Posts Tagged With: Food Preservation

Wild Elk and Venison Jerky on Northwest Edible

From the Native Americans to The Hunger Games, people have carried jerky.  You know that if the zombie apocalypse hits, you’ll want some too.

I’m so excited that Erica at Northwest Edible Life has allowed me to do a guest post on her blog about my favorite way to preserve meat.

Rick got this recipe from his mom.  All the men in Rick’s family are big-time hunters, and my mom-in-law is the designated jerky maker for the family.  Her sons, brothers and dad all drop meat off at her house to have her transform it into this good stuff.

I’m sharing the secret recipe over at Northwest Edible.

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Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Food, Hunting, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dried Sour Cherries

Last weekend while at my in-laws’ house, I noticed that my mother in-law’s very ripe cherry trees had not been picked.  Lucky me, she told me to have at it!

Rick’s younger brother, was there and he helped us pick.  The cherries were so ripe that some were almost sweet.  As we all picked, the adults all remembered being kids, waiting for the cherry trees to ripen (we had cherries at the house I grew up in too), thinking that this year, this year, the cherries would be sweet.  I always expected them to taste like a maraschino cherry.  Of course, they never, ever did. They were always sour and I was always disappointed.

As a child, I assumed that these small, sour fruits were not real cherries.  That they were just for birds and to look pretty.  I didn’t know how good they really were. Rick, on the other hand, had some home-made pies and jams made from his backyard trees, but still most years the harvest went to the birds and squirrels, and his largest memory of the trees was putting the pits to use in his sling shot.

Maybe that’s why he never thought to mention to me that his parents still had the cherry trees.  Most years, my mother in-law said, they let a passing neighbor pick the trees.  (!)  I had been considering going to a pick-your-own orchard this year to buy some, when I noticed her trees.

We didn’t even pick half of the two trees, yet we came home with an incredible haul of gorgeous sour cherries.

My younger self would be so jealous of me now.  Now, I know how to turn these babies into the sweet, delicious fruit that I always hoped they’d be.  See sour cherries (sometimes called tart cherries) are also know as PIE cherries.  (Once I tried making a pie from bing cherries.  Yeah…. horrible).  Sour cherries will give you a pie to die for.  We ended up with eight pounds – PITTED.

After washing and pitting them, I immediately put six cups in the freezer for a pie.  The rest I divided between the jamming pot and the dehydrator.

Dried sour cherries are pretty expensive to buy in the store.  But they are delicious in baked goods, rice, salads, sauces, over pork, granola and trail mix, or just plain as a snack.  We hope to dip some in chocolate for Scott as a thank you for helping us pick.

Drying the cherries was incredibly simple.  Just wash and pit the cherries, and then spread them on the rack of your dehydrator.  make sure they each have a little room so they don’t end up stuck together.  I tried to pick the best, most perfect cherries to dry.  Any squashed or under ripe ones, I tossed back into the bowl to be made into jam.  Our food dehydrator puts out quite a bit of heat, and since it has been so hot here, I set it up on an old plywood table on the back porch to do its thing.  I set the dehydrator for 135° and let them dry for about 24 hours.

We dried about three pounds of pitted cherries and ended up with just about a pint after they were dry.  You have to watch them towards the end of the drying; you don’t want them to get crunchy.  They should still be soft, kind of like a raisin.  Yum.

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation | Tags: , , , , | 17 Comments

Making the Most of Your CSA Share

CSA season is around the corner and I am very excited to start receiving a share again.  We have a month (plus or minus) until asparagus comes on!!  I would ideally love to grow everything we eat ourselves, but we just don’t have enough space.  And our CSA grows such beautiful, delicious food, I can’t resist signing up year after year. They take good care of their members, using a blog, Yahoo group and Facebook to help foster community.  They’ve even put together a cookbook full of recipes submitted by CSA members over the years.

All CSA’s are as different as the members and farmers who run them.  Since we are heading into our fifth year with Monroe Organic Farms, our CSA, I thought I’d offer up some of my best tips on making the most of your share.

1.  Open the bag and figure out what you have.  Most people get their share home after a long day at work.  It might be tempting to leave the bag sit until tomorrow, but it’s best to open your bag right away.  You will want to store some things right off the bat, and if there is anything delicate in there like lettuce or basil, you’ll want to get it in cool water or the fridge right away.  There’s nothing worse than waiting a day or two to get to your share and finding you let your green beans wither and die in the summer heat.

2.  Wait to plan your weekly menu until you get your share.  I pick up my share on Tuesdays, so I wait until Wednesday to go to the grocery store or market.  I spend a lot less this way, and I can plan meals around what we received in our share.

3.  Wash and store everything the day you get it.  I do my washing outside.  The potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips and onions all have a lot of dirt on them.  I used to do it in the kitchen, but then I had to sweep, mop and clean the sink too.  Instead, I dump my share on the lawn, hose it off and then sort it into what I want to eat right away this week and what I’m going to freeze for later.  Freeze what you’re going to save right away so it’s frozen at it’s peak.  It’ll be just as fresh when you go to use it this winter.

4.  Read the newsletter!  Every week you’ll get a run down of everything included in the share, plus important updates on upcoming distributions and events with the farm.  If you read it you’ll know just what that odd looking vegetable is, and you might even get a recipe on how to use it!

5.  Use the cookbook.  Don’t know what to do with a celeriac?  How should you freeze your extra beans?  It’s in the cookbook.  What to do with all those potatoes?  Not sure you like beets?  Try a new recipe.  All the recipes in the Monroe cookbook are from farm members.  They’ve all been tested by real people here in your community.  You might just get a new favorite dish.

6.  Get involved.  Read the farm’s blog and Facebook page.  Contribute to the yahoo group or the calls for recipes.  Come to the Harvest Festival.  This is the community in community supported agriculture.

7.  Understand that some things are out of our hands.  Some years will be bountiful pepper years, some will be tomatoes, some will be melons.  Usually never all three at once.  You might have been dreaming all winter of your strawberries only to have them hailed out (please no!!), or you might feel like you can’t shuck one more ear of corn.  But such is life when you are relying on the weather to bring you the freshest local food.  Enjoy your melon now, for in November it will be gone.

8.  Visit the farm.  See where things grow.  Check out the chickens, help load the shares onto the truck.  Connect with what you’ve invested in on every level.  Take advantage of the U-pick crops and the harvest festival.  It’s fun, you’ll learn a lot, and you’ll go home with even more delicious fresh food.

9.  Be gracious:  Be on time, return your bags, call ahead if you can’t make it.  Remember that your farmers and the volunteers at your distribution center are people too.

Do you participate in a CSA?  What are your best tips for making the most of your share?  If you’ve arrived here from the Monroe blog, share with us your experiences, favorite part of the CSA and what you are looking forward to most this year!

Categories: Community, CSA, Food, Sustainability | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

2012 Independence Days Challenge

Last week, Sharon Astyk announced that she’d be bringing back her Independence Days Challenge.  Whew!  I was excited about it!  If you’ve read my blog for more than a year, you know, I’ve participated in her challenge since 2010.

The challenge is to make small steps, every week, every day if you can, towards food independence.  And then record them.  There is no lamenting what you haven’t done, and in contrast to challenges where doing as much as you can takes the stage, the Independence Days challenge shows that small things do add up and everyone can do something.

The steps are recorded in several categories…

Plant Something: Planting isn’t done just once a year when you are looking to be independent.  Sharon tries to plant everyday from February to October.  Think seed starting, cold frames, season extension if you can.  February is a bit early for us, but we already have potatoes chitting so we can be ready to go in just a few weeks.

Harvest Something: From your garden, your nest boxes, the finished compost, foraging.  It all counts.

Preserve Something: In lots of parts of the country you can’t plant and harvest year round, including here in Colorado.  So you better put up what you can for the dark days of winter!  Canning and jamming, yes, but also drying, smoking, freezing, etc.

Waste Not:  Scraps given to the animals and/or compost pile fit here.  Also mending things instead of throwing them out.  Creating less garbage, making sure things don’t go to waste.

Want Not: Building up your long and short-term food storage falls into this category.  We bought a case of peanut butter, for example, or buying bulk grains goes here.  Also, I’ve put things like cloth diapers or second-hand clothes in this category.  Things that last and will need our needs over time.

Eat the Food: It’s tough to break the habit of buying a full menu’s worth of meals at the grocery store.  You have to think and make an effort to use up the book you have stored.  Eating from your pantry and your freezer, making full use of what you have.  Trying new recipes falls here too.  Eat what you’ve worked hard to grow and save!

Build Community Food Systems: Sharon sums it up like this: “What have you done to help other people have better food access or to make your local food system more resilient?”  I include things here like gardening with the neighbors, giving talks about gardening, CSAs, farmer’s markets, sharing food with people in an effort to get them to take their own steps towards self-reliance.

And a new category (I’m so excited about this one) -

Skill Up: from big things like building a beehive or cold frame, to smaller things like starting seeds or researching new ideas.  Record in this category what you’ve done to add to your own arsenal of skills.

Over the last two years, I have recorded our steps in a weekly blog post (see them all here).  But this year, I’m thinking of recording them a little differently.  Look to the right, over there in my side bar.  I’ve decided to keep a running total over there.  I’ll still post Independence Days updates, but probably less regularly than weekly.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’m flexible.  But I like the idea of watching it all add up in one place.

I’d love it if you decide to join the challenge too.  I really like seeing the small things add up.

For more info on the Independence Days Challenge, make sure to read Sharon’s post.

Categories: Food, Independence Days | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

reCAP Mason Jar Caps

Sorry for the lack of posts this week and only minimal last week.  We’ve been ridiculously busy between hunting and H’s birthday and such.  I’ve got a couple of posts in the works that should hopefully be up soon.  But in the mean time, I had to share this.  Thanks to Erica for pointing me in this direction.

I had to share about this project – the reCAP Mason Jar Cap and the cool site, kickstarter.com, that is helping the reCAP’s inventor get funding.

The reCAP is a BPA free, recyclable, reusable plastic screw top cap to fit regular mason jars.  It’s a one piece design, great for pouring.  And it’s inventor is getting funding through people’s online donations on the site kickstarter.com.  I believe she has already reached her funding goal of $10,000 by November 8th, but people can still back her project  (as little as a dollar or up to $350) if they are interested.  I did, and in return I’ll get to try one of the reCAPs as soon as they are made (projected to be January).

I had to share this because I think both the reCAP and the kickstarter site are great ideas.

Check them out here:  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1917107415/recap-mason-jar-caps

If you are an entrepreneur, check out the kickstart site.  The site collects pledges for you and if your goal is not met, nobody looses out, but if it is, you get the money you need to get started.  Fabulous!  So much better than a loan!

I can’t wait to try my reCAP!

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Community, Recommended Reading | Tags: | 6 Comments

Tomatoes Three Ways

Last week I shared my simple salsa recipe as a way to use up some of that end of summer tomato glut.  Well, we’re still deep in the red around here, as I went up to the CSA this weekend and picked another 50+ pounds.  Here are the ways we are putting away the toms for use over the winter.

We mainly picked Roma tomatoes.  But Rick wanted a few sweet slicers to save.  Since slicing tomatoes don’t hold up as well to other preservation methods, and since it’s the easiest method to do, I put up those first…

Freezing
This is the simplest thing.  If you have the space, you might even be tempted to use this as your only tomato preservation method (we did for the last two years).  First, wash and dry the tomatoes.  Next, label your gallon size freezer bags.  Finally, place as many tomatoes in the bag as it will hold, zip it up, and put it in the freezer.  Done.

The tomatoes should not stick together, so you can take them out one or two or three at a time and set them in a bowl on your counter to defrost.  As they warm up, the skins will just slip off.  They will make great sauce or soup, and be as sweet as the summer time.  They will be soft, so I usually dice them when they are still half-frozen and toss them straight into my pan to finish defrosting as they cook.  Yum.

Canning
This is the main method we are using this year.  Most of those Romas are getting diced and put into jars.  There are lots and lots of posts out there talking about canned tomatoes and how the process works, so I’m not going to retype that here.  Instead, here is a link to a great tutorial.  The only thing I do differently is I chop those suckers up so I don’t have to do it on the cooking end when I open the cans.  -Note that I’m experimenting right now with whether or not it’s worth it to dice them, or if it just as good crushing the tomatoes.  I’ll let you know. –   And please, please ignore anyone who tells you to seed your tomatoes.  WHY?  Seriously.  If you don’t like tomato seeds, you probably don’t like tomatoes, so why are you even bothering.  These are the same people who always peel their potatoes.  To me, this is a total waste of time and energy.  But whatever.  Maybe I’m just lazy.  ;)

No matter the recipe you use, make sure to adjust processing time for altitude if you live here in Denver.  Last week I put up just over ten quarts of canned tomatoes (some diced and some crushed).  Looking to get another 15-20 quarts out of these.

Drying
Mmmmm… sun-dried tomatoes.  But without the sun.  I totally use the dehydrator.  It’s faster and I have two little boys in the yard, not to mention the chickens.  All of them, tomato hounds and dirt-flingers to boot.  Dehydrator is much safer – I might actually get dirt-free, uneaten tomatoes this way.

I picked through my boxes of Romas to find the small and the weird.  These tomatoes tend to be labor intensive to peel, which is awful for canning, but makes them perfect candidates for drying.  You don’t peel your dried tomatoes, and you can just cut out the really weird spots.

So wash them, slice them, arrange them, season them and you are good to go.

Some of the bigger weirdos had to be sliced long-ways into thirds to fit in my dehydrator trays.  I sprinkle mine with salt and thyme.  I don’t seed these tomatoes either.  That might make the drying time faster, or possibly make the trays easier to clean afterwards, but I don’t care.  I just want to get the tomatoes off the counter and into the pantry as quickly as possible.

My dehydrator will take 12 hours on 135° to dry them all out.  For those that will tell me to use my oven, sorry, that’s a no go.  I run my dehydrator outside so I don’t have to heat up my kitchen.  We have no a/c around here and I can actually fit more into the dehydrator anyway.  If you don’t have a dehydrator though, that is a viable option.

There you have it.  What are your favorite ways to save summer’s favorite fruit for the dark days of winter?

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Food, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Lazy Tasty Salsa

Yum yum!  We’ve been getting wonderful tomatoes and jalapenos from the CSA lately.  Here’s an easy, tasty salsa using all local ingredients (unless you need a little lime juice thrown in).

1 large white onion (or two smaller ones)
2-3 jalapenos
6-8 cloves garlic
4 ripe red tomatoes

Remove the peels from the onions and garlic, and the tops from the jalapenos.  Cut onion into fourths and place into a food processor with the garlic and jalapenos.  Pulse a few times to get the onion pieces roughly chopped.  Quarter your tomatoes and add to the food processor.  Pulse until tomatoes are chopped and thoroughly combined.  Be careful not to over-process.  Stir in salt to taste (you can add the juice of one lime too at his point if you like).  Generally, this is good with cilantro in it as well, if you like that sort of thing.  Just add it, leaves not stems, with the tomatoes.

I made two batches like this and froze in 2-cup packages.  That way we can enjoy the taste of a summer fiesta in February, when mealy tomatoes rule the grocery store shelves.  Do you have a simple salsa recipe you love?

Categories: CSA, Food, Recipes | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Jam Fever!

Last weekend, we went to Palisade for our annual trip to Bracken Orchard to pick peaches.  We drive 240 miles over the mountains, each way, so we want to make sure we make the trip worth it.  This year, we came home with 368 pounds of peaches (slightly less, since about half a box was Fuji apples).

   

We had 15 pounds for my sister and 40 pounds for some friends, but the rest we’ve been working on getting put up for the year.  Most of them are sliced and frozen in quart-size bags, and many get made into various jams for our use during the year and for gifts.  We canned some a few years ago, but we feel like the frozen ones are more versatile and last us longer.  Plus they are easier to put up and take up less space.

True to form, I decided to defrost 40 pounds of the plums that were given to us last year at peach time.  We didn’t have time then to process them properly, so of course I thought we’d have time this year!  What is wrong with me?!? I spent the whole week making plum jam while Rick sliced and froze the peaches.  I didn’t get all the plums done before some started to smell “off,” but I got most of them taken care of.  Smarter people would have just defrosted a little at a time.  Then I moved onto the peach jams.

This has been the most fun I’ve ever had jamming though.  My friend Kristen has been a godsend, coming over twice to make jams.  We got a little crazy the second time, trying new recipes.  I spent a good portion of my grocery budget last week on organic Madagascar vanilla beans, green cardamom pods and various liquors for our jam.  Some combos we tried:  Peach with Honey, Vanilla Bean and Brandy (wow – the smell!), Plum Lavender (AMAZING!!), Peach-Plum Ginger, Plum Noir (ooh lala!), and a couple of original creations, Kristen’s Honey Peach Cobbler jam, and my Jalapeno-Honey Plum.  We’ve had a ball.

I’ve even ordered special jars.  I hope they arrive by this weekend (I plan to make Peach, Blueberry and Grand Marnier jam and my favorite traditional peach preserves), but if they don’t make it, I’ll use them next year. I found most of these recipes on the Punk Domestics site, by the way.  If you put up – you should definitely check it out!

So what are your favorite ways to use peaches?  Plums?  Any awesome jam recipes?

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Community, Recipes, Recommended Reading | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

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