So when I got into this whole gardening gig, I never imagined I would be preserving anything! Who does that? My grandma, and the old lady that lived next door to us when I was a kid. I definitely wasn’t going to be doing that. Well after years of being inundated with tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, herbs, and other veggies, I gradually got into preservation without even realizing it. Now here I am writing a blog on how to preserve all the delicious crops you’ve grown.
I accidentally fell into all of this when our next-door neighbor gave us 6 grocery bags full of apples, we literally could not make enough apple pie or applesauce to get us out of the mounds of apples we had acquired. I made batches and batches of applesauce, apple butter, and stewed apples. But now what to do with all this stuff I had just made? Thank goodness for my mom and her Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This book talks all about the different ways to preserve food, how to do it, what to do, and exactly what not to do. It has some pretty amazing recipes as well. Although I have not delved into the world of preserving with a pressure cooker yet, I have learned to can in a water bath. It was so incredibly easy, and it has allowed me to preserve a lot of stuff for use later on. Before you dive headfirst into this experiment, be sure to do a little research on this method of canning, there are quite a few things that cannot safely be canned using the water bath method.
Now, this method has been great, and I’m really grateful that I learned how to do it! However, I don’t always have time to get into the whole canning process after I have spent the day making a humongous batch of fresh marinara sauce. This is when I depend heavily on the freezer. Every season I make numerous batches of marinara sauce, pizza sauce, and tomato soup out of what seems like billions of tomatoes I harvest. My family loves the year-round access to our homemade sauces and soups that came from our garden that they helped tend.
While we are on the topic of freezing, let’s talk about all those times that we have a stack of tomatoes, and no time to makes any sauces or soups. We have learned that you can drop those tomatoes in a freezer bag, right off the vine, and toss them in the freezer for later use. This works out great! Obviously, you can’t use these tomatoes for a fresh tossed salad, as they turn into a sloppy mess once thawed, but they work out great for sauces, and soups later on down the road when you actually have a minute. We even freeze all those greens tomatoes that we have to pull right before the first freeze of the season. There are so many more things that you can make with green tomatoes than just fried green tomatoes. We make green tomato salsa, green tomato ketchup, green tomato pasta sauce, and even use them in a soup. I was shocked by all the delicious stuff we made.
Fresh herbs are great for freezing as well. I love to pick basil, sage, oregano, or any other herb I plan on using for cooking, blend it up in the blender with some olive oil, and freeze it in ice cube trays, along with drying herbs keeps me stocked up on herbs all through the winter.
Next, let’s talk about my new favorite hobby… Pickling. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t start out pickling cucumbers. I started with radishes, and if you haven’t had pickled radishes on a salad or on tacos, you’re missing out, this is so incredibly easy to do! I bring 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of water, a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of sugar to a boil, slice up the radishes and pour the pickling liquid over the radishes.
Let sit for a few hours, and they are ready. The longer they store in the refrigerator, the tastier they get. There are so many options for added flavor as well. You can add sliced onion, jalapeno, garlic, herbs, or peppercorn. The options for what you pickle are endless too, obviously, my kids love pickled cucumbers, but they are also a fan of the pickled radishes, carrots, and wildly enough, pickled eggs.
Let me know in the comments below if you have found any new and interesting ways to preserve all the great stuff that you have grown!