Simple food preservation techniques—freezing and drying—have taken care of much of my local food bounty. If you still have fresh fruit or herbs available, you can do it, too. Here’s an update on food previously mentioned.
Remember those ugly apples? They were so delicious that I’d still be eating them, but I got down to the ones really covered with black spots so I decided cooking them and freezing them was in order. I pulled out the trusty apple machine (I must get a new suction cup!), and cranked through the pile—peeling, coring and slicing. They remained plenty firm for the machine. (Soft apples don’t do so well.)
I put the first 4-5 cups in an apple pie, so they’re long gone. As I prepped the rest, I dropped them in a bowl with about 1/2 cup lemon juice plus 1/4 cup water then drained them and froze them in two well-stuffed quart-size freezer bags, enough for two more pies.
Bonus: I captured the lemon juice as it drained off the apples and combined it with the remaining apple-dunking lemon juice and about 1/3 cup sugar, brought it to a boil for a couple of minutes and had a delicious appley-lemonade concentrate that I thinned with a little more water. Very tasty and refreshing.
Then there were the late-harvest herbs. I didn’t fuss over them like I did the mint. I just snipped them, rinsed them, let the water dry, then hung them in a reasonably airy dark closet and hoped for the best. Temperatures had dropped, so it wasn’t quite as warm in there as would have been ideal, but it worked. I took them down, stripped leaves from stems and, voila!, enough dried sage and rosemary to share plus a small quantity of oregano and thyme for me. Another potential Christmas or hostess gift in the bag, so to speak.
When I took those herbs down, I cut and hung the high-reaching branch from my bay laurel. I need to find three or four jars to store those in for gift-giving, but in the meantime, they’re fragrantly stored in a freezer bag.
Dried mint footnote: I made myself some tea from the dried mint the other day, and it was lovely.
When I think of how much dried herbs cost and how easy drying them is, I wonder what took me so long to do it myself? I probably paid $2.50 per plant for the new herbs this year, and even though my harvest from them was sparse (save for the sage), they’ll be back. And if they don’t prosper next year, I’ll still have gotten my money’s worth. (Actually, the parsley looks better than ever now with the cool weather. The thyme may need a new location, though. Maybe the oregano, too.)
I keep a compost bin, and not very effectively by serious composter standards. Nevertheless, besides providing a seeming endless supply of good stuff for the soil, it periodically rewards me with food. The biggest haul I got was a canteloupe one year, although its flavor was disappointing. This year’s free plant was a rangy tomato vine. It appeared too late in the season to really produce, but as frost approached, it had several bunches of small green tomatoes. By then, I’d had my fill of green tomatoes. One of the little buggers, though, had a hint of color to it, so I saved it, and it ripened on my counter. Here it is, my tomato harvest. Texture was only so-so, but it was still a treat!
How about you? Did your yard or garden surprise you this year?