Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Freezing Asparagus

I'm keeping a keen eye on the asparagus patch, ready for those delectable spears to start popping up!

This is one, of many, items that we do not buy out of season, so freezing what we can is a priority. Freezing what we don't devour fresh that is!

Asparagus can also be pickled, but my personal favorite way to preserve it is by freezing. The most difficult thing about freezing it is making sure it doesn't get lost at the bottom of the freezer!

Equipment Needed:

Asparagus, knife, towels, pot for blanching, cookie sheets, vacuum sealer & bags/freezer baggies.

Freezing Asparagus

Gather your asparagus, harvesting from your patch or purchasing at our farm store, or the local farmers market. Ideally you will use fresh spears with tight tips.

Rinse and sort into sizes. Trim tough ends and cut into even lengths for freezer containers. I am usually snapping them in half, or thirds and bypassing the use of a knife .

Get your pot of water boiling and blach small spears 1.5 minutes, medium spears 2 minutes and large spears 3 minutes.

Blanching is just a quick boil that is important for cleaning dirt and microorganisms off food, reducing enzyme activity that can ruin fresh flavors and it helps to retain vitamins.

Immediately cool - sink or bowl full of cold or ice water - then drain, or lay out on towels to dry a bit.

From there you can put your asparagus directly into your freezer containers for storage OR you can lay out on cookies sheets and freezer spears before final storage. This is my preferred method.

After the spears are frozen I prefer to transfer to vacuum sealed bags with 1-2 meals worth in each bag. When the spears are frozen ahead it is much easier to just remove what you want, instead of dealing with a frozen blob.

Make bags a little larger than needed, so they can be washed and reused, reducing waster. Don't forget to write the date on the bag!! Since I just do asparagus once per year, I just write the year for this crop. Use within 6 months to a year. (Literally they will be fine longer, but they may not have as much nutrition.)

You can also just pack into freezer baggies, or jars, but they will have a shelf life of more like 3-6 months, since the air is not removed.

I highly recommend a vacuum sealer! It's a great investment.


Preparing for Preservation Season

Spring is not being shy anymore. Garlic is up, birds are making nests, gardens are being planted.

Now is a great time to prepare yourself for the coming seasons opportunities for preservation. Spring brings some opportunities to preserve, summer adds more and late summer/fall give you opportunities every direction you look!

There are a few things I suggested to help prepare (physically and mentally) for a successful preservation season: 

  • Tidy your storage space. 
  • Tally your equipment needs.
  • Take note of your priorities.

Tidy Your Storage Space

Organize and clean your pantry space(s), as well as your freezer(s). This means rearranging as needed, discarding as needed (didn't eat that 2014 canned kohlrabi? bag didn't seal well & is freezer burnt?), and eating things up!

My pantry grew in two locations last year, so I am working to condense to one. As I'm organizing my jars I'm taking mental notes.

This is the time of year where I like to empty, clean and defrost freezers, as necessary, which really helps to take a look at all stock. We have one large chest freezer (things can get buried), one small chest freezer (generally meat) and one upright freezer (meat). The upright needs defrosting. There are two-year-old tomatoes and stew hens in the large freezer that need using BEFORE I throw more on top.

This tidying could also mean organizing your supplies to be more accessible, or into one area.

What do you need to do to prep your pantry/freezer/storage spaces?

Tally Your Equipment Needs

For beginners and veterans alike, it's a great time to look through your preservation equipment to see what you are in need of adding, or restocking. Think through each one of the preservation methods you use - or want to start - and make sure you are picking up items that will be necessary.

You don't want to get berries on the stove for jam and realize you don't have enough pectin!

Canning Items: pressure canner, water bath canner, hows the canner seal?, jar lifter(s), funnel(s), lids, rings, jars, pectin, timer, canning books, etc.

Freezing: vacuum sealer, freezer baggies, cookie sheets, ice cube trays, etc.

Dehydrating: dehydrator, trays, fruit leather trays, mandolin, packaging, etc.

Then there is fermenting, freeze drying, curing, and so forth.

You may also need bulk spices, salt, apple cider vinegar, etc. for things like pickling or pesto. Check out Azure Standard for a great bulk buying option we just love, supporting a great company.

What equipment do you need to pick up new? Replace? Add to current inventory?

Take Note of Your Priorities

While you are cleaning your pantry and freezer be taking notes to inform this year's preservation needs. What did you run out of early and need to preserve more? What do you have an abundance of and need to preserve less, or not at all?

Then think about your personal needs. What are the kids devouring at this time that you could preserve and save money? Do you want to freezer extra berries for winter jam making or smoothies? Prioritize items that you know you will use, have easy access to, will save you money and bring you joy.

Freezer space still looking really full? Maybe you need to prioritize canning. Maybe it's even time to try canning meat! 

Have limited storage space? Perhaps dehydrating is the way to go.

Pregnant or have a little one? Don't forget about baby led weaning supplies for down the road! I can't tell you how grateful I am putting up fruit for a toddler!!

Think ahead for other things like holiday gifting, parties, picnics, etc.

Use this list to plan your garden, preservation plan, local foods plan and more.

What are your biggest priorities? Is there are farmer you need to be in touch with to help you meet your goals? Is there something you can grow to help with these priorities? 

Creating Intention

Taking the time to prepare yourself, creating that intentional space for a successful preservation season, really will pay off. Looking through what you have put up previously makes you proud, puts you more in touch with your needs and creates gratitude. Taking care of your equipment and storage spaces will reduce stress in busier times, avoid unnecessary hiccups and help you be ready for a bumper crop. 

Overall you will be more prepared and your future self will thank you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Making a Citrus Vinegar

It's the tail end of citrus season, make use of those peels and save yourself a few bucks on cleaning products!

Make an easy citrus vinegar!

Citrus Vinegar

Grab these...
•Quart jar
•Citrus peels - orange, mandarin, grapefruit, lemon
•White distilled vinegar

Cram peels in a jar and top off with the vinegar. 

Steep at least two weeks, two months is more recommended, but no more than three months. Strain concentrate into a clean jar.

For cleaning, dilute 1:1 with water and use on vinegar-safe surfaces (not granite, etc.). 

For carpets, spray and blot (do a test patch first). 

Use 1/2-1 C concentrate to 1 gallon of water for floors.

Citrus contains d-limonene, which is a natural solvent, making it great for cleaning.

What is an Herbal Tincture?

Herbal tinctures are one of the main components of our medicine cabinet. They are a great way to build your holistic medicine cabinet.

These highly concentrated liquid herbal extracts are perhaps the most popular form of herbal medicine, alongside teas.

Herbs (fresh or dried) are macerated in alcohol to extract their beneficial properties. Glycerin or vinegar may also be used, but will not last as long.

We have used herbal tinctures for many years, with great success. With proper resources we have used them for our youngest since he was born.

Now that he's a toddler I find great joy in including him in the tincture making process and and proud he will grow up with these skills.

We began offering herbal tinctures several years back, as I want to share this resource with our community. We have offered several tinctures in our line up, and will be adding several more this month!

Holy Basil, Stinging Nettles and Motherwort have been popular. We are adding Ashwaganda, Astragalus and Catnip.

Our tinctures are made from locally foraged plants, farm grown plants or purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs (affiliate link).

Do you use herbal tinctures? Are you interested in learning to make your own?

Monday, March 7, 2022

Putting Up Potatoes

Let’s talk taters!
The ease of growing, harvesting, storing and cooking potatoes makes them such a great crop! I love the adventure of digging potatoes, discovering what has grown.
In our garden I plant an early variety for fresh eating, a mid-season for short term storage and late season for winter storage. Late season and storage varieties will store best, after proper curing.
Potatoes are stored in our basement/pantry in mesh bags (about 10lbs each), with two or three thrown in a wooden box with ventilation or a bushel basket (pictured) - I line it with a burlap bag, then throw another over top to keep them in the dark. Then start to process them once they get sprouting. Ideal conditions are 36-40 degrees and 90% humidity - just do the best you can!

Potatoes can be processed a variety of ways for keeping. Usually I take the easy route and make mashed potatoes to freeze for easy meals! Twice bakers can also be prepped for freezing, as can shredded potatoes for hashbrowns.

Dehydrating potatoes is another great option. Slice up and dry; rehydrate in water to use as desired, or toss straight into soups. I would also like to try dehydrating mashed potatoes (without any dairy) to crumble up and have on hand for instant mashers!

Potatoes can also be canned! This is a project I’d like to try with the last of our alien sprouting potatoes. This fall I canned beef stew, which turned out amazing and it’s a nice idea if you have a few to use up.
I’d love to hear any other ideas you may have! Pop ideas and any questions in the comments below!
My fav place for buying seed potatoes is The Maine Potato Lady! This year we are growing Nicola, Natascha and Canela Russet. Mountain Rose is my FAV early variety. Green Mountain is my fav storage variety.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Storing & Preserving Onions

It's February and the pantry continues to provide. On a good year our onions will last us until fresh onions come in during the summer. Then we'll enjoy fresh, uncured onions to last us til cured, storage onions come back in season.

Uncured onions need refrigeration. Cured storage onion varieties keep in the pantry. You want to make sure when stocking the pantry to choose good storage varieties, which will be noted in seed catalogs, or by your farmer. In our garden we grown Red Wing and Cortland (yellow) types. After harvest, onions are laid out on screens to let their neck dry down and skins cure, to seal off routes for moisture and pathogens that may negatively affect storage.

Sourcing Our Onions

For our local food plan our onions come from our personal garden, in our Cedar Crate Farm CSA boxes and the farmers market. Since we use a lot in regular cooking, and like 20-30lbs in the pantry I usually end up seeing 5lb bags at the end of the market season I need to snatch up extra of...never enough really!

Onions are one of those things you could truly source 100% locally, with a little effort.

Alliums in the lazy susan - garlic & onions.

Stocking the Pantry

We keep onions in mesh bags and/or in baskets in the pantry (pictured, as with garlic). We restock our small basket in the lazy susan from the pantry. Keep your onions in a cool, dark location. If you have a spot that is 40-50° that's great, we just keep them in the coolest spot in the basement (probably 60-65°). Warm temps and extra humidity can cause sprouting.

Give potatoes some space, as onions can cause them to sprout faster!

When they do start to sprout, or aren't keeping how you like...or you have too many...preserve them to reduce loss.

Onions in the dehydrator. Works great for fresh or 
cured onions, red or yellow.

Dehydrate those onions! This is my preferred way to take care of sprouting onions. Dehydrated onions are so easy to use - sometimes it's just lovely to not have to chop onions! We make plenty of soups and stock, so they get used up. Dehydrated onions can also be powdered. Dehydrated onions keep for years in well sealed containers.

In the Freezer

Stick onions in the freezer for quick prep, or as a method of preservation. Dice your onions, lay out on a cookie sheet, once frozen transfer to your container of choice. A quart container in the kitchen freezer, for easy prep. Vacuum seal bags for the chest freezer Kept like this you'll probably want to use them up in 6-12 months.

Onions can also be pickled and fermented, if that's your jam!

. . . . .

Our onions are holding up well this year and we may just end up going through all of them before I need to preserve any! I don't mind less work on that end either. Since we did so much more preserving last year we ended up with less in the pantry. Planting many more this year!!

Holler if you have any great onion tips, have any questions on how you can keep more local onions, or need to find sources!!

Leeks, frozen like onions.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Farm Store Stocked Up!

It's a great week to shop at the farm store!!

Egg numbers are finally going up! They are well stocked this week. (On CSA weeks they still may be a little more limited.

Salad greens bonanza this week!

Second to last winter market this Saturday, 10-12 at Drummers Garden Center, Mankato.