Sunday, September 25, 2016

Squirreling Away

Have you ever felt the thrill of "squirreling away" provisions for the cold winter months ahead?
That's what we'll be talking about today, for the leaves are starting to change and it's a sure sign of long grey, chilly days ahead!

Have you ever experienced feeling like a squirrel?
I had to wear Isaac's bee outfit since the 3 inch
yellow hornets also liked our apples!

That's how I felt as I filled up my baskets of apples in our lil' orchard last week. Squirreling  is taking advantage of the season's bounty so it will make life easier during another time of the year...that's when you get the "happy squirrel" sensation! 

You've probably seen them...the squirrels...scampering from tree to tree finding the acorns under the fallen leaves. They stuff them in their cheeks till they bulge before scampering off to some hidden nest to store them for the winter ahead. They seemingly played all summer long on the long branches overhead. Now though, they are all business as they scurry from tree to tree with a mission to store up nuts for the winter!

 There is a joyful feeling that I get in the fall when
the shelves in my pantry fill up, the freezer takes on a satisfying "bulge", and the last of the broilers have been butchered, cleaned, placed in a bag, and the lid of the freezer shut with a thump. It's all exhausting. I'm glad it's over. But there's a sense of victory and of a challenge overcome. Foremost in my children's minds at this point are the winter meals they've been dreaming about while they work!

Squirreling isn't easy. There are many days of messy kitchens, aching legs from standing, hot brows from picking the berries, or gathering the vegetables from the fields. Nevertheless, it's all worth it when the day is done! 

The goal of squirreling isn't to get a hoard supplies. The goal is to lay up, ahead of time, the resources for approaching needs and even a little extra to give away.

Squirreling has been a part of our family's fall ritual for years! Our older children fondly remember helping an elderly couple nearby cleaning up under their apple trees of fallen apples. They let us have all we wanted of the fallen apples, so we'd load up our laundry baskets and take our bounty home to make apple sauce, apple juice, and to dry into apple leather and slices of apples. It was hard, sweaty work for them, but it was a great learning time as well as an opportunity to help friends out. 

In the early years of our family nearby tomato 
farmers would give us their culls. We'd make tomato juice or can them whole for chili and soups during the winter. Squirreling was a family affair! 

Tomatoes for winter soups and stews!

Ways we help you "squirrel":

~Buy bulk potatoes at a farmer's market. Spread
them out in the sun to cure a few days. Do not let them get wet, and "stir" them about so all sides get nice and dry. Store them in the coolest part of your house in baskets or open crates. Inspect them each time you go to get what you need for a meal. Remove any "ripening" ones. :)

~Buy the winter braising greens like turnip, mustard and kale in bulk, and freeze it for the winter! Here's how I do it!

 Freezing Greens

Cut off large, tough stems; discard all damaged leaves (to save on waste, just pinch off the yellow or otherwise damaged leaves). 

Wash thoroughly several times if extra dirty. 

Next I get a large pot of water boiling so I can blanch the mixed greens. (Blanching is just immersing chopped greens in boiling water for a set amount of time, then removing them and putting them into a sink of COLD water to cool them quickly.)

 I save a lot of time by putting my greens in a thin pillowcase and push the case down into the water and stir.   Blanching times don’t vary too much. All greens except collards (3 minutes) and spinach (1 ½ minutes) are blanched for 2 minutes. Once the water comes back to a boil, begin timing. 

When the timer goes off, remove the greens from the pot and quickly put them into a clean sink or dishpan of COLD water.  You can use either ice cubes or a gallon milk jug that is filled with water and frozen to keep the water cold. I sure beats cracking ice!

Next drain your greens. If you are using my method of blanching greens in a thin pillow case, simply lift the case from the water and press the water from the greens. If not, put your greens in a colander and press to drain. 

Lastly package and freeze your greens. I use "Ziploc" type bags that I lay flat on a cookie tray and freeze flat. When they are frozen, remove from the tray and you'll have compact packages of greens to store. Don't forget to date and label your greens! (No one likes mystery packages in the freezer!)

 ~ Our peppers are still bearing strong, so stock up for a convenient way to top your pizzas or add extra flavor to your spaghetti this winter. If you follow these EASY directions you’ll be able to reach into a freezer bag and pull out only the amount you need for a particular dish.

 Freezing Diced Peppers
Wash, core, and dice peppers (You can freeze 
Prepping whole peppers to freeze.
any type of peppers in this fashion.). Place the cubed peppers on a cookie sheet and place in your freezer. When the peppers are frozen, scrape them into a freezer bag and store where you can easily “grab a handful” when needed. I use these on pizzas, spaghetti sauce, in omelets, and many more dishes. 

Acorn Squash for early winter meals
~Winter squash keeps well in your pantry, or other cool spot in your home. Choose the creamy acorn squash for early winter meals, and the butternut squash for mid to late winter meals. I'll have more about cooking with them in next week's blog. 

~Each week as you go to the market think ahead to your needs during the winter months. If you buy an extra chicken a week, or another package of sausage each week, you'll soon have "squirreled away" several weeks of winter meals. 

~The same works for the baked goods we offer at the Farmer's Markets. Bread, cinnamon rolls, and even the cookies freeze easily right in the package we sell them in if you have the room. (If not, "Ziploc" type bags work well here too.) We freeze bread all the time, and enjoy a warm cinnamon roll without even making the dough by reheating a frozen roll! 

~Our jams and jellies, and honey are an EASY way to                                         squirrel
away provisions for the grey days of winter ahead. We have customers that buy an extra jar each week, or even those that buy by the case to have what they love during the cold winter months. 

God designed men to sense pleasure when they work at the basic responsibilities of life, like providing food for their family. Take on the challenge this year and feel the "happy squirrel" feeling as you gather God's gifts for your family, and have resources to give away.

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest." 
Proverbs 6:6-8
   Abundant Blessings!
  The Farmer's Wife