It’s that time of year again…The time to save some of your harvest for use during the winter. My three favorite methods include canning, preserving and freezing. I also dry things like fruit or tomatoes from time to time too.
Living on the side of a mountain has its perks. It’s cooler up here than down in the valley, even though we’ve had some miserably hot days this summer all together, we tend to get a bit more rain and you can’t beat the view! Well the view isn’t really a perk I suppose, but it’s enjoyable none the less. I’m an ocean/water girl by nature, but I have to say this view has really, really grown on me.
The bad thing about living on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere Central Maryland is the wildlife! Daily residents in our yard include ground hogs, who are voracious little rats, rabbits, who are pretty voracious themselves, deer, who well are pretty voracious too, along with a sundry other creatures (including a few SNAKES eek!) that all mill about. The thing these beasties have in common? They love to eat anything that I plant in my “garden”!
Meet one of our resident groundhogs:
Or Satan as I have dubbed him. Sure he looks all sweet and cute sitting there munching on rotten apples that have fallen from the tree, which I’m more than happy to share with him and his little fuzzy family, but he’s really an evil little thief of massive proportions! Don’t let his charming little demeanor fool you…This guy is trouble!
Despite having numerous tomato plants this year all of the ripe ones have been eaten by the deer, ground hogs and rabbits before I have gotten to enjoy them. Luckily we have a few nice Farmer’s Markets around the area each week as well as a nearby orchard that has a multitude of various fruits and vegetables so I’ve been buying my tomatoes from them.
I have beautiful tomatoes:
But once this sucker starts turning the least bit red one of my yard critters will end up eating it before I get the chance. Excuse me while I grumble a moment about evil animals…..
Where was I?
The only type of tomatoes I’ve grown this year they haven’t munched is my cherry tomatoes:
And let me tell you these little guys are good, but sometimes you want something a little bigger than these little gems.
For the past few years toward the end of summer I’ve purchased bushels upon bushels of what they call “second tomatoes”. What are second tomatoes? They’re the tomatoes that grow into a weird shape, or have a blemish here, or a spot there. There is nothing wrong with these tomatoes, but some people can’t see past their “ugly” (And I use this term sarcastically…Who cares what it looks like as long as it tastes ok??!!?!) exterior. You may have to cut a spot out here or there, but they are still perfectly good tomatoes to eat, can or even freeze. Don’t let the look of something fool you. You know like the groundhog we mentioned above! ;oP
The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a bevy of information if you’re interested in preserving your own food. They have detailed information on the methods you need to use and their instructions on canning is invaluable. The recipes, the techniques and everything are right there. My mom got their “cookbook” a few years ago and I’ve used the soup out of that thing! I use their water bath method to can my tomatoes and tomato sauce.
I also like to take fresh fruit and make fruit fillings for desserts during the winter by freezing them for use later. So far this summer I’ve froze several jars of peach, cherry and blueberry fillings. It’s extremely easy to do these, you just cook them with a little sugar until the berries are soft. You remove the fruit from the heat, let it cool (it will thicken as it cools) and then place the mixture in a wide mouthed quart sized glass jar with an inch of head room at the top, put the lid on and then freeze them.
How easy is that?
To use the fillings you just take them out of the freezer, let them thaw and then you can make pie, cake, pastries, sauce, ice cream, etc. The blueberries just go in whole, with the juice and zest of a lemon, the cherries just have to be pitted and the peaches peeled, pitted and mashed. As I mentioned above you add a little sugar and cook until the fruit is soft. These little fillings are pretty easy to do and taste better than anything you’d ever buy at the grocery store.
Another favorite thing this time of year for me is pickling cucumbers! These cucumbers have such a lovely, crisp, fresh taste and as their name implies they make fabulous pickles! I’m going to share with you a really simple, quick refrigerator pickle that are simply fabulous! Let’s get to it shall we?
What You’ll Need For The Refrigerator Dill Pickles:
1/4 cup of black peppercorns
1 tablespoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of organic cane sugar
2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed (optional)
2 tablespoons of dried dill
1 bunch of fresh dill
Pickling cucumbers (Note: These are the smaller, crisp cucumbers that are abundant during the summer.)
1 1/2 cups of vinegar (Note: I like apple cider vinegar for this, but you can use plain white vinegar instead.)
Place peppercorns, sea salt, sugar, garlic and dill in a quart sized canning jar. Slice cucumbers and add to the jar until you reach 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Pour in vinegar and then fill up the rest of the jar with water. Give the jar a shake to mix up the ingredients and place in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving.
Pickles last about 2 months in the fridge.
Notes: You could also add in some red or Vidalia onion strips to the mix as well.