Sunday, August 23, 2009

Some Minor Food Preservation Tasks

This is my first pickle adventure. I made 4 quarts using the Betty Crocker recipe I found in my cookbook. These are not fermented, they're "canned." I just boiled up some vinegar, water, and salt, and added it to the sliced cucumbers, garlic, and fresh dill waiting in the jars. I processed them in the boiling water bath for the 10 minutes the recipe said to (and then I plugged them into the wall). I added crushed hot peppers to two of the jars because peppers seem to make everything better. I haven't eaten them yet because you have to wait a week. It would be great if they taste good, but I really just hope they don't kill anyone.

And on that note, I will share another food preservation task I've been doing a lot of lately: freezing green beans. First, I'm kind of afraid of the pressure-canner. Really, I'm not sure that kind of equipment is for me. Sure, I've felled trees with a chainsaw and driven some really questionable pick-up trucks, but this pressure-canner stuff isn't something I want to jump into without a guru nearby. Somehow I've always known that I should stay from things that could explode. Plus, Chris and I decided to invest in a freezer for the deer (and other assorted small animals he kills) and the chickens we were raising. So that leaves me with plenty of space for frozen fruits and vegetables. Barring an extended power outage or the Peak Oil scenario coming true in the next couple of years, I think the freezing option is really the best. Frozen stuff tastes better and has more goodness left because you haven't boiled the hell out of it.

But you do have to do a bit of boiling to keep the natural enzymes from breaking down the vegetables and turning them into cardboard, even while they're frozen.

I start by rinsing the sand and Japanese beetle guts (I'll explain later) off of the beans.

Then I cut the stems off and slice the beans into shorter pieces so as to avoid flinging butter all over the dining room table and my face at dinner time. (Who am I kidding? We eat while sitting on the couch. All the more reason to avoid long bean pods, I suppose.)

These sexy beans are waiting for the water to get to a rolling boil.

Here's the set-up. Left: pot of boiling water with a strainer for easy removal of beans. (I tried picking them out with my fingers one at a time and decided there must be an easier way.) Right: big bowl of icy water. Get that water rollin' and dump in the beans. Boil for 3 minutes. Cool them in ice water for 3 minutes.

These beans are chillin'. Three minutes (or until I get done checking Facebook). Then I bag 'em into dinner-size servings, smoosh all the air out, and freeze.

I know: so simple. I don't care. I'm just learning how to do this stuff right. Thank goodness for the internets.


Melissa said...

Love it! I helped Raeanne in Indiana cook and freeze a truckload of Spangler's sweet corn. Whew!

Molly Crawford Reidy said...

Whew! is right. A truckload sounds overwhelming! When I'm doing this stuff I always imagine women who spent hot, summer days doing this work before we could just go to the grocery store.