A guide for preserving for a busy life.
A friend of my mom's has a huge pantry that, when I was young, was always filled with things she canned herself. It would always amaze me how everything had a hand written label. Sometimes I think to myself, on the train to work after dropping my two young kids off at school, how nice it would be to have pantry like that. So, I started thinking of all the small things I could do to be sure that every meal I make contains a little something from my garden.
Now with fall approaching, I’d like to share a few ideas for gathering the bounty of the summer garden and making it last through winter
Herbs are such a staple in any style of cooking. Fresh is best, but home dried is so much better than store bought. Who knows when those jarred and boxed herbs were picked and how long they have been sitting on the shelf? To dry my own herbs I take a small, round hanging drier from the dollar store (looks like a wheel with crocodile clips hanging from it), and make bouquets out of bunches of fresh herbs which I affix to the drier with small lengths of jute. Place the drier in a non-humid space – a pantry, a cupboard or whatever, and wait. Once all the moisture has dried from the herbs (this can take a couple of weeks depending on the moisture content of the herb), untie the bouquet and crumble the dried herb into clean, dry jam jars. These will last you until the fresh herbs are ready to harvest next year.
Seasoning, is, of course, essential for turning your average meal into a culinary masterpiece. An easy (though, if you buy from the store, expensive), way of adding different flavors to dishes is by adding a pinch of a flavored salt. These really only take a moment to make but taste wonderful.
Herbs, like Rosemary, Basil, Thyme and Lavender work great in salts but so do the more substantial garden harvests such as onion, garlic and even home dried tomato*.
In a jar, simply combine 5 parts salt to 1 part flavoring. Be sure that everything is dry or you'll have clumpy salt.
*recipe to follow.
I invested in a food dehydrator a few years ago, which is a really easy way of preserving surplus. Basically all you need to do is wash your produce, and cut it (if needed), place it on the drying rack and plug it in. Our grape vine went crazy this year, and for a couple weeks we had more grapes than we could eat . So I threw them in the dehydrator. Now we have a large container of raisins for the coming months. Driers can be used for a whole bunch of things from vegetable chips to beef jerky to fruit leather.
This dried tomato recipe is one of my favorites.
Cut your tomatoes into bite sized pieces, and place in a large mixing bowl. Cover with red wine - Two Buck Chuck or similar works just fine. Leave covered, overnight in the refrigerator. Next day, take the tomatoes from the wine (if you don’t want to waste the wine it works perfect for making Bolognese sauce) - arrange the tomatoes on the racks of the dehydrator, and sprinkle with salt (preferably herb salt), and leave to dry. Once they are dried place them in storage container. If you want to get fancier still, you can pack them in oil. Dip each tomato in white vinegar for a few seconds, and place in jar half filled with olive oil. Both the vinegar and the oil are tasty in salad dressings or pasta dishes.
Jarring and Canning
Jarring and canning can look daunting at first but is incredibly simple so long as you observe basic rules of preserving hygiene. I canned some tomatoes just this weekend - the recipe I had was for green tomatoes but I used any ripe ones from my raised beds. I chopped the tomatoes, being careful to save all the juice, packed them into sterilized jars leaving about an inch of space at the top, added a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon juice and topped with the reserved juice until the liquid covered the tomatoes (you can use water if you don’t have enough juice). I loosely screwed the tops on and placed in a water bath brought to a boil, lowered to a simmer and left for 15 minutes. Once removed from the water bath I tightened the tops. Be sure the lids don't pop up – this means they didn’t seal properly. They will still be fine to eat but should be put in the refrigerator and consumed within two weeks. If sealed correctly, home canned tomatoes will last 6 months or more on the shelf.
I have acquired many canning books over the years but these are the ones I always seem to come back to for idea and techniques
Can it, Bottle it, Smoke it by Karen Solomon. This covers so many different subjects, and I love that she gives you a time commitment for each recipe.
River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin. She give a lot of information while removing the mystique.
There are so many ideas out there - so if you would like to leave a comment on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/Clarington-Forge-Garden-Tools/169885684570 or Tweet us @ClaringtonTools - we can inspire each other to try new things.