I don't know if it's that our garden is smaller (maybe?) or that we're just getting the hang of preserving, but Matt and I both agree that this has been our best year for saving what we've grown.
There is something about discovering the rhythm of growing and learning what we like to eat that helps shape what we plant and preserve. We always run out of frozen corn, green beans and peaches by February. I also hoard my peach preserves like summer will never come again. The strawberry syrup finds it way into sparkling water, and sweet, spicy strawberry butter gets used up on waffles and between layers of cake.
The other jams, however - well there is really only so much jam two people will eat in the course of a year. And whenever I find myself blueberry apple jam, I kind of wish I was eating the peach instead. So we focused on freezing the beans, corn and peaches, and made less jam.
Matt always loves to grow hot peppers, and they usually go unused, but this year I did pickled jalapeno slices and peach, mango, Carolina reaper sauce. We're pretty sure the Carolina reapers cross-pollinated with bell peppers (Matt ate one without regret), but it still produced a sauce that is not for the faint of heart. It served as a daring dip for raw veggies, and I have big plans to mix it with yogurt and make a marinade for chicken.
The pickled jalapenos were the star ingredient in Italian beef sandwiches from Canning For a New Generation (one of the things I love about this book is that she has suggestions and recipes for using your canned goods) and they were so good, I'm making another batch before the season turns.
This year we ventured into the realm of fermented foods. Matt and I have been reading Folk's This Ain't Normal by Joel Salatin, and he talks about how people are always hungry for the next season just before the current season wraps up. As a result, most farmers end up with an excess of seasonal vegetables as they scramble to provide early produce from the next season. He encourages people to talk to the farmers and buy up their excess for preserving. Inspired by this, I found myself with 8 head of cabbage for sauerkraut.
Fermenting was an entirely fascinating experience. Did you know that if you add salt to shredded cabbage and squeeze long enough it creates enough brine to cover the cabbage? I did not know this. But I squeezed and squeezed and just when it seemed like it wouldn't work, my bowl was full of brine. Then it all sat on my counter for three weeks and I didn't have to do anything except skim off the foam every 2-3 days..
It was delicious! The sauerkraut is now carefully sealed in jars in my pantry and will be featured on a pork roast in the crock pot one day this winter when the thought of buying excess cabbage seems more luxurious that dutiful.
Tomatoes have been roasted and frozen or turned into tomato jam. We ended up with approximately one million cherry tomatoes (did NOT know those plants were cherry tomatoes), so I'm on the hunt for a way to use those. Any suggestions welcome.
What are you "putting up?" Do you find yourself starting to crave pumpkins and kale (I do!).
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