Near the end of last fall, I posted a tally of all that we had preserved (i.e. canned and frozen). At that time, I promised to write another post about food preservation with lots more information about how/why we do what we do. Seven months later, here it is!
I just sorted through our freezer and canning shelves and tallied up what we have left from last year. We’re deep into summer produce now and what we have left is officially left over from last year. Generally speaking, we did great on the amount of frozen vegetables we needed (although I did run out of pesto a month or two early). I canned WAY too many peaches (but yay for me, I won’t have to do them this summer)! I also managed to make far too many pickles so it’s going to be a light pickle summer for me. Additionally, we have plenty of jam left so I won’t be making jam this summer at all. Knowing that I had a bit left from last summer, I’ve been pretty lazy and haven’t preserved anything yet this year although I do have some giant zucchinis (fifty cents each!) waiting in the fridge to be grated. See the end of this post for the specific numbers of what we preserved vs. what we actually used.
And now, here are some other Frequently Asked Questions related to food preservation:
- How do we have room for all of this? We have two freezers: a 16-cubic foot upright and a 9-cubic-foot chest. We buy our whole wheat flour in bulk (usually around 100 pounds at a time) and it needs to be stored in the freezer. The flour combined with the other stuff keeps both freezers quite full. Additionally, we have some big shelves in our basement where I keep all the canned items. If you want to do this, you should definitely buy yourself an extra freezer!
- Where do we get our produce from? We grow some of it ourselves (some summers more than others). We pick our own berries locally and buy other fruit from local farmers. Occasionally, we do PYO vegetables too. The rest I get from the farmers’ market. I wrote more extensively about this here.
- Is this cost-effective? To be honest, I don’t have concrete numbers to tell you either way (if it’s less or more expensive). For example, I do buy our tomatoes bit by bit from the seconds piles at the farmers’ market and so they’re very cheap (usually around $.25/pound). I’m sure it would be cheaper to buy other things at the grocery store (especially at Costco) but what we preserve tastes infinitely better to us (especially the broccoli) than what we can buy in the store so we don’t mind the extra cost. See my post here about the cost of eating locally/seasonally and also what I’d do if I was more concerned about cutting costs wherever I could.
- Why all those plastic bags? This is a question that I ask myself all the time. I wish I knew of a better way to freeze stuff than in zipper-lock bags but I haven’t come up with one. Freezing in glass is a option but takes up so much extra space. I suppose I could buy lots and lots of plastic containers but that doesn’t work great either (and space would still be an issue). So we do freeze in plastic bags but don’t really use them in the rest of our life (for lunches, travel, etc). So in the end, I suppose our plastic bag use is probably still not astronomical. (Anyone else have any better ideas to suggest?)
- How in the world do you find time to do this? August to November is definitely a crazy time for me. I’m almost constantly thinking about what food to buy, how to find the time to preserve it, and then actually doing it. That being said, the rest of the year, life is much easier because I can go grocery shopping so infrequently. I do benefit from my hard work!
- Why do you process food in different ways? And freeze in different amounts? I process foods in different ways depending on what’s easiest and also how they will taste the best (much of this figured out by trial and error). I freeze in different amounts because I know, generally speaking, what recipes I’ll be using the food with and so I freeze accordingly. For example, my muffin recipe calls for 2.5 C of pumpkin puree, which almost perfectly fits in a sandwich ziploc bag so I freeze it that way.
- How do you know how to do all of this? I watched my mom can salmon growing up so I was familiar with the pressure canning process. However, in my early 30s, when Nik and I decided to start eating this way, I had to teach myself all over again how to do it (and discovered that water bath canning is definitely less stressful than pressure canning). This website was really helpful to me. I basically just followed her instructions. (The website is quite cluttered but there’s lots of good information buried in the terrible formatting.) My brother and sister-in-law gave us a canning kit (THANK YOU!) and I’d recommend that anyone interested in canning to invest in one. It’s well worth the $15! I’m also happy to give lessons so let me know if you want one!
- Why don’t you can all those tomatoes? Freezing is so much easier, I have the freezer space, and we don’t usually use them as tomato sauce (but rather as components in other meals). So I’m lazy and freeze them. I don’t even skin them anymore, I’m that lazy.
Leave questions in the comments if you have any more!
For those of you who may be considering preserving some food for the winter yourselves (as well as for the sake of record keeping for myself), here’s how our last winter’s food supply worked out. This was for a family of four: two adults, one three-year-old, and one 18-month-old who sometimes eats just as much as his sister! 🙂
The current amount is listed first with the original amount in italics and parentheses.
- tomatoes (15-oz bags): 5 (28)
- sweet corn, off the cob (quart bags): 2 (20)
- long-neck squash (like pumpkin), puree (2.5 C bags): 5 (21)
- zucchini, shredded (2 C bags): 2 (15)
- jalapenos, diced (quart bags): 0 (3)
- poblano peppers, sliced (quart bag): 0 (1)
- banana peppers, diced (quart bag): 0 (1)
- pesto (in “cookies“, quart bags): 0 (2)
- yellow wax beans (quart): 0 (2) (I actually just threw these away because they were overgrown when I picked them and I never should have frozen them.)
- broccoli (gallon bags): 1 (6 plus 2 not completely full)
- blueberries (gallon bags): 0 (3)
- strawberries (quart bags): 0 (3)
- peaches, sliced (pint jars): 24 (56)
- applesauce (quart jars): 5 (32)
- strawberry jam (pint): 6 (13)
- nutmeg plum jam: 5, half-pint (12); 3, pint (1); 1 three-quarter pint (1)
- peach syrup: 2, half-pint, canned (2); 3, pint, frozen (5)
- apple butter: 5, pint, canned (8 plus we ate two more partial pints, frozen )
- sweet garlic dill pickles (pint): 10 (19)
- curried pickles (pint): 6 (16)