What Not To Do This Season: Food Preservation Edition

Reaching the last of my canned and dehydrated goods from last season, I’ve been reflecting on what worked, what didn’t, and a few things that worked technically but should not be repeated.
First off are the ‘what didn’t work’s:

1) ALWAYS peel your tomatoes. Otherwise your sauce and paste will be full of awful slivers of tomato skin that have somehow hardened during the cooking/canning process. You will end up like me, pureeing each batch of tomato sauce and then running it through a sieve in a last ditch effort to save over a dozen jars.

2) When pickling cucumbers and you can’t tell which end is the blossom end, cut off both. Don’t assume you have the right one or else you’ll end up with a good number of jars filled with septic pond water instead of crunchy pickles. You’ll get the pond water if you’re lucky enough to not have the entire lid of your jar blow off first.

3) Don’t do a big batch of an experimental recipe. This may be a no brainer to a lot of other folks, but I trusted the chef and believed he could do no wrong. Well, that recipe was wrong and my compost pile gained about 20lbs of inedible pickled goods.

‘What Did Work, But Shouldn’t Be Repeated’s:

1) As cool as the idea of having a bunch of homemade instant soup was/is/continues to make me believe it will be, it is not. When I’m stuck for what to eat for lunch, the nondescript jars of usually unappealingly colored powders and flakes don’t scream EAT ME. They just sit and gather dust and make me feel bad about wasting all of that green bean or tomato soup.

2) Dehydrating cantaloupe. It tastes good, really sweet and has a nice chewy texture almost similar to bubble gum. But you can eat about one 1/2″ cube and be satisfied for at least a day. Haven’t even touched the 2 gallons that are hibernating in the chest freezer. Cantaloupe, I’ll eat you fresh.

3) Making jam with wild raspberries. It is delicious and will be repeated, but with a very important extra step: strain the hell out of that jam. Wild raspberries are full of tiny tiny seeds that are endlessly unpleasant when you’re trying to enjoy a nice slice of toast. And, if you’re particularly industrious, you can clean and save those seeds for scrubby additions to homemade soap.

‘What Did Work’s:

1) All of the jars of pickles that I successfully removed the blossom end from. As it is starting to heat up, oh man, your crunchy, salty, vinegary selves are ideal to combat all of my sweating.

2) Taking careful notes of what we ate, how long before it took before we were sick of it, how the taste held up to shelf life, which jars started to make me nervous (even if they didn’t show any signs of spoilage) and were chunked, which foods were best received as gifts and sharing. I was able to much better plan my garden and know what I’m going to be on the look out for this season after looking at what we actually ate compared to what I thought we would.

3) Setting aside enough food for myself and to share with my partner and roommates for a whole winter. We definitely bought groceries but having the well stocked pantry and freezer made some of the less pleasant financial stretches easier and really helped whenever I have my dietary issues to consider.

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