bags full of ready-to-use peppers, you just grab what you need and toss it into whatever dish you are making.
If I am feeling particularly industrious, I may peel, chunk, and bag up the squash for the freezer. This is what we do for all summer squash, and only some of the winter squash. Again, it depends on the yield and my energy levels. Otherwise, we dunk the squash in a bucket of water with a bit of bleach (like 10%) then let them dry and harden in the greenhouse for a few weeks. Then they come inside into a closet/pantry/basement for storage.
This one is so simple: I clean it, roughly chop it, and bag it up to head into the freezer. Like the peppers, we are using them in soups and stews, not fresh, so the effects of freezing aren’t a down-side for us.
Beans & Peas:
We tend to eat these fresh and mostly out in the garden, so we never bother harvesting any for storage. Much of this is because we find the frozen-from-the-store options tasty and nutritious enough to suffice through the winter months. Do you all store/preserve peas? I’d love to hear ideas and options!
We do not make pickles for storing. We probably should, but after some disastrous attempts while we lived in South Dakota (floppy, mushy pickles- likely due to processing for longer because we were at such altitude). Instead we rely on quick refrigerator pickles during the season. The only way we preserve them is making large batches of my mom’s sweet and sour cucumbers (she does not use the red pepper flakes or herbs and you can use whatever style vinegar, other than balsamic, that you prefer) which we can freeze nicely and is a nice treat in the depths of winter.
I LOVE to eat beets, I kind of hate processing them because its so messy and everything is stained red. Part of my workaround is to grow golden varieties for less staining, but the other is to harvest them young when their skins are tender enough to cook without peeling. Then I do a simple olive oil, salt & pepper roasting of them and then into the freezer. We haven’t done much pickling of them, but I suspect our sweet & sour cucumber recipe (above) would work just as well on some thin sliced beets!
Freezer, freezer, freezer! We’ll harvest as many raspberries/blackberries as we can and pop them onto cookie sheets in the freezer until frozen solid. Then they get tipped into ziplock bags for use later. Same with rhubarb, only we clean the ribs, slice them chunky, and pop them directly into the bags and into the freezer. Strawberries never make it out of the garden, so we don’t ever have to worry about preserving them. We aren’t big jam/jelly eaters so we don’t often do that, preferring frozen fruit for things like curds, tarts, puddings, and compotes.
How and what do you prioritize preserving in your garden? Are you into canning or do you rely on your freezer like me, or even a dehydrator? I’m excited to hear your tips and techniques!