Preserving the Summer Harvest

Beautiful sauerkraut

What have you harvested this summer?  Overall, I am pleased with my harvest.  No gardener has a perfect year for every crop, and something always makes more than anyone can eat.
After canning 25 or so quarts of tomatoes, with some help from my mother who canned some tomatoes for me when I took a planned trip during the height of tomato season, I don’t plan to buy any canned tomatoes this winter. 

I canned green beans for the first time, and along with the canned beans my aunt gave me from her garden, we have plenty.  My lima beans are producing loads of beans, and I enlist my girls to help me shell them.  I blanch them and freeze them, and we will enjoy them all winter. 

Although my garlic wasn’t as productive this year as in previous years, I have enough to make it until the next garlic harvest.  In a month or two, it will be time to plant garlic again.  Most of my onions rotted.  Although I can grow green scallion onions year round, I have about given up on planting bulb onions for storage.  I could not resist planting some more bulb onion seeds I found, that are supposed to work in my climate, in the fall garden.  Mine have some sort of disease that causes them to rot.  If any of you have any suggestions on growing onions successfully, please let me know.

The okra is doing well, as usual, but the squash bugs and squash vine borers got my squash and zucchini.  I haven’t had nearly enough meals of fried squash this summer.  I suppose my arteries thank me.  I planted some squash seeds a couple of weeks ago in hopes that I can harvest some squash this fall.  I have lots of cantaloupes, watermelons, and cucumbers.

I harvested plenty of Irish potatoes, if I can only manage to eat them before they sprout eyes.  I wish our house had a root cellar or a basement for cool storage, but lacking that, I have them in a closet, covered with newspaper, on an air conditioning vent.  I must remember to remove them before I turn on the heat. I found this recipe for frozen hash browns, and used it to preserve some of my potatoes in the freezer.

Last winter, I made some sauerkraut from some cabbages I planted in the fall.  Sauerkraut is made of sliced cabbage and salt, and it sits in a cool (45-65 ° F) location for about 6 weeks while it ferments.  The garage was a great place for this process during the last mild winter, but lacking the aforementioned cellar, I had nowhere to place the sauerkraut I wanted to make from this spring’s cabbages.

Then I remembered our wine cooler, which keeps wine at 55°F.  I moved some wine bottles, set in the crock of sauerkraut, and it’s fermenting in the ideal conditions.  I made last winter’s sauerkraut from the traditional green cabbage; this spring the most prolific variety was red, and we will enjoy eating the glowing purple-red sauerkraut.
The wine cooler keeps sauerkraut and wine at a perfect temperature

Although preserving all this food is a lot of work, it’s worth it to reach into the pantry for some homegrown food instead of going to the store.  I do most of the work during a few summer months, and then we enjoy the peace of self-sufficiency the rest of the year.

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