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Preserving LARGE amounts of food by any method ... need help

 
pollinator
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1. Historically most of preservation have been dehydration (honey, prunes, raisins, dried spices/leaves, dried beans/nuts/grains, dried mushroom)
2. Alot of animal products had a hybrid ferment+Dehydration (fermented milk dehydrated to cheese, fermented mince meat dehydrated to sausages/etc)
3. A few things were just fermented mostly just as a sauce or condiment (soy sauce, fish sauce, pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut, etc)
4. Alot of starch fermentation happened too (rice-sake, wheat/barley-beer, fruit-wines, etc)

Lowering moisture content (boiling-evaporation, solar/air flow-evaporation, freeze:dry-sublimation, smoking/air flow-evaporation)
Chemical inhibitors (salt, nitrate, preservative, modified atmosphere, smoke, alcohol)
Being out competed (fermentation with 'good-microbes')
Canning/Freezing/etc
 
gardener
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My 2 cents and then 2 questions. I'm still figuring it out but there are a few things I want to add.

1: wine.  Not that you have to be drunk all winter, but many things can be preserved this way and wine makes awesome stew in winter. It requires watching, but gives you another option for preservation that requires less initial time and heat.

2: vinegar. Wine's sour cousin. Works as an additive to so many dishes. About as easy as doing nothing.

3. Regarding solar dehydrator: when I was 17 I made a solar oven on my parent's roof with two shoe boxes, a pane of glass, newspaper, aluminum foil, and glue. Yes,
It got up to cooking temps. What I learned was it doesn't take much to use the sun's heat.  Where else do you get a hot,  dehydrating environment? How about your car's windshield? Maybe the rafters of your attic? Maybe between your windows and your curtains? Your cold frames or green house vent? Don't think about what it looks like, consider what it does at the moment. You might not need specialty equipment.

Now question 1: I am getting in my harvest of elderberries.  They are not sweet, they have a grassy flavor no one really wants to dwell on. I can turn them into wine, freeze for winter jamming, or dry them. Maybe I should do all three?

Question 2: I save seed, but during summer my herb drying and seed saving room slowly turns into a ginormous mess. I can't seem to process things I hang to dry fast enough. Any suggestions on that? It is so bad I couldn't even tell what I harvested last year and so I ended up throwing out a batch of arugula seed because I didn't remember growing it and it didn't look like the brassicas I did remember growing. I've also had to throw out herbs because I ran out of room and they clumped together and molded. Thanks!

 
S Bengi
pollinator
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Elderberry, I would say ferment, maybe dry then ferment.

I would say prep stuff in the off season,
Prepare all your seed storage bags and shelving system, setup/label/organize them.
Label the "dehydrator"  With this all setup up, you will be able to just reach and put them away.
You could even send a noob out and say here is a seed bag labelled arugula, find the seed-tray labelled arugula and put them in arugula seed bag I just gave you. Do the same for the rest of the labelled seed storage bags in the corner.
 
pollinator
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John Todd wrote: I know what I want: to efficiently preserve all that garden produce.  



Prepping food to put in a dehydrator is extremely time-consuming. Freezing is much faster. Summer squash, cucumbers, and okra will often keep from a week to a long time in a spare room. Refrigerating slows down ripening.
 
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Random thoughts:

FREEZE DRYING: Lasts the longest. Just be aware it's not "turn on and forget". You have to maintenance the machine too. I know "Harvest Right" freeze dryers you have to change the oil in the vacuum pump EVERY TIME you use it. Obviously, the machines are expensive...but also, if you invest in one of these, you can make alot of money selling freeze dried food. Especially rewarding to me would be to sell my own produce this way. Easy money maker, just get your "Cottage Food" license, or similar in your state, follow the rules, and you will always have plenty of food on hand that will literally last at least 20 years. I put dried items in mason jars with lids, bands, and a strip of masking tape on the outside for my label.

SOLAR DRYING: The cheapest. An all metal shed from lowes 250.00 8x10. Put it together tight, use fine steel wool on ANY gap that would allow bugs in (is heatproof of course). Put lots of vents with fine screen/steel wool at the bottom and top for airflow. Add heatproof drying racks (steel ones also at Lowes would work great). Hooks for larger items if needed.

SOLAR CANNING: I don't know if this is an original idea, probably not, but I like to solar can things from time to time. I have an "S.O.S." solar cooker, and I put all kinds of things in mason jars, with the lids and bands. Cook the food in the jar, once it cools it seals itself and you're good to go! Just be careful with things that expand, like rice and such...you can do it just make sure to read how much cooked product it produces

Just things I do...
~Patrick
 
gardener
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Patrick, vacuum canning is worth mentioning. Should be good for rice. Its not expensive if you already have a food saver. The attachment sucks air out of mason jars. Rice, flours, cereal, etc.
 
gardener
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Amit Enventres wrote:

Now question 1: I am getting in my harvest of elderberries.  They are not sweet, they have a grassy flavor no one really wants to dwell on. I can turn them into wine, freeze for winter jamming, or dry them. Maybe I should do all three?



I would vote for drying some and storing it for making Elderberry syrup. According to reading I did, it's one of the better natural anti-virals, so having some available to keep your own and the neighborhood's immune system boosted  if something nasty comes around, would be a choice I would make.

That's not likely a use for the whole crop. If you find the berries hard to find good uses for, the flowers are also harvested and used in things which won't help this year, but could next.
 
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Patrick Dillman wrote:

SOLAR CANNING: I don't know if this is an original idea, probably not, but I like to solar can things from time to time. I have an "S.O.S." solar cooker, and I put all kinds of things in mason jars, with the lids and bands. Cook the food in the jar, once it cools it seals itself and you're good to go! Just be careful with things that expand, like rice and such...you can do it just make sure to read how much cooked product it produces

Just things I do...
~Patrick



I may have misunderstood, here, but are you recommending canning things like jam and meat and cooked rice in a solar cooker?  I am not familiar with solar cookers, but if you don't have some sort of temperature control, high-acid foods may not be all that shelf stable, and, without pressure, low-acid foods have the potential to carry botulism - as far as I know, the only way to achieve high enough temperatures to destroy the botulism spores is with pressure (in a pressure canner).  Botulism is rare, but very serious, and not something to be taken lightly.  
 
Jay Angler
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I'd like to raise a few more points:
1. It's really important to "grow what you eat" and "eat what you grow". That might seem self-explanatory, but I know too many people who have a freezer full of tomatoes that are 3 years old (if not older). There's no point growing or expending the energy to process food that your family has no interest in eating. Sometimes that means trying different recipes or different processing systems to make the food more to the taste of the recipients. For example, I've got a friend who adores broad beans and eats them as a major part of a meal. My family really only enjoys them if they're part of a soup or stew. Neither of these options is "better" than the other - they're just two approaches to try.
2. I calculate how much of a particular food to process based on how many times per week it is likely to be part of a meal. Sometimes I'm limited by the availability of a particular produce or the time to harvest and preserve it, but when people seem to be pushing me to make more applesauce instead of tossing the apples to the Geese and Muscovy, I have to remind them that we usually only eat applesauce once every couple of weeks. I know people who might eat it every day or two, but not happening here. Diet can be influenced over time and with experimentation, but I can remember reading about Britain during WWII. Despite serious food shortages, the people really only wanted to buy and eat food that was familiar to them. Under stressful situations, people crave whatever qualifies as "comfort food" to them. If they're desperate enough, they may eat things they don't like, but not out of choice.
3. I am also working on approaching food storage from the efficiency perspective. For example, this evening I tested my canning kettle and I can fit 4 x 500 ml and 4 x 250 ml jars in all at once. My large cook pot can hold enough applesauce to fill that many jars. So tonight I started the applesauce heating, then the jars sterilizing. I filled the jars and put them back in the kettle for their boiling water bath. When they came out, I tossed a metal basket in the canner and started blanching broad beans. Since the water was already hot, this saved both time and energy. I did 4 baskets of beans, tipping the metal basket into a large bowl with the plastic basket from my salad spinner in it. After each basket of beans had cooled for 3 minutes, I lifted the basket out of the cool water into the actual salad spinner and spun it. This got most of the water out, so they'll freeze faster. The canning kettle then got carried to the front porch to cool and tomorrow I'll use the water on some deserving plants. I add ice cubes to the cooling water each time I add hot beans so they cool efficiently without using fresh water for each batch. The cooling water got added to the canner at the end so that it, too, will land on plants. Combining processing applesauce and beans back to back saved energy, time and cleaning up.
 
pollinator
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Don't know if this is the best thread in which to place this and please let me know if it's come up before.

For many in more moderate climates, kale can be left in the ground and protected and can still be enjoyed fresh though the winter months if still producing.  In our region, bitter cold will eventually kill what is left in the garden and in years past we would round up the remaining plants before this killing weather arrived, blanch the leaves in a pot, and store packets of leaves in the deep freeze.  As they had been cold up until harvest, they had been sweetening so went into the freezer tasting quite good.

For two years running now, we've done something different and maybe others have done this already.  If you have quite a few plants, they can be cut near the base so that you have plenty of stalk to still 'feed' the leaves for a while.  The plants are then placed into a sack....we've used extra feed bags laying around from when grain is delivered...and the kale is stored in these bags in a cool room or garage.  Remarkably, the leaves that are plucked for dinners in the weeks that follow just keep getting more tender and more sweet.  As long as the plants have had decent humidity in the bags, they seem to keep for several weeks this way.  The frozen leaves that were blanched can start being used after these more fresh plants are used up.  Anyone tried this or tried keeping them longer?  Thanks!
 
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