Jericho homesteader Chris Simms shared her many pearls of wisdom on September 26 at the Jericho Town Library. Sixteen people of all ages showed up for this workshop/discussion on Food Preservation, focusing on using low energy methods.
Chris has gained ample knowledge and experience, gathered over years working with her husband Reed toward self sufficiency. She brought and shared tasty samples of foods she had preserved.
She started with some gardening tips, such as leaving frost tolerant things in the garden as long as possible; this keeps the supply going and improves flavors as well. Examples include chard, kale, cabbage and lettuce. Root crops like carrots, beets and parsnips may remain viable into the spring, as long as you remember where they are!
Root cellars are ideal, or any other space that’s cool and frost proof. Any large container will do: using something like sand, straw or newspaper, layer produce so it’s not touching, checking frequently. Chris suggested storing apples away from other produce as they put off ethylene gas, promoting rotting.
Other recommendations were storing potatoes in burlap sacks and hanging in the cellar. Winter squash prefers slightly warmer temps, so wrapping them in newspaper within paper bags stored under your bed works well!
Chris talked about pressure canning versus water bath canning, saying the latter is a good option for anything with enough sugar and/or acids, i.e., jams and pickles, etc. She also talked about freezing versus canning; though the latter uses stovetop energy, it enables a longer shelf life of up to two years.
Chris brought along her electric dehydrator and described a simple solar design as another option. She said drying fruit works better than vegetables, as it retains more vitamins and flavor. She recommended using the car dashboard for drying on a sunny day, the ultimate low energy method. Regarding meat, Chris said that microbial changes that happen when drying improves the flavor. Pemmican, or dried beef can last upwards of fifty years, a true survival food!
Using microorganisms to preserve a variety of foods and produces healthy flora for digestion. Chris showed us a big jar with cucumbers floating at the top; a mixture of vinegar, water and salt that she simply adds cucumbers to as they ripen, producing an ongoing supply of pickles. They were scrumptious!
Chris suggested freezing cooked squash, spinach, beef and green onions to name a few. Berries in abundance can be frozen, saving them to use all winter.
An age old method, still used for meats; not as healthy or tasty for vegetables
Herbs: picking in the morning post-dew, then either laying out to dry (or gathered in bunches and hung in paper bags as one participant suggested).
Fruits: Blend berries with a bit of sugar, then dry the slurry into fruit leather; this lasts over a year. Dry your ground cherries to make tasty raisins. Numerous options for cherry tomatoes were offered by participants from drying them for tasty treats to making jams and butters.
Beans: Let your beans dry right on the vine, shuck them before they break out of pods.
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As for me, I’ve been in the kitchen nearly nonstop since the workshop; drying, freezing and fermenting anything I can get my hands on- thanks to Chris for the current obsession!