Friday, July 25, 2014

Stocking up at the Farmer's Market ~ CSA Week 8

Preserving the harvest is a family affair
on our farm! Farmer Steve jumps in to help
after a long day for the Farmer's Wife.
I'm sooooo blessed!

The abundant harvest found at the farmer's markets this time of year gives many of our customers the urge to stock up for the chilly days that will come with winter.


We've spent a few days this week putting up the leftovers from 4 rainy markets last Saturday along with "The Good, the Bad, and the Uglies" from the past weekend. My pantry shelves are filling back up! I love to look in my "new" pantry and see long rows of different colors of vegetables. It seems that all that was left over from the long winter was white or tan (turnips, applesauce, & apple juice)! This week we added the red of tomatoes, the
Red Potatoes
orange of carrots, and more white in potatoes. It takes a family effort to put up the quantity of food our large family needs, but the memories I hear most often are the tales of the mounds of green beans the children broke, or the piles of mixed greens they chopped, or with busting buttons, which team won the apple juicing contest! I think it helps the children to appreciate their food long after the first frost of the winter.
Pickled Okra & Tomatoes

 For most people though, a blog that inspires them to can a lot of vegetables, dry an abundance of seasonal fruits or at least freeze containers of their favorite vegetable can be overwhelming. I want to help take the fear out of at least TRYING to preserve some of your favorite seasonal foods. That way in the middle of winter you can treat yourself to a taste of summer!

Canning is an "in" thing to do these days. That is amazing to me! I've been canning for 34 summers now and it has always been an old fashioned.. green...oh I mean a sustainable way to save money for our one income family. I'm glad you are interested in doing something to prepare for the chilly and uncertain days ahead.

Seek Wisdom

  • When you're at the farmer's market ask the vendors what they do to preserve the harvest for their own families.
  • Ask older women in your life if they have experience in canning, drying, or freezing the harvest bounty. Sometimes folks remember what their Grandparents used to do and this can be inspiring.
  • I didn't have the Internet 34 summers ago, but you do! There is a plethora of help out there. start with this tried and true website's articles.  Mother Earth News and Pintrest's Preserving Board
  • Wisdom from the Farmer's Wife ~  You don't have to have a lot of expensive equipment (though this basic starter set of canning tools would be very helpful.) Water bath canning is the simplest method of canning. To water bath can all you need is a deep pot that will allow 1-2" of water over the top of the size jar you will be using. Perhaps you have a friend that will allow you to come and help her/him can. I've taught several ladies over the years to can this way. It's a fun way to learn.
What are things that you can?
  • Green Beans
  • Tomatoes (in several forms)
    Green Beans &
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Cinnamon Apple slices, Apple Sauce, Apple Butter, & Apple Danish filling
  • Turnips
  • Squash (only a little for squash casseroles as it gets soft)
  • Radish (believe it or not they are great in stew!)
  • jams (strawberry, peach, canteloup, seedless blackberry, etc.
  •  Relishes
  • Apple and Pear Juice
  • Butter
  • Meat (chicken, breakfast sausage, ground venison, hamburger, etc.)
  1. What should I can first?

  • Start canning with a high acid fruit or vegetables like tomatoes, jams, or even using a Mrs. Wages or Ball pickle or salsa mix to help you get started. These will be easily processed in a water bath canner.
  • Start small, like the fast and easy method I've posted for canning tomatoes. Use them for
    Canned tomatoes
    making chili, soups, and lasagna this winter. Even if you cannot find canning tomatoes in bulk, budget to buy some Certified Naturally Grown tomatoes to can each week. Processing a little at time makes the task of winter storage less daunting. 
  • Jams are very easy to make, and with the abundance of blueberries, blackberries, and peaches right now may be a great first choice. 
My daughter Hope canned lots
of seedless blackberry jam this week.
This is hers...we just juiced 13 gallons of
blackberries and froze the juice until we have our
commercial kitchen up and running. Look for it this winter
at your local farmer's market or on our online store!

I don't want to can, what other way can I save food for the winter?
  • Freezing is a fast way to put up vegetables and fruits for the winter.
  • Drying is also a popular way to preserve the harvest in a compact space.
  • If you have a cool, dark space in your house or apartment you can create a "root cellar" and store root crops, fall apples, cabbage, and other vegetables that cannot be easily bought in the colder months. 
I like the idea of freezing...what are things that you freeze? 
  • There are certain vegetables and fruits that I
    Cut the kernels
    off into an
    angel food pan.
    think freeze better than they can or even dry. Corn is at the top of my list. Non-GMO corn is a SPECIAL treat for us. I have put up a little this year and the children huddle around to help me taste-test it just before I bag it. I simply cut it off the ear, place it
    in a HUGE cast iron frying with butter. 
  When it turns bright yellow in a few
minutes I turn off the heat and let it cool 
before spooning it into a freezer bag. I press out as much air as possible before sealing. I lay the bags flat on a cookie sheet to insure it freezes flat to save space.
  • Another special treat I use in my smoothies and
    serve as a special side dish for breakfast deep into a frosty spell is cantaloupe. I simply cut it up and tray freeze it. After a day or so, simply remove it from the tray with a spatula and slide it into a freezer bag. They will stay separated and allow you to pull a little at a time out to                      eat!
  • I use the same method to freeze strawberries and blueberries also. I keep one bag near the kitchen to make muffin and smoothie making quick and easy.
  • Another staple that we depend on A LOT in the winter is frozen mixed greens (Swiss Chard, Arugula, Kale, Mustard, Turnip, and Asian Greens). These need blanching to stop the enzyme action in your greens. The only changes I'd really make to these directions is that I use as much of the stem as I can. Why throw out perfectly usable food? The other innovation I thought I came up with is using a thin pillow case to blanch my greens in. (My mother-in-love saw me using my blanching bag one day and it spurred a memory from the depression era of using one herself!...and I thought I was smart!?) I submerge the bag into boiling water with a wooden spoon, start my timer for 4 minutes, I work the bag with my spoon to separate the greens, then lift it out, letting it drip. I then carry it with a bowl underneath it to the sink of ice water and submerge it again. The bag is big enough that you can swirl the greens around in the waters allowing them to cook and cool easily. Then when the greens have cooled, I lift it from the ice water and place it in my dish drainer. There I press the extra water out of the greens by pressing on the bag. The water drains into the sink! The last step is to unload the blanching bag into a marked freezer bag. Lay your bag of greens on a cookie sheet and press flat, removing as much air as possible before sealing. You an freeze several bags of greens stacked up together, freezing to form. This will save space in your freezer. When they have frozen solid in a couple days I remove them to a large banana box in the bottom of my chest freezer to store the frozen greens upright like a file. 
Frozen corn, mixed greens, & chopped sweet potatoes

What is your favorite way to store food for the winter?

  • We get pretty busy during the final days of fall with farming, marketing and home schooling. My favorite way to store food then takes the least amount of time. I have a corner of the basement that I keep root crops, pumpkins, onions, cabbage, and squash in. I liken it to the root cellar that someday I'd like to have. I use old milk crates to put my vegetables in that stack nicely. There is plenty of ventilation using these, but you can also use wooden crates or cardboard boxes with holes punched in the sides. It must be cool (but not able to freeze) and dark wherever you decide to do this. Under steps, garages, crawl spaces under a house, or even a metal trash can buried in the ground with straw inside can be used. There is plenty of information on this topic on the web, so I'll let you Google it.   
What method of preserving do you use the least?
My Excalibur dehydrator does a great job!
Here I'm removing moisture from corn that
is causing problems in our stone mill.
  • Even though I have a top of the line Excalibur dehydrator I use this method the least. I dry gallon jars of broccoli, cauliflower, herbs, potatoes, tomatoes, kohlrabi, carrots, ETC. to make our "schoolhouse soup", but I don't think well enough ahead to dehydrate vegetables for a meal. I also like the texture of frozen and canned foods better.  One thing I do dry a lot of is thinly sliced apples. We use these throughout the winter as snacks. I also rehydrate them and use them in my apple cinnamon I've got a craving!
Levi (8) poses by his end of the year project
display. Each child made a tri-fold display to present.
Schoolhouse Soup

Line up all school age children (including the toddler that makes school days so "interesting") and let each child chooses a jar of their favorite dehydrated vegetable to hold. Mom gets the soup pot and goes to each child in line allowing them to put a handful of "their vegetable" into the pot. Line the jars back up on the shelf. Have the children gather school supplies and sit down "quietly" while you go to the frig and find any leftover meat that just happened to evade the search of your hungry teen. Include this if possible into the soup pot. Fill the pot of with broth (or water and bouillon) to the level you will need to feed your family. Add a spoonful of minced garlic to the broth. Let simmer allllll morning. 

At noon, pour any leftover rice, pasta, or our favorite sliced cabbage into the pot to finish cooking while the schoolroom gets cleaned up and the lunch table set. Taste and tweak the seasoning. Slice the bread, and serve. Thank God while you pray that nap time will soon be here...our favorite time of our wintertime schedule!

With the uncertainty of the world around us it's a wise time to stock up. Becoming self-sufficient is a growing process. Slowly it's become our lifestyle to produce as much as possible, preserve the harvest, and buy and store in bulk what we cannot produce. We love to barter our produce for services and products we do not produce or have the needed skills or time to perform. Someday this may be everyone's lifestyle if the world economy keeps spiraling downward. The Lord is coming soon, and we do not know how bad the situation around us will get before the Lord appears for His own. 

One thing I feel we will all need is to be strong...physically, emotionally, and especially spiritually. 

  •  To prepare physically we need to get up and MOVE. Put aside the remote control and pick up a hoe or shovel. There are many things we could do to prepare ourselves physically, but preparing a small garden bed is a great start! In a small way you can begin to provide for your family's needs. It doesn't have to be huge garden...a boarder garden to your house can be transformed into a salad garden NOW! The first weeks of August are the perfect time in our area to plant for the fall and early winter!
  • To prepare emotionally we must take a realistic look at what the world is like and where we are heading. We're all so distracted by our busy lives to realize that yes, it may be 100 years from now until our nation collapses, but more likely we are heading there at break-neck speed. Decide that you will take personal responsibility for you and your family, making any sacrifices needed.
  • I feel the most important preparation needed by all of us is spiritually. Why is the world heading for major changes? God's plan for the ages is winding down and the havoc ahead is part of His plan. As Christians we do not know when His appearing for the saved will be. Until then we must "be strong and of good courage". Joshua 1:6. By studying the end times in the books of Daniel, Matthew, Thessalonians and Revelation you will get an overall picture of where the world is heading. God's plan is for all to be saved and come to a knowledge of His redeeming love. But the sad reality is that many, no, most will reject it as fanaticism. 
    Christian, now, more than ever we must be a      light to those in the world. We can not do this if we are caught up with the world's latest "toys", reality show, or sports teams. It's time to focus on Jesus Christ! Read Scripture each day, pray, and "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded." James 4:8  God's plan for spiritual strength is plain and clear.
    Also while we still have the freedom of worship it's important to gain as much spiritual strength as a body of believers as possible. Worshiping together with other Christians will provide the support we all will need during the uncertain days ahead. I extend an invitation to visit our church, Victory Baptist Church  anytime! You will find the Bible based teaching of Scripture and support you are longing for there.
    So, what will you stock up on this week? 

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

Matthew 6:33

Abundant Blessings,
The Farmer's Wife
Val Colvin

Scenes from the farmhouse(s) this week.
Hope canned for her family this week!

Seedless Blackberry

She uses a steam
waterbath canner

to can her tomatoes.

Canning Corn
with me in the "big house".

After cutting it off the ear
Cook it lightly in a skillet with butter

and a light sprinkling of sea salt
until it reaches a bright yellow.
Cool, bag, and freeze flat.

God sent me an angel to help
me can 72 quarts of tomatoes
on Monday. With Cerina and the
children we got the job done "quickly".
Thank you everyone!

Our next project was canning an abundance
of carrots on Wednesday!
Levi helped me by washing
the carrots for me to chop.
We put wet carrots into
our jars and seal. There is no
need to add water to vegetables
to can them! The vitamins and minerals
leech out into the water and are wasted otherwise.
Carrots are low acid and must be pressure canned.
Faith Anne washed potatoes
 for us to can next.

Noah willingly chopped
potatoes in hopes that
we would eventually
feed him.

An open faced BLT
with farm fresh ingredients!
Tea with Miss Charity and her
family of dolls.

"Fast food" farmhouse style!
Fresh whole wheat biscuit, our pastured
eggs, and fresh pork sausage!

The easiest way to sterilize jars for water
bath canning! Wash jars, place in a 250 degree
oven for 25 minutes. Done!