Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Harvest Season

     Harvest seasons means many things to many people. To the farmers it means harvesting all their crops and preparing their fields before the first frost hits. For my husband it means pumpkin, sweet potato or apple pies. For me, it's canning and preserving season and for you, the grocery stores and farm stands it means great savings. This is actually the second harvest of the season and my favorite by far. The markets are flooded with apples, squash of all shapes and sizes, pears, and pumpkins. The fall harvest is roughly from September to November and it's the perfect time to get the above as well as broccoli, Brussel's sprouts, cauliflower,    cranberries, grapes, pomegranates, potatoes and turnips to name a few. What even better about most of these fruits and veggies is that they are easily kept through the winter months if you know how to store them properly. 
Keep the following in a root cellar where the humidity stays moist and the temp stays cool. If you don't have a root cellar there are other options such as the produce drawers in your fridge. Just make sure they control the humidity. If you have a basement, the stairwell to the outside makes a good root cellar as well.
     Apples: keep them in a plastic and they will last at least 4 months or better.
     Cabbage will keep for 2-4 months
     Carrots will keep for 6 months
     Cauliflower will keep just about 2 months
     Pears will keep for 2 to 4 months
     Potatoes will keep for upto 6 months

Onions, pumpkins, and squash require temps of around 50 degree and like it dryer then the above. While you cans till keep them in your basement, try setting them on shelves on the inside of a basement.

Of course if you have a furance that "dumps" excess heat or a finished, heated basement, this might not be the best place to store your harvest.

There are several was of preserving fruits and veggies if you don't want to store them. Jams and jellys are a great way to use up excess fruit. Applesauce is the best when you make it yourself but it can be time consuming. Just about everything can be frozen and will last upto a year if done properly and sealed properly. My pantry is filled with canned pears and peaches from two years ago. This year I replenished my green beans and will making applesauce soon. I try and only do 2, sometimes 3 things a season which makes it easier to manage and I don't have to worry about jars being shoved to the back of shelves and forgotten.

If you plan on canning and/or freezing it can be a big investment up front depending on what you want to preserve. I recommend buying the Ball Blue Book or Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. You'll also need a water bath canner but if you a large wide pot that will hold several quart canning jars then you can skip it. You'll also want a set of tongs that were created for lifting hot jars from the boiling water. That's all you need to get started preserving a number of things. If you want to tackle low acid foods then a pressure canner is required and they tend to be very expensive.

Just one last quick tip. To discourage smaller pests, such as insects, sprinkle bay leaves on your shelves in your storage areas.

*Some of the information in the above post was taken from "The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest" by Carol W Costenbader

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

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