Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Notes on Preservation: Freezer Veggies

Someone asked for some of this information, so here it is.
One of my goals this fall was to learn to use a pressure canner. It never happened. So, as in years past, I'm working to freeze as many vegetables as I can before the first frost hits.

Vegetables (except for tomatoes) are low-acid foods and cannot be canned safely in a regular boiling water canner. I've heard a few horror stories about pressure canners, and they intimidate me, so I never found the courage (or the time) to learn to use one.

Knowing how much to freeze is a hard thing to master, and I'm still in the process. The one best tip I can offer is to keep records. For each garden season I keep the following records in a 3-ring binder in plastic-covered sheets:

Amount of each veggie harvested (usually noted in pounds with hash marks. You can get a cheap scale at Wal Mart for about $15. I love mine and use it constantly.)

The cost of any produce I purchase from local farmers or stores (so I know if I should wait for a lower price. Keep in mind that the cost of food goes up slightly most years. Don't wait too long and miss the best price!)

The date of the lowest price I've found. Some veggies are only at a really low price for one week out of the summer. Don't miss that week.

The amount I preserve, the method, and the date, and also the date I use the last one. If I use the last bag of diced tomatoes in February, I know I better do twice as many the next year if I want to make it to August.

I also keep notes each year of what varieties of certain vegetables I want to grow again and which ones were disappointing, and I make notes of how many pounds of wild game we're able to put by.

I can't tell you how often I look back at these records. I can tell how much more we're using (as our girls are growing!), what season to start looking for certain produce items, when the best time to go tomato picking is, how many pints of salsa we eat each month... anything I want to know is there in my records. I realize my records sound anal, but they only take a minute or two each night to update, and they are invaluable.

For our family of four, here's what I've got in the freezer so far for this year (some grown, some purchased from local farms:)

14 lbs of green beans (in 3/4 lb packages)
50 ears of corn (cut from the cob, 2 cups per pkg =24 pkgs)
8 lbs of beets (in 1lb packages. I wish I'd planted more beets though.)
18 1-cup packages of spinach, kale, chard, and other greens
5 lbs of kohlrabi (in 1/2 lb packages. It's not our favorite, but it's an easier and more space-effective alternative to broccoli.)
8 cups grated zucchini (I'll do more. It's good for zuke breads and such.)
2 lbs diced bell peppers (I'll do another 2-4 lbs before the season ends.)

I haven't started freezing tomatoes yet - I decided to save that for next week. I needed a break. So I'll write the tomato post then, and carrots will be frozen in the next few weeks, too.

Based on the above totals, I can tell you that we've grown and preserved enough for 6-8 months' worth of soups, stews, stir-fries and side dishes. Hopefully by then we'll have peas and greens and other early veggies coming out of the garden again, and we won't be forced to buy too much from the stores.

I'll try to keep up regularly with preservation notes, since I know so many folks are trying to do this now.

PS - it thrills me to hear how many people are adopting this way of life. Everywhere I turn I'm meeting people who are canning and dehydrating and freezing and buying local, organic produce in bulk. I'm so proud of all of you!

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