On food preservation

P1000560New greenhouse on an August morning

Other than the fact that the front and back seats of my car are filled with ripening peaches as I type this, I think I have a handle on food preservation for the year.  It’s not much of a juggle, I do swear to you.  Nope; it’s more like cooking an extra course with each dinner, with the occasional five-course dinner thrown in every week or two.  Seriously.  It’s not that hard if you’re used to cooking your own food.

Granted, I am well acquainted with my canner and my carving knife, my fingers are nimble at harvesting, and I have a certain knack for vegetable gardening, but putting your own food away for the year is not  an overwhelming challenge.  Every night or so, I probably put away four dinners’ worth of food.  It could simply be something like four dinners’ worth of green beans for the freezer, but the next day or two will see tomato sauce for four pasta dishes.  The potatoes are plumping, doing their thing; the winter squash likewise are just out there absorbing the sun, no help from me at all, both are instameals, plucked from storage on a snowy day.  And six three-hour days will see all those chickens magically become frozen chicken dinners of the future:  three long hours at six birds apiece:  six birds for the three of us is a LOT of dinners, lunches, soups and gravy; 36 birds is a year’s worth.

The reason I mention any of this is I met yet another person recently who thought I simply must not have a day job.  This happens to me fairly frequently, frankly.  “Oh, I thought you just farmed,” comes the comment, with its half-sister “Oh, I didn’t think you worked full time.”  Huh!  Wow, well, those 40-50 hours I spend at my job would put a LOT more food in the freezer, I think to myself, and again I demur that it’s not that much work.  Because it isn’t, but then again, this is what I wish to do with my free time.

It beats tv.

20 responses to “On food preservation

  1. The garden is going like crazy, and now after all the rain I am almost afraid to go out there!!
    I have been canning like there is no tomorrow. But come winter we will have the most wonderful meals!
    We had a water softener burst in the basement and it pumped salt water everywhere to the tune of 3 inches. Had to make an insurance claim. Good part. whole new basement, bad part, I can’t can down there to can or store my jars, so my dining room is my sub pantry and my kitchen is getting a real workout.
    Warning- if you live near Lake St Clair you might find summer squash on your front step. We are overflowing and we only planted 4 plants! Never again!
    Hope you have a plentiful week!!

  2. LOL I envy you, really I do. I work for a hospital and my hours are crazy, a 60 hour work week is not uncommon (not to mention the long daily commute thrown in and the long nights of on call room time) So cooking is more of a luxury thing then an everyday thing as one tends to try to catch some zzzs or get the laundry done on the rare day off along with pulling the weeds in the garden and walking the dogs LOL. But, I do try to put SOMETHING up regardless, just not as much as you do. But we all do what we gotta do, don’t we? 🙂 No tv here either, BTW. Been tv free 7 years now.

  3. “It’s not that much work . . . this is what I wish to do with my free time. It beats tv.”

    AMEN! Well said. This post echoes my feelings almost exactly!

  4. Doing the preserving while you’re in the kitchen anyway makes it sound like so much less of a chore. Great advice.
    And what’s so wrong with preserving four dinners of beans? It’s the industrial all-day vat canning that people are afraid of.
    Nice. Thanks.
    And: Get a job, hippie!

    • Shortcuts! Actually you just start finding ways to shave off time, as it’s just madness to spend the WHOLE day canning tomatoes, CC. So, I harvest what’s ripe, wash and throw them in a pot on low on the back of the stove, do the rest of my dinner cooking…after dinner, during cleanup, I put the now-stewed tomatoes through the food mill and then, well, into jars to be canned when the dishes get cleaned. Really, it’s no more time than doing the rest of dinner chores!

      But then again I don’t have a tree full of pears.

  5. I think you nailed it with “it beats tv” and choice about how you spend your free time. You make time and with the result of delicious, healthful food, the question is, why don’t more people do it? It’s not any harder than jogging or some such. I know what I’d rather do.

    Still what you do IS inspiring. Yay!

  6. Nice post. You might be taking your skills a *little* for granted! Or perhaps the lack of skills of everyone else…

    I’m still getting the hang of dealing with gobs of produce, and I’m at that stage in the season where I have panic moments but then take a deep breath and assess what I have, what I’m going to eat, and what I should deal with. Having a freezer really changed my outlook–I love that I can just blanch and freeze a cup or two of broccoli.

    And last year we implemented the weekly tomato sauce plan–take all the overripe and less-cannable fruit, make a gallon of sauce for misc. dinners, and freeze the leftovers. By the end of the season I had more than a winter’s worth of pizza night’s in store 🙂

  7. I really reall really want a greenhouse.

    I do agree that food preservation beats TV. I can only imagine how much more gardening/food preservation/writing I could do without a full time job. Ah, such is life.

  8. El, first I must say that working 40-50 hours (probably more), keeping house, keeping garden, tending livestock, preserving food, and all those other things not mentioned is beyond impressive.

    What is really impressive is to see someone in this day and age focused on the good of her family rather than that of herself. Society in general is at home watching the tele, shopping, going “out” to eat, and whatever else people do these days. You are preserving the harvest and tending to the needs of your family… yep, most impressive indeed.

  9. I’ve always been impressed by how you manage both aspects of your life. And I agree, its about how one chooses to spend free time: People may think I don’t have a weekend or down-time during the week because I preserve batches of food each evening this time of year and pick massive amounts of fruit/veg from our local farms and preserve that on the weekends…. but that gives me pleasure, and a sense of satisfaction that I wouldn’t give up. Yes, it is not what some would choose, but it is one I love. In a way, this is more satisfying then if I was doing just that all the time – it is a respite from my other work, and a way to know I am taking care of myself and those who join me, and tending to what is important for me.

  10. I only work part time from home, but with the kids and homeschooling and etc., it feels full. But we do have homemade bread, homecooked meals, some preserved food, and I knit and read. I don’t watch much tv (although the computer can be a time-sink) and I think folks just choose how to spend their time.

    I like what I do and don’t ask others to follow me. All we can do is follow our own path and shine our lights.

  11. Everything beats tv. It’s good to have something to show for your free time activities.

  12. How wonderful to be preserving. It’s late winter here and the pantry shelves are starting to look bare. We finished our canned peaches last week, although we still have some peach salsa, the pasta sauce is gone but we still have some ketchup and salsa. Two large pumpkins still lurk. We have 2 or 3 jars of jam left. Everything else has been eaten and enjoyed during the cold months. Nothing is more satisfying than eating summer goodness from your own yard in the depths of winter. Worth every scrap of work.

  13. Thanks, Grandmabecker! What a bummer on the water softener. Our water table around Lake Michigan has been very high the last year and people are having all manner of wet-basement problems. Good for the sump-pump installers but not so good if you actually store stuff in the basement! Yeah my garden is finally kicking in to high gear too, and every night I *should* be putting something away…it doesn’t always happen though. And I just dumped some zucchini off at my next-door neighbors’ house so I know what you mean!

    LGO: Well, kiddo, at least you’re still gardening and walking and taking care of the pooches. (Laundry, meh, so not my high priority….) And yes, at least you’re putting some stuff away! You’re not too far from some great places, either, to do some U-Pick. There’s a great peach farm, Williams, near the Michigan line outside of Michigan City that’s just wonderful.

    JCC, “almost” exactly? You’ve got me curious!

    CC, you’re welcome…it’s not any more work than normal cooking; it’s just the decanting thing that can be a little nervewracking.

    Nada, I have no idea why more people don’t try it. Exposure, maybe? Your mum has always been a gardener and food preserver, my mom took on pickles and jams when I was a kid…these two things certainly helped with the “we can do that” thoughts in their daughters’ heads. And dang I just know how much better the frozen beans and jams are so that’s reason #2. Fear, maybe? The worry that it takes lots of time or special equipment?

    Sara, well, yes, those skills didn’t just bloom overnight. I did have to work on them, but frankly I didn’t consider it “work” any more than learning to cook is work: there’s a payoff in there! Pizza night, how wonderful, we have them too, about every two weeks. And you see you’ve found your own shortcuts, your own way of working at it. And yes, sometimes I have a couple panic moments too: I just kind of buck up and get through it.

    Selina, I know! I adore my job, but it certainly takes a lot of those precious daylight hours away, hours that could be productive garden hours…sigh! And one day, you might have a greenhouse. Year-round veggies!

    Mike, well, I was “all about me” until I got married and had a kid, then it shifts to “all about we.” I just figure nobody can feed us better than I can. It’s heartbreaking, really, that people eat as badly as they do. I just think, wow, if they knew how wonderful a garden can be, they’d never turn back. But of course people would have to learn to cook, and might have to wash and chop a vegetable or two. Sigh.

    Oh yeah, MC, what you said! It is really satisfying, too, I cannot deny that. And it does make a great point of contrast with one’s work life.

    Stef, you said it yourself on your blog when you went foraging for blackberries recently, that you’re glad you’re the type of person who would do this. Was it courage? Maybe it was. And you’re gladly being an example to your kids, which frankly is wealth beyond measure. And heck, you live in such a climate that you might not have to preserve much food at all!

    Thank you, Linda! It’s fun.

    Pamela, yes, there’s that too: what do I have to show for the tv I might watch? Not much.

    Ah Dani! Thank you for pointing out the opposite side of the calendar! I am sad to learn you’re out of tomato sauce but a canned peach in winter is beyond wonderful, don’t you think? And putting jam on a warm slice of bread when it’s chilly outside…so pleasant.

    • I’m just jealous that you have chickens too! I would love to do that, but I don’t have the determination (yet?) to find a way to make it work in my in-town back yard. We have a closet full of canned goods either from my garden or the farmer’s market and it’s immensely fulfilling!

  14. Gardening is not as much work as people might think if they just put a little more into the prep wor.

    Mike the Gardener

  15. JCC, one day, you’ll get chickens too! Really, they’re lots of fun with an eggy benefit.

    Hi Mike the Gardener, yeah, I really get a kick out of gardening. And I don’t think it’s much work but of course it IS work, but then again, I am of the school that anything worthwhile takes some effort.

  16. Count me as one of the people who assumed you have graduated from a day job- you have mentioned not having to wear heels and stockings. I figured you weren’t working, but it sounds like you have a job with a better dress code now. I teach and am off in the summer, and still don’t get as much done as you do…

  17. Ah, Susan, I rue the day my mom dissuaded me from being a teacher! As most of the girls of her generation, she was steered to either be a teacher or a nurse, so she chose the family profession, teaching. So I listened, and dang, do I wish I chose the profession with the summer off! But yeah, dress codes have changed all around, a point at which I am mostly grateful; I do work from home some days so…I can really kick back (read: wear pjs all day). But yes, sometimes, doing all this, I have quite a few late nights, especially at this time of year.

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