Things I’ve Learned About My Own #Preserves – March 2015 Edition

Okay. So it’s mid-March. I just did a quick eye-balling of the freezers (yes, plural – one fridge-top and one SMALL chest freezer) and, damn, we’ve got tonnes of food! 😀 Including lots of stuff that I froze last summer & autumn (ruby chard, red currants, roasted eggplant, serviceberries, and even edamole), two recently-accquired dressed-and-ready-to-roast rabbits from the local Rabbit Lady who free-runs them in the clover patches on her Xmas Tree farm, and, oh, half a dozen big bags of bones that need to be simmered right the hell into stock as soon as I can swing it. (Maybe I should be sticking to boneless cuts of critter for the foreseeable? That’s a lot of bones…) I’m happy to say that my stores of preserves are holding up nicely, too, though we have perhaps too many (!) jars of cucumber garlic-dill pickles lying around. There may be a spate of giving stuff away in the next little while, if it comes to it (or, alternatively, I just won’t make cucumber pickles this year, and we’ll use all our cukes for salad-fixings).
I’ve got half a dozen tins of beans, a cup or two of pot barley & black lentils, half a dozen tins of tuna, a few big jars of stuff like red lentils, Great Northern white beans, wild rice, red quinoa, and pearl barley, plus more damn brown rice that you can shake a stick at. There’s a bout 5kg of white flour plus the usual salt, sugar, and baking powder supplies. There is peanut butter. There is honey. There’s a tonne of maple syrup. There’s even a tin or two of coconut milk.
Basically, my larder is quite well stocked.
Which is a good thing, because April will be Eat From the Larder Month again (let’s see if I can get through it with less whining this time…) and the goal, as it was last year, is to not buy stuff[1] in an effort to (a) save some money, but also (b) eat up the 2014 preserves so that there’s space (and clean, empty jars) for the 2015 canning season and so that we don’t wind up having jars of Who Knows What sitting around for five years at a stretch, not getting eaten.
 
This year, the Eat From the Larder challenge comes with a little extra incentive: I now have A Yard. Which means that, this season, I get to have an actual GARDEN. You know: Somewhere to grow at least part of the food that I’m planning on preserving over the course of next summer and autumn. My goal is to grow enough beans (snap and butter/shelling varieties), winter squash, summer squash, greens (kale and rainbow chard), and tomatoes to cover most of what I want to preserve for the winter and spring. Whether I’ll be able to do that is a different story, but it means I want to pre-emptively clear out the chest freezer in order to make way for the diced-and-blanched butternut squash that I want to put up, the snap beans, greens, and golden zucchini slices I want to blanch-and-freeze, just so I can say “I grew them, too!” when I haul them out again in the middle of winter. 🙂
 
Things I’ve learned (again):
I would much rather use bruschetta-mix or plain ol’ diced tomatoes than use tomato sauce. Most of the time. (When making bean stew, however, you can never have too much umami, so a one-cup jar of tomatoes PLUS a half-cup jar of sauce is a good way to go). Also, having acquired a nearby and rather dear friend back in October, who is badly allergic to All The Peppers, chances are good that my tomato sauce recipe will be changing slightly so’s as not to send her to the ER inadvertently (I have so far managed to not do this, fyi).
I’m hit-and-miss on how much frozen fruit I go through in a given year. Some years, I’ll go through a litre of frozen berries in a week. Other times, I’ll forget and find half a gallon of July-harvested red currants waiting to be turned into tarts (good thing, too, since we’re having people over for dinner next Friday).
I actually *do* like apple butter for baking and also for savoury dishes (mainly cheese sandwiches, to be honest) and missed it this year, since I didn’t make any. Also: Pumpkin butter is amazing BUT pear butter is probably a better way to go. I’m still planning on making pumpkin butter a regular feature of my larder, mind you, because I can grow pumpkins more or less like weeds around here, but I don’t have an apple tree of my own. Yet. But apple butter is going to have to be a thing.
Having only used my dehydrator the once… it hasn’t paid for itself yet. Basically, I’ve found that my home-dried peaches and nectarines… are mostly just really fucking dry. They’re not great snack-food, presently, is what I’m saying. So, while I’m hoping I can put it to work drying tomatoes and apples, or makingn snacky-snacky Kale Chips and similar, as and when I have kale, apples, and tomatoes to use in it, I probably won’t be going all out on dried peaches and similar next summer.
I may or may not do jarred peaches (or peach butter, or what-have-you) either. I love my tomato-peach salsa, and will continue to make that, for sure, possibly using nectarines instead of peaches (even though they’re more expensive), just ’cause I like the smooth skin better than the fuzzy, but I haven’t yet opened any of the apricot butter that I made, so I’m not sure that I’d bother making it again.
 
Seven weeks from now (or so), it’ll be Beltane, I’ll be on the hunt for groceries after a month of not bothering, and I may or may not (fingers crossed that I will) be started a new part-time job in the afternoons. Hopefully, hopefully, I’ll also be planting out the first of my cold-weather crops and rejoicing at a larder that’s ready to be filled once more.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] With some exceptions. I will totally still be buying milk and coffee. I may buy eggs or cheese, but would kind of like to not bother. (Alternatively, I may (break the rules and) buy 2 dozen eggs, a kilogram of coffee beans, and some Cheap Cooking Cheddar – provided it’s actually cheap when I get to the store – towards the end of March… and still buy milk as I go through it). But no veggies, baking supplies, fruit, meat, or similar since the idea is use up the preserved (jars, tins, frozen, and dry-goods) food that I already have on hand… And I have a LOT of it on hand.

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