self preservation

I admit it: Putting glass jars in boiling water is still probably a task I should not be trusted with. Especially if post-boiling you put them on a shelf & trust them not to kill you when you eat it in a few months. This is not a liability I’m willing to put on myself.

But I’ve found a lot of really great ways to preserve our food, since we have far too much bounty for two too few bellies. This weekend was Joe’s last for his summer job–they’ve had him teaching reading classes all over the Western U.S., from NYC to Memphis to North Carolina. I used the time to preserve all the food from our CSA, which we won’t have much time to eat this week before heading back to Ohio (!!).

I just wanted to share with you all the things I accomplished on Saturday & Sunday afternoon, less of a “Look what I did!” and more of a “It seriously doesn’t take long, you should try it!” Pickling is something really new to me, & it’s just one if countless methods to preserve your food. Here’s what I did this weekend. I’ll list the ingredient that I needed to use up, then the recipe they became. Those with an asterisk (*) were from our CSA.

Storage Squash* = Squash Bars

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 13×17 baking dish. Get out two bowls. Bowl 1: Beat together 4 eggs, 2 cups roasted squash (with that canned pumpkin texture), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 cup honey. Bowl 2: Combine 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup milled flax seed, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda. Mix the two bowls together, then stir in 1/2 bag chocolate chips. Pour into the baking dish; sprinkle with shelled sunflower seeds. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Optional: Stuff it all into your face while it’s still hot & your husband is still away. Wash the evidence.

Old Chickpeas #1 = Hummus (No recipe here, as I’m still struggling to get it right. Tips? I’ve been popping them out of the skin, & that helps. It’s still just a little dry. More oil? More water?)

Old Chickpeas #2 = Smokin’ Chickpea Snack

Preheat the oven the 400 F. Take 3 cups of chickpeas (I use those I’ve rehydrated & boiled, so I don’t know–one of the big cans?) & pat them dry on a dish towel. Pour the chickpeas into a glass baking dish (this is my way around using parchment paper), but make sure they can all fit in a single layer–no mounds, please! To the chickpeas, add 2 teaspoons of your favorite oil, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder & salt to your liking. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Optional: Tell your husband that you made them especially for him. Try not to eat them all before travel, as they’re supposed to be your on-the-road snack.

Two Pints Small Pink Tomatoes* = Oven Dried Tomatoes, c/o Grow Great Grub

Gather 2 pounds of rather small tomatoes, so that they dry faster. (Mine were golf-ball sized, which took 6 hours, & then cherry tomatoes, which took 3 hours.) Cut your tomatoes in half. Line them on a glass baking dish or parchment paper-covered cookie sheet. Preheat the oven to 200 F. Sprinkle your tomatoes with your favorite salt & pop into the oven. Let them be. Two hours later, check their progress. When done, they should be firm & dried (but not seared or burnt!) on the outside, yet slightly moist on the inside (but not juicy!). If they’re not there, leave ’em in the oven. When done, let cool completely, then stack them in a glass jar. Add a sprig or two of your favorite herb. (Me? Rosemary. Duh.) Pour olive oil into the jar until it covers the top tomato. Cap & put in the fridge.

Green Beans* & Okra* = Refrigerator Pickles

Sterilize two pint jars & their lids. (I use my electric kettle to boil water, then fill the jars with it; I pour the remaining water over the lids.) Dry the jars & add to each: 1 teaspoon dill, 1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds, 2 garlic cloves, one jalapeño cut length-wise. Wash & prep your produce. (I trimmed my beans to fit into the jars.) Then, line the jars with them. Make sure everything leaves about 3/4 inch of space at the top of the jar. In the mean time, be bringing 2 cups water + 2 cups white vinegar + 1/8 cup sugar + 1/4 cup salt to a boil. Once it boils, fill the two jars with the liquid while leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top. Cap tightly. Let the jars come to room temperature before moving to the fridge.

Mint from the Garden = Mint cubes

There’s no secret here. The best way to preserve the freshness of herbs is to cram the washed & prepped goodness into ice cube trays, then top with just enough water to hold it all together. Freeze them, then store them in gallon bags. You can make combinations for broths, or do just mint cubes to drop into iced tea.

Basil* = Poor Man’s Pesto

There are measurements for great pesto. I don’t know them. I just throw the amounts that look right in the food processor & adjust until the texture is right. Here are the ingredients we always use: sunflower seeds (much cheaper than pine nuts), whatever amount of fresh basil is on hand, olive oil, whatever hard cheese is in the discount bin at the store (which means grating it yourself but saving $2 & not having extra).

Peaches from Market = Holy Moses, Most Beautiful Frozen Peach Slices Ever

For our morning smoothies, I saved money by buying 4 quarts of peaches at the farmers’ market. Frozen fruit is over priced, so stocking up on peaches, an inexpensive summer fruit, is awesome. Just slice them, line them up on a cookie sheet & move them to gallon-sized bags. Great in pies & smoothies, or as ice cubes & Popsicle-ish afternoon snacks.

Millions of Squash from the Garden = Millions of Squash in the Freezer

You can only eat so many squash a day. For the rest, slice them (about 1/2 inch thick). Blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drop them immediately into really icy water. (Change this water regularly to keep it cold; I change it about every two times I drop loads of squash in. But don’t waste that water! Save it to pour on your plants!) Line up the cool squash on whatever space you have available so they can dry for a minute, then pop them into gallon bags & store them in the freezer. This will make reheating them much easier but will help keep their texture.

So much food saved before it went bad,

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About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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4 Responses to self preservation

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