Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Preserving the harvest

It's not enough to get a lot of food for a low cost, there needs to be a way of extending it's use. Now I have posted about canning. I will saying canning is one of my favorite ways to preserve food but I'm not a real creative canner nor a real adventurous one. I'm working on it but I stick to just a few types of canned products - pickles and jams being the big ones. I make a lot of pickled foods. They last forever and were amongst the first ways people preserved their harvest. However, I'm not really good at using up those pickled products. My son hates pickles - I have never known a child who hated pickles before. He doesn't mind pickled beets but most everything else is not going to be eaten by him. So I have a pantry with a variety of pickled foods that will be buried with me.
The same goes for jams and jellies. I make a ton because it's easy and rather fun. I give it away by the gallons. Works wonderfully for gifts but it's not doing a lot for my family. I used to cook with jams and jellies but I get out of the habit. I eat my share of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches .
I share this with you because you may come across the same problem. I have a case of applesauce I canned last year. That's food we acquired but didn't eat - it's no better than food I bought and threw away.
I'm not against canning, not by any stretch but I want to caution against the endless pantry. Part of my goals for this winter is to come up with creative ways to actually use the items in our pantry and that we gather so it's actually providing for us.
Another way I preserve my harvest is by freezing. I have a horrible freezer habit - more of an out of sight, out of mind. I had a deep chest freezer that wasn't all that large but I lost so much in the bottom of it. I have finally gotten rid of that extra freezer space but now the freezer above my fridge is packed full (no more ice cream for us). I had to actually stop myself from freezing stuff. I was one of those great freezer bag users - I froze extra bits of bread and fat for future use that never came. It's a bad habit I have - it's like I'm almost squirrling food away but I don't use it.
My favorite way to store food is dehydrating. It's so easy and can make such tasty snacks. I hate to admit, we're not so good as using up the dehydrated stuff either.
The more I write this the worse it sounds. Can you relate? Are you one who stores for a future that never comes. I will continue to use these methods but I have to do so with a plan in mind. Currently, we freeze meat in meal oriented freezer bags. I keep them in the front of the freezer so they are used up each month. It may seem counter-intuative to use what you have and not have much carry-over month to month but the truth is if you don't use it, you won't. There are some things I keep for sporadic use such as special flavorings or flours. However, nothing lasts forever and if my food goes bad then it was a waste to buy it in the first place.
My original plan with this post was to talk about the techniques for preserving and I will some day in the future come back to this but I think it's more important to think about what is already stored before adding to it. Only replace that which is almost gone (or already gone) this year and work to use up everything else.

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