The Harvest

The tiny seeds, planted in March, sprung forth with such beauty. They reached out of the dark soil to touch the sun, and as they grew, each day became longer. They worked hard over the summer, when many of us took vacations. We sent pictures of the first fruits they bore, like newborn babies, smiling proudly and holding them high.

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Similar to children, we encourage them with words, play music to them, and protect them from damaging insects or domestic animals. After all of our hard work, the many hours of weeding and thinning, we have made it. Harvest time!

The first frost brings the sugars, the sweetness, the flavor. I consider this nature’s way of telling me to pack it in and get ready for shorter days and more layers (the wool socks and down coat have already come out!). In the coming weeks our roles will shift. Instead of observing and nurturing growth, we are now tasked with saving each edible morsel. How we complete this task varies depending on time, space, effort, and ability to practice self control and not eat everything as I walk from the garden to my kitchen, which is a feat in itself.

Personally, I use many different methods to ensure delicious food all winter long. Following are some of my tricks, recipes and mishaps along the way. I’ll start with my favorite, which I know will run out before Christmas because of my slight addiction…


PICKLES!

I start with a simple brine:

12 cups water

4 cups distilled white vinegar

⅔ cup pickling salt (or kosher)

When ready, boil mixture.

Then, I get every jar I can find in the house, which I have stored in hallway closets, odd cabinets above stoves and refrigerators, and boxes in the garage. Because I like efficiency (or I’m lazy) I run them through the dishwasher on high heat and set them on the counter, ready to be filled.

All the cucumbers I have bought or harvested go into the sink to be washed, one by one, set aside, then put into an ice bath. This is a great time to get the brine boiling.

Fill each jar with cucumbers, leaving 1 inch between them and the lid.

You can flavor these with anything you like. I love garlic dill pickles, so in each jar goes a garlic clove and sprig of dill.

Pour the boiling brine into the filled jars, ensuring each cucumber in covered. Be sure to leave 1 to ¾ an inch between the liquid and the lid.

Process jars in a water bath for 15 minutes, set them on the counter for 12-24 hours until sealed.


Peppers!

This year I was blessed by the pepper gods and was given pounds and pounds of a variety of hot peppers. Here is what I did with them…

Escabeche

Using the above brine (so versatile!), thinly slice onions, carrots, and hot peppers, using a mandolin, and fill jars with the mixture, leaving an inch between the peppers and the lid. Pour boiling brine into the jars, leaving 1 to ¾ an inch between the liquid and the lid.

Process jars in a water bath for 15 minutes, set them on the counter for 12-24 hours until sealed.

Freezing

You can do this two ways, one of which it to freeze them individually on a baking sheet, then  transfer them into gallon zip-lock bags made for freezers, making sure to write the date and type of pepper. The second way is to throw all the peppers into a food processor, then filling quart sized bags with the mixture and again making sure to include the date and type of pepper. Place in freezer.

I use these mixtures/ individual peppers throughout the winter when I make salsa, soups, or sauces. Delicious!

Homemade Sriracha!

4-6 cups of any and every type of hot pepper 

4-6 cloves of garlic

1 cup water

½ cup sugar

½ cup distilled white vinegar

1 tbsp sea salt

Put ingredients into a large pot on low heat for 2 hours, occasionally checking/ stirring. You may need to add more water depending on climate (high mountain desert.. you may need more!). When peppers become soft and begin to break up while stirring, carefully pour mixture into a blender or food processor. Blend until homogenized.

Pour mixture into jars (I prefer 8 oz jars because it takes a while to go through this hot mixture), leaving 1-¾ an inch between the mixture and the lid.

Process jars in a water bath for 15 minutes, set them on the counter for 12-24 hours until sealed.


Corn!

I could eat fresh, raw sweet corn everyday of the year. The crunchy texture and juiciness surprises me each August and I can’t help but to think of ways to preserve it to enjoy year round.

Freezing corn on the cob may sound strange, but is a wonderful way to preserve and enjoy corn for winter. Next time you see corn at your local farmers market, farmers co-op, or grocery store, buy as much as you can store (more information here).

Shuck the corn- I use a trash bag in the sink, which saves me from having to sweep the silk from the nooks and crannies of my kitchen.

Place cobs into an ice bath, which cleans them, and preserves the crispness.

Dry each cob with a clean towel (not terry cloth) and place them in gallon ziplock freezer bags with the date. I can usually get 5-7 cobs in a bag. Place in freezer.

You can also pickle corn (recipe here), but I find it cumbersome, therefore I don’t do it.


Last, but definitely not least… Tomatoes!

Marinara

The base of all my soups, stews, and zucchini noodle spaghetti throughout the winter.

5 lbs ripe tomato

5 cloves garlic

3 cups water (to start)

½ large white onion

½ cup basil

½ cup distilled white vinegar

¼ cup Italian seasoning

¼ cup honey

1 tbsp black pepper (to taste)

1 tbsp salt (to taste)

Combine ingredients in a large pot. On medium heat, cook 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary. When tomatoes become soft and break down when stirring, carefully pour mixture into a blender or food processor. Place in a bowl to cool.

When mixture has cooled, pour mixture into quart sized zip-lock freezer bags, and place in freezer. Use all winter long!

Freeze whole

Place ripe tomatoes in an ice bath, wiping off any dirt from the skin. Place on a towel to dry. Fill quart sized zip-lock freezer bags with tomatoes, labeling each bag with the date and type of tomato. Place in freezer.

Some people prefer to freeze tomatoes without the skin. You can do this by blanching the tomatoes before freezing (more information on blanching here).

I use these throughout the winter in stew, chili, and salsa by simply throwing the whole tomato into the dish or roasting them in the oven prior to adding it to the dish.


There are so many ways to preserve the fruits of our labor, I could write a book! I hope this sampling of options gives you ideas on how to savor the harvest all year round.
Until next time, cheers to an abundant harvest and eating well!

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Published by

Caitlin Renz

I create healthy recipes, share natural self-care tips, provide mindfulness practices, offer private and group yoga classes, and health and wellness coaching to my amazing community of wellness seekers. I hope you'll join me on this journey to wellness by subscribing below!

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