How to Store
8 November 2014, by gj
Like us, vegetables are mostly water; some as much as 95%.
Removing that water dehydrating preserves food because bacteria can’t develop without the moisture.
You can dehydrate in an oven on its lowest setting or use a dehydrator which is designed to keep the temperature even and also provide air flow which helps to absorb the moisture.
Some veggies need to be blanched first. For this you dip in boiling water for the recommended time. See list to follow.
Dehydrating can take as little as a few hours for something like celery leaves or as long as 10-12 hours. The veggie, it’s size, and the humidity will affect the time it takes. With practice you will get used to the different times.
You want your veggies to be totally dry, even brittle.
Dehydrated veggies have the advantages of being able to be stored on a shelf, and they take up much less room. They also retain more of their nutritional value and can be held longer than canned or frozen vegetables.
Rehydrate by soaking in water, adding boiling water, or just toss in any soup or casserole that will simmer.
You can also grind dehydrated veggies into a powder, as we did with our garlic.
Vegetables that need to be blanched and the times:
Asparagus- 3 to 4 minutes
Beans- 4 to 6 minutes
Carrots- 3 to 4 minutes
Peas- 3 minutes
Sweet Potatoes- 3 to 4 minutes
Potatoes- 5 to 6 minutes
Rutabagas, Turnips- 3 to 5 minutes
Corn is a little weird and I never tried it. Other veggies like squashes, tomatoes, etc. you can just go ahead and dehydrate them. Tomatoes make a real mess and are much better roasted IMHO.
Pumpkin is great for Pumpkin Flour.
There are so many ways to use dehydrated veggies. We will be sharing more on the recipe blog.
More About Celery
PS: Whether you grow your own or not, you can save money by dehydrating veggies that are on sale and are otherwise hard to store, like celery and mushrooms.
Categories: Drying-Roasting, How to Store
14 October 2014, by gj
Carrots are such a wonderful crop to grow in part because there are so many ways to store them.
They can be blanched and dehydrated or frozen, left in the ground up until it freezes, held in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or kept in cold storage well into the winter.
Simply trim the tops to 2″ and brush off any dirt; don’t wash them though.
Lay the carrots on a bed of sand, cover with more sand, and continue until the tub is full.
Place in a cool area and mist the sand with water every now and then.
We used a plastic dish basin. My friend Beth told me her Dad used to use a kiddie pool.
And doesn’t re-purposing make it all the better.
More on storing carrots.
Categories: Cold Holding, How to Store
14 October 2014, by gj
Cornmeal is simply ground corn kernels.
If you would like to have the independence to make cornmeal yourself, here is all you need to do:
1. Choose seeds.
Any seeds will work, but it is better to pick a variety recommended for cornmeal. Most seed companies will put that info in the seed description.
2. Follow these directions for drying the seeds. Be sure they are thoroughly dry.
3. Grind. We use a Hamilton Beach Coffee Grinder (link below) on the Expresso setting to get a nice fine meal. If needed, it can be run through twice.
For very large batches there are many choices of grinders, including attachments that hook up to your mixer.
That’s all there is to it. One ear produces about 1 cup.
Homegrown cornmeal, without all the pesticides and no GMO.
As different as homegrown fresh corn from store-bought.
Here’s the grinder we use:
Categories: Drying-Roasting, How to Store
23 September 2014, by gj
Most people that freeze corn do it off the cob. It takes up so much less space that way.
But eating corn on the cob is fun, the kind of fun that reminds you of being a kid.
So when we bought the 100+ ears from our local farmer last summer, we decided to do both, as well as can corn and corn relish.
Most people that freeze corn on the cob will tell you to blanch it first, but many of our gardening friends said they have been freezing it right in the husk. Since we had found this video on microwaving corn, we were sold. This is the way we will eat if fresh.
So what about freezing?
Let’s find out.
We did a few husked and blanched and left a few in the husk; and last weekend did a taste test.
If Mandolin could not discern a difference, I doubt most people could. I know I sure couldn’t!
Except one thing:
Both the prep and the cooking were easier in the husk.
In both cases we did not defrost first, but my FB friends agreed that was correct. Another time saver, too!
“No need for any more taste tests…” Mandolin said, “But I think I’ll do another one anyway.”
Categories: Freezing, How to Store
22 July 2014, by gj
You’ll know your onions are ready to pick when, like garlic, they lie down. There are a few different ways to store them.
For keeping indoors in your fridge or any cool, dry place, let cure outside in the sun for a few days. Then just trim the tops and wash off any dirt, you are good to go.
2 wooden horses and an old screen is all you need
When I recently told Mandolin I had read not to store onions in the fridge, he just chuckled and shook his head.
We have been doing that for years with good success.
We freeze some of the onions that will just be used in soups or to can later in the fall in salsa. No preparation needed, just peel, chop, spread out on a foil lined sheet, freeze and store.
a sink full of onions waiting patiently
You can also to roast/dehydrate some of the fresh cut green tops. You can use a commercial dehydrator but for onions, an iron skillet will add flavor to the end product.
Very lightly oil and place on medium heat while you chop the onion tops as evenly as possible. Then place in the warm skillet and reduce the heat to the lowest setting possible. It will take a few hours until your onions are crisp to the touch. Store in any food grade container on your shelf.
Dried this way they add a mild and toasty flavor to your food, and a little color to boot.
dehydrating green onion tops
There are still plenty of onions growing in the garden, yet the sight conjures memories of a fall day not too long from now and homemade Three Onion Soup.
still plenty of onions and leeks left
No hurry though, it can wait
Categories: Drying-Roasting, How to Store
22 June 2014, by gj
How you choose to preserve herbs you grow depends mainly on how you intend to use them.
Here are the how to’s and in some cases, the why to’s:
1. Drying- simply hang the bunch of herbs upside down in a brown paper bag. The bag not only keeps the spiders away, it will catch any leaves that may fall off the stems.
2. Freezing as is- A first generation Italian-American woman I knew many years ago told me that the best way to preserve basil was to just wrap the leaves in plastic and freeze. We also like to do this with chives, rolling them in the plastic in the form of a log. Then, just slice off what you need.
3. Freezing in oil- If what you are preserving will be cooked in oil anyway, placing the herbs in an ice cube tray, filling it with oil, then freezing works great. When frozen, simply remove to a freezer container and you are ready to cook.
4. Freezing in water- This is done the same way as the previous method but with water instead. This is a wonderful way to freeze herbs suited especially well for soups, such as chopped parsley.
5. Steeping in vinegar- Vinegar is a natural preservative and a great way to add flavors to many dishes. Simply soak the herb in white vinegar, or red if the color does not matter, then strain. Our personal favorite herb to use in this way is chive blossoms, pictured above. No mistaking that pretty pink color and the chance to enjoy the light taste of chives all year around.
6. Soaking in alcohol- Probably the least common way to preserve, alcohol will also take on the flavor of herbs and what you are making is an herbal extract. We prefer to use vodka, as it has less flavor of its own than many other liquors.
The difference in homemade mint extract for example, shown above, and the store bought stuff is about the same as the difference in tomatoes. Really.
Make this the same way you would the vinegar and use as you would a flavored extract. Just know you won’t need as much as the flavor will be much truer to the herb.
Categories: How to Store
4 March 2014, by gj
Did you ever stop to wonder just how self-sufficient your garden could make you? Sure you can grow great veggies, even a good protein source through dry beans.
But what about grains?
Although technically these are not all grains, we are listing them because they are used that way:
Most often thought of as a vegetable, corn is actually a grain. You can grow field or dry corn the same as you would sweet, but allow it to dry thoroughly on the cob before harvesting the kernels to grind.
Be sure to take preventative measures if you are also growing sweet corn nearby, as their pollen is carried on the wind and there can be cross pollination.
This summer we will be showing you ways to help prevent this; but for the meantime, keep them as far apart as possible preferably with a structure between them.
One of the best varieties for making your own corn meal, according to Baker Creek seed catalog, is Cherokee White Eagle. Just be sure to choose a variety that is meant to use for this purpose, they are less sugary and will dry more easily.
Grind, store and use the way you would store bought cornmeal.
Technically a vegetable, quinoa is a relative of spinach that is fast gaining popularity in restaurants as well as home kitchens. Part of the reason, other than the delightful taste, is that quinoa carries a protein not normally found in a vegetable. Especially for vegetarians, this is a wonderful thing.
What you harvest here are the seeds as well, dry, store and use like you would rice. You can also grind the seeds to use like flour.
Often grown for its use as a fiber, the seeds of flax are actually wonderfully nutritious. They are a good source of omega-3′s and high in fiber. The milled seeds can be added to many baked goods.
We are so excited to try our hand at growing flax this year.
Often listed under herbs, and even considered sometimes as a flower, Amaranth is a beautiful tall edible whose flower seeds can be used as a grain.
In some varieties you can also eat the leaves as a vegetable, bonus! The most common variety grown for the edible seeds is Love Lies Bleeding.
One definition of grains is that they are grasses that produce small edible seeds. Millet fits this description well. Its seeds can be ground for flours or gruel, but it is often also used as bird seed.
We are going to try one of the most common varieties used in the US, a Proso type; specifically Proso White.
Again, we will have more specifics on this as we actually grow and harvest it.
Dry or Field Corn
Generally speaking these crops grow quite tall, and the harvest you get for the space may not compare to vegetables you plant instead.
But if you have the room and want to be more independent, consider trying a grain crop.
We will let you know how we fare, what was worth it and maybe what was not over the course of the next year.
Hopefully it will all be rave reviews; but the idea of not being dependent on a store for our grains is already a win in our books!
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Categories: Drying-Roasting, How to Store, Preparedness & Green Living
10 January 2014, by gj
Preparing cabbage for canning.
Home canning is easy enough to do.
If you are just starting out, here’s a little information to help.
1. Measure headspace from the very top of the jar down to the top of the food.
Having the right amount of headspace is very important. Too much headspace and the jars may not seal properly. Too little, and your food could expand to the point that it leaks out, preventing a seal.
Once you are canning for a while, you will get the hang of it visually. You can also use your finger, I know that from the tip of my forefinger to the bottom of the nail is 1/2″. No ruler needed.
2. Be sure everything is clean.
Perhaps this goes without saying. Wash everything before you start, from the food to the jars and lids.
Be sure the cat won’t be jumping up on the counter, and don’t let anyone lick the spoon until you are done.
sauce, soup, sauce, snack, snack
3. In the beginning at least, don’t change the recipe.
You can water bath process whole tomatoes, but if you go and start adding things like celery to make stewed tomatoes, you will need to pressure can.
High acid foods such as tomatoes and pickles have the acid in them to help preserve the food. The same is true for high sugar foods like jams and some juices. When you add other ingredients, you change that acid or sugar level.
While it doesn’t hurt to add a little spice, otherwise stick to the recipes.
Likewise, stick closely to the processing times.
4. After the jars seal, should you leave the rings on or take them off?
There is a lot of bizarre misinformation out there, like ‘if you leave the rings on, bacteria can grow under the ring and get into your food’.
Whether you leave them on or not is optional. We remove them for 2 simple reasons:
A. We are cheap and do not want to invest in a ton of rings.
B. You should take them off to wipe the jars anyway, especially if you pressure canned as there is likely some residue on the outside of the jars. May as well leave them off.
5. Label and date your food.
Is that salsa or stewed tomatoes? Hmmm….
Don’t leave it to your memory. Just use a Sharpie marker to write on the lids, you’ll be throwing them out anyway.
Be sure to add the month and year, to make rotating your supply easier.
Get your hands on a good canning book.
Preserving food really isn’t difficult.
Here’s a short video to show you more.
Categories: Canning, How to Store
12 October 2013, by gj
At some point anyone who gardens where there will be frost must decide what they will do with the end of season green tomatoes.
There are basically 3 things you can choose:
1. Freeze them
You can simply slice, place on a cookie sheet and freeze. Once they are frozen, place in a container or plastic bag. By freezing them individually, they won’t all be stuck together.
This way you can thaw and have fried green tomatoes throughout the winter.
A Facebook friend of mine says you can actually prep them first, then individually freeze, making them ready to fry with no defrosting needed.
The wall of volunteer plants. There are many green tomatoes in there, trust me.
2. Can them.
Green tomato relish is a wonderful alternative to many other, commercially processed, condiments. You can also pickle green tomatoes, make mincemeat from them, or add to your sauerkraut.
All of these are a great way to free up a little freezer space and instead fill up the larder shelves.
Preparing to trim the plants before ripening fruit on the vine.
3. Let them ripen.
The most common way to ripen tomatoes indoors is to wrap them individually in newspaper or brown lunch bags, place in a dark spot, and keep an eye on them.
If you have a lot of tomatoes, this can be rather tedious. You really have to watch so that you get to them when they are ready.
A little easier is to place them loosely in an airy basket and put that in a dark spot. This makes it easier to see which ones are ready first.
We also tried George Washington Carver’s method of hanging them upside down to ripen on the vine. We learned the hard way to trim off the excess leaves first, or you will be soon sweeping them up. Again you want the tomatoes out of direct light, and preferably in a warm area.
We like this method the best. We just hung them in a spare room and ‘picked’ them as they ripened.
This year we have so many volunteer plants they set fruit late, that we will likely be doing some of each method… and counting our blessings along the way.
Categories: How to Store
4 October 2013, by gj
Whether you are allergic to wheat, have a problem with gluten, are trying to reduce carbs in your diet, or are just looking for a healthier alternative to the typical store-bought bread crumbs, your garden is the place to go.
It was a few years back we looked at making flour from pumpkin flesh. The same can be done with a slew of other veggies, in fact I’m sure you could combine different vegetables to make a very healthy flour.
Note here that if you are going to bake with it, you can only substitute 1/3 of your vegetable flour in the recipe.
But then the same line of thinking led to… what about bread crumbs?
How to fit a head of cauliflower into a canning jar.
So the theory was tested by dehydrating an entire head of cauliflower. The result was about 1 3/4 cups of dried vegetable. Pretty potent stuff.
Some of that was then ground up in a good coffee grinder. Tofu was chosen for the experiment since it has pretty much no flavor of its own, a good test to see how strong the cauliflower taste would be.
Tofu slices were dipped first in organic corn meal, then in some beaten egg, then into the cauliflower. Some pieces were baked, some were fried. Just for comparison sake, some were also made with rice flour instead of the cauliflower.
Mandolin was the unknowing taste-tester. Good thing he trusts me!
“Is that cauliflower?” he asked, “It’s good, I like cauliflower.”
The taste was much milder than we expected, and we agreed if it were anything other than tofu you would probably not taste the cauliflower at all.
We both liked it better than the rice flour, as it was crunchier. We also preferred the fried to the baked.
We then served it with a nice orange-ginger sauce, and it was wonderful.
This weekend we’re looking forward to trying it again, when SaveTheWorld is home on fall break; but this time with fried green tomatoes.
Maybe we’ll even try a variety of veggies for the breading, just to see how it tastes.
I’m betting she doesn’t notice the difference at all, though she will be happy to know it is a healthier alternative.
With younger kids, you may want to keep this a secret for a while.
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Categories: Drying-Roasting, Gardening People, Places & Things, How to Store, Preparedness & Green Living, You Can Grow That!