Brimming with beauty and edible bounty, kitchen gardens are a blessing. You sow the seeds, nourish the soil, watch the leafy vegetables grow and reap the fruit of your labor. It is easy to enjoy fresh and seasonal produce when the weather is pleasant. The sun rays hit the leaves perfectly, there is enough rainfall and humidity in the air is just right. There is verdant greenery and blooming blossoms everywhere. As the weather turns colder and harsh winters are upon us, our gardens are impacted by droughts, snow, sogginess, icy gales, and various other adverse climatic conditions. It becomes difficult to sustain a thriving orchard when the nature itself is against you. Flowers wither and plants die. You broodingly wait for the spring to arrive to revive your wilted garden.
It is true that winters make it rather hard to grow vegetables and fruits but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your garden’s yield during the frosty spell. Here are some awesome ways you can preserve and store your garden’s harvest to make it through winters with some goodies.
Imagine you are having breakfast on a chilly day. You take out a loaf of freshly baked bread from the oven and its scent takes over the neighbourhood. Your eyes fall upon the kitchen counter searching for that jar of strawberry jam you made the other day. You spread a generous amount of gooey red goodness on a slice of bread… One bite and you are filled with warmth and happiness. Homemade food does that to you. Jams are one of the best ways to store your harvest for the winters. Before the frost covers the plants, pick out your berries and fruits, and crush and cook them to the jammy texture. At Pick Your Own, you can find a complete step by step guide on every kind of jam.
Here are some canning kits to get you started.
From sandwiches and cold cuts to cheese and curries, chutneys are sweet and sour companions to savory items. They possess a power to enhance flavors to the maximum. Preserve your seasonal glut of fruit or vegetables in a form of various condiments and relish with different types of food. To prepare chutney, cut your fruit or vegetable in bite-sized chunks and cook with sugar and vinegar until it has simmered to a thick, syrupy consistency. Move the pureed mixture into a clean jar with an airtight seal. You can add other spices of your preference as well. For instance, I love the spicy undertones of chili pepper in a sugary plum chutney. Share a jar with your neighbours and maintain a warmth in a freezing cold weather. We list a couple more essential tools for bottling your own chutney and pickles below.
I love green peas and whenever winters are approaching, I make sure to freeze them in a large quantity to last through the season. When I have to prepare vegetable soup or stir-fried noodles, I defrost the amount I need by plunging them into boiling water. It’s really easy. Freezing is quite a simple way to store your garden’s harvest for the cold weather. You can easily preserve many fruits and vegetables in your freezer including raspberries, blueberries, corn, dates, cauliflower, sprouts, peas, and rhubarb.
Some items need to be blanched to prevent sogginess after being defrosted. That includes fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, broccoli, and peppers. To blanch, boil the fruit for a few minutes and then move it to icy cold water. Dry well before freezing. Avoid freezing items with high water content such as potatoes, watermelons, and cucumbers. They become soggy and mushy, and ultimately inedible. Always pack your items in an air-tight container to avoid freezer burn that will cause inedible patches.
Cover your pancakes with maple syrup, sweeten up a cocktail with liquified berries and drizzle a honeyed fruity sauce on your sponge cake… Syrups are heavenly, and they boost the regular flavors of your toasted bread and morning oats. As a blizzard hit the town and heavy snow fall covers the trails, make sure you have a delicious array of sugary syrups to brighten up your day while you are stuck inside your home. Syrups are simple enough to make and the options are endless. Combine roses and lavenders with mints and mangoes, add sugar and let the mixture simmer. From lemony and peppery to floral and tangy, achieve all kinds of tasteful results. Check Saveur for a variety of recipes. You will also need some syrup making supplies if you haven’t got them already.
Canning can be done in two ways; pressure canning for low-acid produce (above pH 4.6) and water bath canning for high-acid produce (below pH 4.6). Pressure canning is ideal for carrots, peas, mushrooms, potatoes, and okra while water-bath canning works well for apples, peaches, apricots, plums, tomatoes, grapes, cherries, lemons, and papaya. The best time to begin canning is right after harvesting fruits and vegetables when they are ripe and firm. Make sure all the surfaces are clean and free of any mold and diseases. For canning, you will require mason jars, a kit for water bath canning OR a pressure canner and of course, a number of mouthwatering canning recipes!
Pickling sounds ancient but it is a culinary art. There are numerous kinds of scrumptious pickles available all over the world. From vinegared cucumbers to spicy fermented mango, you can never go wrong with pickling. Collect fresh harvest from your garden and start the pickling regime. At home, it is convenient to prepare quick pickles which are also known as refrigerator pickles Finely chop the vegetable and fruits, marinate in brine, vinegar, or oils, and add spices, and store it in your fridge. After sitting in a fridge for a few days, they are ready to be enjoyed. Their taste won’t be as strong as fermented pickles but when the strong gusts of winds arrive at your doorstep, they are better than nothing!
Not only will fermentation increase the longevity of food items, it boosts their nutritious value as well. It is rich in probiotics that has several health benefits including better immunity, improved cognitive function and positive effects on mood, allergic reactions, oral hygiene, and gut health. You can culture coconut water, concoct apple cider vinegar from fresh apples, make ginger ale and whip up a delicious salad dressing. At Natural Living Ideas, you will find many recipes to ferment crops.
Don’t we love sun-dried tomatoes on pasta? Dehydration changes the texture and taste of crops, but they add a unique flavor to your food. Thinly slice your crops and arrange them in a tray. If the sun is shining brightly, leave the tray in a safe, sunny corner and forget about it for a few days. Another method is to bake the sliced crops for a few hours on a lowest temperature setting (130C/250F). When the pieces are crispy and shrunk, dehydration is completed. Store the dehydrated crops in a sealed jar. Their shelf life is usually up to one month. If you have large batches to process, consider getting a dedicated food dehydrator with multiple trays to make your job easier and more efficient. Not only will it work for vegetables but great for fruits too, so start making your own healthy snacks.
9. Storing Crops
Preserving your crops for the winter doesn’t always have to be a lengthy process. If you keep your fruits and vegetables in a right condition, they can last for months. Pick out fresh and clean pieces ensuring all the surfaces are free of blemishes and patches. Be careful because one rotten piece can ruin the whole batch. Grab some wooden crates, fill them up with produce and stack upon each other. For apples and pears, wrap each fruit in a paper and place them in a single layer. Root vegetables are easily stored as well. Cut off their leafy parts and store your carrots and beets in a single layer and add some sand. Potatoes are best kept in dark places within a paper sack. Onions, beans, peas, and legumes can be stored after being dried. Leafy vegetables such as spinach can’t be stored for a long time and have to consumed within a few days of harvesting.
10. Store Cordials
Capture the essence of fruits and enjoy the taste of summer in winter by storing fresh and fruity cordials. To prepare cordial, all you need is a fruit of choice, caster sugar and a saucepan. Cook the fruit in water until the fruit has softened. When the mixture has simmered, strain it with a colander. Discard the solid pieces. Next step is to mix the strained fruit juice with equal amount of sugar and let it boil. When it has a glossy texture, transfer the liquid into a bottle. Add citric acid or tartaric acid for a zesty taste.
Follow the tips and keep your pantry full of healthy goodies during the cold spell. When the grey clouds hide the sun and a gloomy vibe takes over, think about your strawberry jam, mango chutney and picked cucumber sitting in your kitchen and rejoice.
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