Welcome to Homesteading with Hyacynth! Homesteading with Hyacynth is a monthly look at ways to lead a healthy, greener, more sustainable life. My intent with Homesteading with Hyacynth is to offer genuine, practical experiences and humorous and helpful tips. Of course, I am not a medical professional so these are my tips and what worked for my family.
Honestly, I don’t think my family could stand one more meal featuring zucchini or yellow squash at this point in the summer.
And that’s a shame since those plants have been plotting total garden domination in our backyard, and likely gardens across the county, since July.
What do we do when the harvest exceeds what we can eat or stomach?
Well, in our house, we do one of three things:
1. We pull a drive-by squashing.
Nothing says “I value your friendship” like a giant squash left on the door step ding-dong ditch style.
2. We take the overabundance to our local food pantry.
Fresh produce is a hot commodity, and the Avon Food Pantry gladly accepts these fresh-food donations.
3. We place effort into preserving and make great-grandma proud!
Food preservation is making a revival, and great-grandma would probably say it’s about darn time! During the past several decades, a dying art is coming back into focus again for many — from the gardener with a blossoming garden to the avid farmer’s market frequenter to anyone interested in eating delicious, local food during the winter months.
If you’re committed to eating locally and eating whole foods to better your health, your pocketbook, or the local economy, you’ll want to take special note of option three.
(Why eat locally? Here’s why!)
I won’t waste time going through each and every how-to of preservation; you can find tried-and-true instructions all over the internet. Instead, today we’ll talk options and the pros and cons of each and which foods we can find locally grown here in Lake County this time of year.
In the Chicagoland area, fruits are bountiful but only for relatively short seasons. Apples, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and melons are in abundance during the summer months. (We’re coming to the end of blueberry season and have already passed strawberry season here in Lake County.) Right now, peaches and melons are ripe and apples are coming into season, all of which you can easily find at the Grayslake Farmer’s Market. (Check here for local apple orchards).
Like fruits, veggies are in high production right now, too, and can be preserved in multiple ways as well. Again, it’s often a matter of preference for each family regarding which method they prefer, but here’s what our family has enjoyed.
- Green beans
- Jams from all fruits
Long shelf life
No electricity necessary to preserve the harvest
Fresh tasting from the jar
Can use glass containers for reduced toxin exposure
Canning veggies requires using a pressure canning system and following precise instructions.
Dried in a dehydrator:
- Hot peppers
- Kale (Picky Eater Approved Kale Chip Recipe)
3 month shelf life
Picky kids seem to devour dried veggies because they are like chips
Can dice veggies and leave them in dehydrator for time needed; no babysitting of the device needed!
Dehydrators can be costly
Oven doesn’t deliver as consistent of results
- Green beans
- Puréed pumpkin
- Cubed, diced or pureed squash
- Bell peppers
- Berries – unwashed in small baggies for ease of use and so they don’t stick together
Easy –only requires blanching, flash cooling and then packaging and putting in the freezer
Easy to pull out and prepare
No special tools needed
Requires electricity to preserve the harvest
Requires ample freezer space for doing bulk freezing
Everything! But favorites include:
- Radishes with garlic
- Cabbage (sauerkraut)
- Cucumbers (pickles)
Food remains raw with added enzymes and good bacteria cultures
Shelf stable for limited time
Crisp and delicious taste
Requires refrigeration to slow culturing after desired culture levels is reached
Learning process required
Some special tools needed — fermenting crocks, special lids for mason jars– to make process easier
Fermentation takes time
Cellar storage (cool, dark place):
- Winter squash
You need a cool dark place that stays consistently cool and dark
You’ll either have to can or freeze these sauces. If you can them, plan to make a day or morning of it. If you freeze them, freeze the sauces in gallon bags and place them atop of cookies sheets to freeze them flat for maximizing space. After the bags are frozen, remove the cookie sheets and organize your freezer.
A newbie food preserver would probably find the cellar method and freezing the easiest followed by dehydrating, culturing and canning, in my honest opinion.
Next time, we’ll be talking about what you *need* in your get-well cabinet. And I’ll give you a hint: it’s NOT medicine!
How do you preserve the harvest?
by Hyacynth Worth
Hyacynth Worth is a wife to John and a mother to three boys and three girls. She writes about motherhood, healthy living, and faith. She is a local writer and the author of Homesteading with Hyacynth. She promises to be candid, amusing, and only slightly neurotic. Most of the time.