it’s September and we’re freezing in Montana … and pickling, too.

I hope you’re having as much fun as we are in the garden this year.  It’s been a bumper crop so far.

We’ve already eaten every last of our carrots.  (We’re going to have to plant more next year.)

And broccoli. (Another crop we’ll need to expand next year … good thing we just added two more raised beds!)

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We have too much zucchini that ripened all at the same time (and just as many left on the vine to ripen in the next week).

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A lot of tomatoes …

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 … and again, even more on the vine waiting to ripen.

A few pounds of cucumbers.

More than a few heads of garlic.

A good amount of basil.

And not enough peppers (It’s not easy to grow peppers in a raised bed in Montana … the nights are too cold and the season too short).  But we were able to grow ONE (out of  8 plants).

lone pepper

I’m re-thinking the strategy on peppers for next year.  Does anyone have an easy how-to build a cold frame they’d like to share using old storm windows?

So now that we’ve harvested so much of our bounty, my brain is turning to food storage.  Because we want to take advantage of all this goodness, but know we can’t eat it all before it goes bad and as much as I appreciate our compost bin, I don’t want to see this goodness wind up there.  So what to do to preserve and store?

ZUCCHINI

My hope is to preserve as much of the “freshness” as we can with zucchini.  We’re blanching an freezing most of the what we’ve plucked from the garden this year for use in stews and soups as the weather turns colder.

But blanching veggies that you’re  going to freeze is a little different from blanching veggies you’re going to eat right away. When you’re blanching to freeze, do NOT salt the water.  Salt will break down the cell walls and you’ll end up with mushy vegetables.  And that’s not what we want.  We want a bit of crisp fresh goodness in the midst of our winter.  At least, that’s what want.  Maybe you like mushy zucchini?

Here’s how we’re doing it:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Meanwhile, half-fill a large bowl with cold water and some ice to use as an ice bath.  While the water comes to a boil, chop the zucchini into similar-sized pieces (rounds, squares, wedges … whatever shape you’re hoping to use in the coming months).  For this batch (which is a soup-batch) I chose to chop them into 1-inch bits.  Regardless of their shape, keep the size roughly the same.  It will help ensure even cooking time when you go to use them.

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Once the pot of water is at a rolling boil, carefully add cubed or sliced zucchini (in batches if necessary).  As soon as the skin turns “bright green” and the zucchini is a nice firm al dente texture (just about a minute for smaller bits, one to two minutes for larger chunks) use a slotted spoon to remove and add to the ice bath to stop the cooking.

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From the ice bath, I move the zucchini to tray lined either with paper towel or a flour-sack towel and let drain for just a few minutes before I put them in Ziploc freezer bags that I lay flat to freeze.

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IMG_1022 (NOTE:  I feel funny using plastic for this food storage, but I haven’t found an alternative yet that works for freezing.  And I don’t love what happens to summer squash in canning.  If you have a suggestion, I would LOVE to hear it!)

TOMATO 

Unlike my sister Teri, who gagged when I sent her the photo from above of our tomato-bounty :), I love tomatoes.  (In her defense, she had a tomato soup incident as a 4-year-old that pretty much sealed her never-eat-a-tomato-even-ketcheup fate.  I don’t want to tell you about it because it was gross. Needless to say … she doesn’t eat tomatoes.)

But as I said, I love tomatoes. Fresh, they are bright and sweet and perfect.  Heated, they get even sweeter and warmer and

Our littles love tomatoes.  But even so … there are just too many in the garden this year to be able to eat them all fresh.  I can only eat so many tomato sandwiches, caprese salads and ratatouille in one day.  So what we can’t eat fresh, I’ve decided to turn into three staples we need in the kitchen all year long and then freeze.

I’ve already made 1 1/2 gallons of this Tomato Sauce (which I will use for pizza, pasta, meatballs, soup, etc).  I’ve got enough tomatoes in the kitchen this morning to make another half gallon.  When all is said and done, I’ll have up with three gallons in the freezer.

Taco Sauce.  After we’ve got the tomato sauce stored, I’ll turn to taco sauce and do the same process.  My goal is to have at least half a gallon of taco sauce in pint jars for easy use.

And then Tomato Paste … a recipe I’ll share when I have a chance to get some photos of the process.  I just don’t love that most tomato paste comes in BPA-lined little cans.  Tomatoes are so acidic.  And often, recipes call for just a tablespoon or two of this burst of brightness so then you end up using just a little of the 2 oz can and the rest goes to waste.  SOOOOO … I’m off to Owenhouse Ace Hardware for a 12-pack of 4 oz ball jars to prep for the tomato paste adventure.

CUCUMBER

We used This Recipe to make garlic dill pickles.

BASIL and GARLIC

I’m going to have to plant even more garlic this year because I’m using so much what we harvested right now.  I’ve used several head in the tomato sauce.  I’ll use more in the taco sauce.  I’ve been on a bit of a hummus-jag these days.  And whatever’s left of the garlic will end up combined with whatever’s left of the basil in a pesto.

All this food-stuff … it gets me so excited for next year’s garden!  I’m already making lists and plans.  And we’re only about a month away from having to plant the garlic!

I need to make a seed order … STAT!

xo,

Jeanne

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