Summer and early fall are a great time for eating local, seasonal food. But what do you do when the gardens and farms around you stop producing as much food? Depending on where you live, you may still be able to get fresh produce late into fall and even early winter. However, what happens during the coldest winter months and early spring before gardens start producing again? This is where tried and true, traditional food processing preservation methods come in.
Start simple. If you go blueberry picking or are finding a great deal at the local farmer’s market, freeze some to use in your smoothies and oatmeal throughout the year. Take the family apple picking this fall and pick apples that store well, or make apple sauce. If you have extra green beans or okra, freeze them.
If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, consider doing some canning. Most vegetables can well and you can even make a batch or two of homemade tomato sauce for canning and preserving. Think about what veggies and foods you use throughout the year that you buy canned. i.e. pickles, green beans, jams or jellies, etc. These are the first things you want to can.
The same principle works for freezing. What frozen fruits and vegetables do you end up using when you don’t have good fresh options at the grocery store? These are the things you want to start with.
Drying or dehydrating is another traditional method of preserving your produce. Dried bananas are the bomb! We all have put dried onions into our soup. Now, make your own and never buy store bought again! What about herbs? We have lots of options here. You can dry your food either in your oven or with a dehydrator.
From here you can start to explore and experiment. Try making a batch of fruit jam, or try your hand at pickling cucumbers or drying parsley. Talk to farmers and other shoppers at your local farmer’s market and farms. Do a little research online, pick up a food preservation book at your local library or buy a Kindle book.
And let’s not forget about older friends and family members. Grandma cooked mainly from local, seasonal food back in the day and can give you quite a few tips to help you get back to this way of cooking and preserving food.
Don’t overwhelm yourself the first year. Do what you can and try a couple of new things. From there, start expanding each year. Try your hand at gardening, or pick up a few bushels of corn and put them up (preserve them) for the following year. Keep adding a few more things each year and it won’t take you long to eat mainly local seasonal food throughout the year.
There are many traditional food processing preservation methods for your family. It does seem overwhelming at first. If I was going to recommend starting anywhere, I would start with simply drying herbs. Super simple, yet rewarding.
Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & HerbsWell-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal FoodsRodale’s Basic Organic Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Healthy Garden