Food preservation is a cornerstone of having a homestead and an essential step on the road to self-sufficiency. I grew up on a farm where food preservation was done in large amounts. There were 5 of us and much of that food was to last the winter and the spring until our garden came into bloom again. There would be half a freezer full of corn and strawberries. Rows of jars in the pantry filled with tomatoes, tomato sauce, apple sauce and apple filling. As well as pears and peaches in syrup. Jars of summer goodness filled with strawberry jam.
Over the years it hasn’t mattered if I lived in a small apartment or a big house. I would always find a u-pick farm or a farmers auction and buy my produce by the bushel full. I would can all summer long and have food for us and for gifts all winter. Looking back I never took on a project that didn’t entail at least 25 pounds of produce. One of the things I have learned about micro-homesteading is you don’t have to preserve on such a large scale. Small batches can add up to a full larder.
I promise to tackle canning in many other posts. For years this was my favorite way to preserve food. What I have learned though is it’s not always the healthiest or the fastest. Today when given the opportunity I try to freeze as much produce as I can. Then when I run out of room in the freezer I start canning. A quick side note. People in the homesteading world are always talking about eating down your pantry or freezer. I have this conversation quite often with my sister. Sometimes those chest freezers are so vast you will find something you preserved in it the year your child was born and now your child is in kindergarten! Food rotation and variety is an important part of homesteading. Naturally we all prefer fresh produce. We only resort to the frozen or canned when the fresh isn’t available. Living here on Guam where some American produce is hard to come by year round, or fresh tomatoes are always $7 a pint in the store, has made me reevaluate how I use my produce. I will look at a recipe and see if I can make a substitution for frozen or canned that I might not notice. Will canned tomatoes work just as well in that taco meat? Can I substitute frozen spinach or green beans in that quiche? For each person you have to make those choices but considering those options may mean you are adding more produce to your diet, especially frozen produce. They are usually frozen at the height of their ripeness and flavor and can really add to your dinner table and save a bit of money on your grocery budget.
Today and yesterday while chatting away on the phone to my husband, sister, mom, and a friend I was able to preserve through freezing, 5 pounds of bananas, I ate off this bunch of bananas for 3 weeks as it ripened from my yard. I finally took the over ripe bananas and froze them in quart bags a pound each, just enough for a loaf of banana bread. Before we went into our current lockdown Ernie the corn guy was selling bags of his sweet corn for $10 a bag. There is usually 13-15 ears in each bag. Fresh corn is rare on Guam. I bought two bags and have been eating it for over a week. I froze 20 ears to continue to eat that golden goodness. Four pounds of granny smith apples, 7 pounds of red delicious apples (our mayor’s office has been distributing a monthly 10 pound box of apples and oranges for free to the residents of our village, since I’m alone it’s easier to preserve some of this free bounty rather than feed mushy apples to the chickens). Long Beans grow pretty much year round here. This past week my neighbor gave me some from her yard, I got a bunch in my weekly produce bag from Guahan Sustainability ,and I even got a few from my own potted plant. I love long beans so I froze a pound of those too.
To get the maximum flavor and the least amount of sogginess from my produce each one had to be handled differently.
Bananas are easy I freeze them whole they are half the size of a regular banana. I spread them on a cookie sheet lined with freezer paper freeze them for an hour in the freezer then I put them in a freezer bag. By freezing them on a cookie sheet first you keep them from sticking together.
Apples I could write lots and lots on apples. We don’t get a lot of varieties here on Guam. Normally stateside I wouldn’t even bother with red delicious. A homesteader never turns down free produce. Red Delicious is a softer texture of apple and doesn’t make good pies. However they are great in smoothies and make a great apple butter, their great for muffins and cakes too. Granny Smith apples are a firm textured apple. I haven’t baked a pie with frozen ones my mom says the pie comes out watery. I usually make my own pie filling out of granny smith apples and can it. That being said though Granny smith defrosts well you can still use them for salads, smoothies, jams, muffins, and cakes. I find them to be a bit tart for apple butter.
The apples I peeled and put the peels in a freezer bag, I then cored the apples and cut them into ¼ inch slices. I put the cores in a freezer bag as well. Later on I will use the cores and the peels to make Apple Syrup. I then took a pound of apples at a time about three, and dunked them in a bowl of water with 2 tbsp. of lemon juice. The lemon juice wash keeps them from turning brown. I then put them on a cookie sheet lined with freezer paper (wax paper works too) I put them in the freezer for an hour. Once they were solid I put them in a quart freezer bag. Make sure to put the date, the amount weight or volume, and type of produce. Sometimes you look at a freezer bag you forgot to label and you think when did I freeze these bananas?
The corn and the Long Beans get the same treatment. I use a technique called blanching. What you do is you boil a big pasta pot full of water. Once that water is boiling you drop in your corn. I only do 5 at a time so there’s plenty of room for them to move around. After three minutes I take each ear out with a pair of tongs. I quickly drop it in a sink full of ice and water. This stops the cooking process. By blanching your firm vegetables you stop the sugars from breaking down. When you then cook that vegetable it doesn’t come out mushy. I then dry I off each piece of corn and wrap it in wax paper. I put 5 ears in a gallon freezer bag and freeze. The paper keeps the corn from getting freezer burn and makes it easier to take out one ear at a time. I do a similar process with the long beans. I use the same water and then blanch the long beans for a minute and a half. You don’t want to over cook them. I usually eye it and when they turn bright green I put them in the ice bath. I strain them out and dry them off. I then put them on a cookie sheet and freeze them for an hour. Once their frozen I bag them up into 1 or 2 person portions and then put those smaller bags in a larger freezer bag to prevent freezer burn.
I also freeze avocado’s they make a great spread on toast, Mango’s when their in season. Do you freeze your produce?