Sunday, September 15, 2013

Harvest Time {Thought and tips on putting up food for winter}

 This last month has been pretty heavily focused on getting food put up for the winter. I really enjoy the lifestyle that we live where we raise and process our own food as much as we can. I know that is not something everybody wants to do but for others that are interested in this lifestyle I thought I would share a little about how we do that frugally and while running businesses, homeschooling children and many other distractions.

Why do we put up food?

There is plenty of food available at grocery stores, why do we want to put up our own instead?

  • We can have healthier foods. I try to make sure that the foods that I put up are basically organic and gmo free.
  • We save money.
  • We always have a good supply of food on hand which prepares us for emergencies.
  • We enjoy being able to know very well all about our food. I am not sure how to describe it but when we can raise and make our own food and other things then life feels more connected to me.

Canning fish this year for the first time.
 Where can you get the food to put up?

  • Your own garden. This is probably most people's first thought and it is a great one but it is not the only way to put up good food for winter.
  • Picking wild foods on public land. This is how we get our blueberries and juneberries and things like that.
  • The generosity of other gardeners. Gardeners are often generous people especially when they know that you will use it and not waste it. When someone offers us produce I usually say "Yes, Thank you!". My parents tend to give us a lot of stuff as they have been able to grow it well and know we appreciate it, other friends have also given us some of the abundance of their gardens at different times. When this sort of thing happens my goal is to always show my thankfulness, to offer to help pick or help in other ways if possible and to be sure to offer to share when I have abundance as well.
  • Gleaning. We get our potatoes every year by going to fields that grow potatoes after they harvest and then looking for the rejected potatoes in the field. I am sure there are many ways you can glean. Just be sure to check with those who own the place to be sure that it is okay.
  • Picking at a U-pick farm. This is how we generally get our strawberries but we also got a bit of corn that way this year as well. It depends on the area you live in what is available and whether or not it is good prices.
  • The farmers market. I have not actually ever bought stuff from the farmers market for purposes of putting up as it has seemed to expensive and we grow our own garden but I know some people do. A friend of mine who lives in a bigger city has gone just as they were about to close up for the day and gotten some pretty good deals on large quantities of veggies.
  • Ordering from Azure Standard or buying lugs of fruit from other sources. When you buy large quantities in season on things like fruit often you can get some pretty good deals. I have pretty much never done this as we have usually had plenty of our own but I know friends that do this.
  • Raising your own animals for meat, eggs and dairy products.
  • Hunting and fishing.
  • Buying from a local farmer.
  • Keeping your eyes and ears open for times when people want to get rid of animals that could be butchered. I know I have seen ducks and roosters available for give-away before, my parents are regularly given fish and my dad has also butchered a pot-belly pig when it's owner grew tired of it.
  • Raise bees.
Part of what Mara picked one day at my parents. She picked for both them and us.
 What methods can be used for preserving food?

  • Water bath and pressure canning.
  • Drying.
  • Freezing.
  • Smoking.
  • Fermenting.
  • Cold Storage.
Pesto making.
 How can I do these things without spending a lot of money?
  • Realize that you don't need to buy a lot of fancy equipment.
  • Buy used equipment such as canners, canning jars, etc.
  • Buy Tattler canning lids that can be reused year after year.
  • For drying herbs just tie bunches together and hang them upside down until they are dry.
  • Save bags and containers all year long (cottage cheese containers, peanut butter jars, bread bags, etc.) to use for freezing stuff in and storing honey in. I also use repurposed containers to store my dried herbs in. If you don't get enough of your own containers I have found that friends (who do buy more processed stuff) are usually quite happy to save them for you especially when you share a jar of honey now and then! :-) When we are butchering and packaging meat we will often use a grocery bag for the second layer of wrapping. Many people (though not me as we use cloth grocery bags) have an over abundance of these.
  • For cold storage if you have an empty room in your house simply shut off the heat, keep the door closed and use it to store things like squashes, cabbages and so forth. We have never really had that available but my parents do that all the time.
  • Figure out how to make needing equipment or make do. With honey extracting I was very blessed to have my dad and brother make me an extractor instead of having to pay hundreds of dollars to buy one. Instead of a heated honey knife I have made do with knives and a hot plate. Instead of buying a cheese press I intend to make one using things that we have.
Canning at our homemakers group.
 Putting up food for the winter can be a LOT of work, especially in the fall but I think it is worth it. Having all the food put up sure makes shopping and cooking a lot easier for the rest of the year. Also the satisfaction that it brings is very, very fun to me. My family is learning to really enjoy it as well.
A honey harvest.
Are you in the midst of harvest and putting up too? What tips do you have to share on this topic? I would love to hear your thoughts or questions!


Amanda said...

We have an abundance of zucchini every year. I found a method online for canning it in pineapple juice. Just dice/shred/whatever the zuke's into a large pot, cover with pineapple juice, and simmer until hot. Then water bath pint jars for 20 minutes. It tastes just like pineapple.

Lydia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lydia said...

Abbi, I have never used the tattler lids. How long have you been using them and do they really work? I don't know anyone that uses them!

Kris S said...

This article was very informative, thank you! I purchase a lot of my produce at the local farmers market since I don't yet have a garden. There are only 2 markets left befor they shut down for the season and I plan on buying a TON of veggies to put up for the winter. If you can wait and have the time to dedicate to canning this late in the season, it is a great idea to purchase now. A lot of farmers are looking to get rid of the last of their harvest so they are selling in larger quantities for lower prices. I hope to have bushels of veggies this weekend and tons of work to do in the weeks to come.

Abbi said...

Amanda - That recipe sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing it!!

Lydia - This is my 3rd year of using Tattler lids. I think they work pretty well and I like them!

Kris - Thanks for sharing about your experience with the farmers market.

Penny said...

We are new to homesteading. Since we moved over the summer we didn't have a summer we will. I can't wait to harvest and put up for the winter. Thank you for sharing this.


Abbi said...

Penny, You are welcome. I hope your homesteading venture goes very well!


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