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Ratio of different food storage methods.....  RSS feed

 
John Weiland
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Location: RRV of da Nort
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If this was brought up before in a previous thread, then please just direct me to that version.

Here in zone 4 (US, northern plains just south of Canada), we have about 5 - 6 months of true growing season. Greenhouses of various configurations can extend this, but for the most part there will be a lot of stored food eaten during the non-growing months. I'm curious about what others do with regards to the different ratios of dried versus root-cellared versus frozen versus canned/jarred versus fermented food storage. For us, the usual things are root cellared like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets, onions.....but I can see where others may be able to leave them in the ground in the right climate and let mother nature provide the storage. Our large-ish crop of tomatoes (after fresh eating) is ~10% canned (salsa): 85% frozen (whole, skins-on): 5% dried (electrical dehydrator...hope to transition to air-drying). For peppers, it's ~1% canned:60% dried:39% frozen. I'm curious if drying would be a better and more cost-effective as well as environmentally-friendly way to store a lot of foods that we currently are freezing. Right now, Swiss chard and kale are booming and I'm getting ready to start blanching and bagging a bunch for the chest freezers. Come fall, we will again experiment with pulling whole kale plants before the killing temperatures arrive and storing the plants in the garage or root cellar for leaf harvesting over several weeks. Other views, models, ratios and rationale?
 
Mike Jay
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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We're new to this lifestyle but we're figuring it out. Our planned ratio and storage method for this year is:

Potatoes, parsnips, carrots - root cellar
Some carrots and parsnips - leave in the garden to see if we can harvest during winter
Beets - 1/2 root cellar, 1/2 pickled and canned
Apples - 1/3 root cellar, 1/3 applesauce, 1/3 hard cider
Berries - 10% jam/jelly, 45% fruit leather, 45% frozen for misc uses
Green beans - frozen (way better tasting and easier than canning)
Squash - 80% cool cellar, 20% puree and freeze for pies
Cabbage - 1/4 dug up and stored (roots, dirt and all) in root cellar, 3/4 sauerkraut
Onions - root cellar
Tomatoes - primarily canned into sauce/soup/catsup/etc
Peppers - don't store now but maybe should
Dry beans - dry and store in mason jars in cellar
Greens - don't do anything currently, may reconsider. We are starting to grow sprouts though.

My plan for next year is to build a solar dehydrator so we can make more fruit leather. We've found that we "snack" a lot and berry leather would be better than handfuls of chocolate chips

 
John Weiland
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@Mike J: "Green beans - frozen (way better tasting and easier than canning) "

....and additional items from a great list. Thanks for this.

You seem to be at a latitude similar to ours and with a similar growing season and possible similar winter cold. With your mention of fruit leather, I'm thinking as well putting together a solar dehydrator, hoping I can contact Larisa Walk from these forums down in southern Minn. to either purchase or obtain plans for their dehydrators ( http://geopathfinder.com/Solar-Food-Drying.html ). If they are successfully doing de-hy veggies and fruit with the humidity that exists in that region, then that design should work fine for our needs (lower humidity here) and I think that would be a good supplement to our other methods.

Have you ever tried drying your green beans? Can't recall, but I thought someone mentioned this working pretty well. I've blanched and frozen green beans in the past,.....they are okay, but are disappointingly flaccid relative to fresh, which I suppose is to be expected. Like you, I don't really like the energy use and efforts for canning, but it could be improved if we were set up to do this outside during those hot late-summer days maybe using a rocket stove as the heat source. (Realizing of course that the intense use of energy during canning season may end up being less than the combined energy of running chest freezers.)

One other thing that looks interesting possibly is the re-sprouting of things like lettuce, celery, chinese-type cabbage, etc. from the left-over base of what may have been recently purchased from the grocer or harvested in the fall ( http://www.backtomyroots.ca/re-grow-romaine-lettuce-hearts/ ). These would provide quasi-fresh material under grow lights that may complement the stored veggies and fruits.
 
Mike Jay
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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That's too funny. I was going to mention Larisa's design in my post but I thought it may be TMI. I just attended her presentations at the MREA energy fair and I think that design has a lot to offer (for our climate). Apparently she is putting up a years worth of food each year and drying a lot of it.

I have not tried drying green beans but I'll give it a shot this year. I've heard you can thread a string through them and hang them to dry. I have no idea what the reconstituted texture would be.

Regarding the frozen green beans... I think the way you cook them impacts how they feel. We let the beans defrost on the counter and then put them in a steamer on the stove. When they just turn shiny green, they're done.

As for energy intensiveness of canning, I have an idea for you if you're in the country. Make a cinder block and steel plate cooker. I use mine for maple syrup in the spring as well (without the steel plate). I don't have a photo at the moment but when I build my next one I'll take some pics. Basically you make a 3-4 block high unit that is about 2' wide by 5' long. Open on the front and closed in on the other three sides. At the back you need to get creative to make a chimney. Put a 6' chimney of single wall (cheap) stove pipe. Put a 1/4" thick steel plate on top of the blocks and light a fire underneath. On my old rig I could run two canners, two kettles and a few small pots all at the same time. Wood is the input so no fossil fuel use. I'm sorry I don't have a pic but if you do a google image search for "cinder block arch" you'll see what I mean.

Resprouting looks interesting. We haven't tried it but it looks like it would give you some good green stuff in the winter.
 
John Weiland
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@Mike J.: "Wood is the input so no fossil fuel use"

Thanks for that....My sister used a similar set-up not far from Hudson WI for her maple sap evaporation. I'll have to give that an introductory try this fall when we do our normal in-house canning and see how it goes. We even have a 3 X 4' steel sheet laying around that might suffice for the stove-top. Scrap-grade wood is in abundance here; I save the good stuff for the winter heating but the ample amount of smaller, lesser grade wood might be adequate for stoking the outdoor cinderblock stove. Great to hear that you attended the MREA fair and were able to see Larisa's demos there. I've never gotten over for that event, but hope to some day.

We have some frozen green beans from last year still in the freezer....I'll try your method of pre-thawing and then steaming to see how that works. What I like about the re-sprouting as well is that with a bit of time, you can do 're-rooting' as well and get the whole plant growing again. Thanks again for the ideas, Mike.
 
Mike Jay
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My pleasure! I use fast burning wood (pine, etc) to get the plate hot and the canners bubbling (first half hour). Then I change over to hardwood to just keep it going. Once it's up to speed it doesn't use that much wood. The plate will likely warp as it gets hot so there will be smoke escaping.

The MREA fair is wonderful, I'd highly recommend it
 
Galadriel Freden
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Here's what I hope to store:

Pantry
-Garlic and garlic salt
-Onions and pickled onions
-Squash
-Apples
-Pickled beets
-Dehydrated chard and kale
-Salted runner beans
-Dried peas
-Pickled mixed veg
-Strawberry jam (just a few small jars)
-Various dried herbs

Freezer
-Cherries
-Berries
-Chard and kale

Liquor cabinet
-Elderflower wine
-Elderberry wine
-Blackberry wine
-Plum cider
-Apple cider (hard)

I'm trying to steer away from the energy intensive methods (canning, oven-drying, freezer storage) this year. Last year I stored quite a bit in the freezer, and oven dried lots of apple chips (very popular). I'm trying out alternate methods this year (solar dehydrating, pickling). And I'm putting a bigger emphasis on alcohol
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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We don't have many big harvests, so most of our stuff is frozen or fermented.

A side tip: if you sort the good apples and core them first, you can make applesauce from the pressings left after the cider. Faster to cook down, still sweet enough, and two yields for the same work. Then we press the not so good apples and those pressings are animal feed.

I have dried green beans, they work great for soups but do not reconstitute to "fresh"
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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At my place, food from the garden is mostly either stored on the shelf or bottled. Freezer space is typically used for meat, not vegetables. We store sweet corn, and sweet peppers in the freezer, but that's about it for frozen vegetables.

I store some crops at room temperature: garlic, onions, squash. They are not preserved by bottling, except as a minor ingredient in something else.

I store tomatoes 95% bottled and 5% dried. Because I can bottle huge amounts in a short time. Drying is very slow compared to bottling.

Sunroots are stored in the ground.

 
John Weiland
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Thanks for continued responses. In addition to adding more drying of fruit and veggies to the operation, I'm thinking of increasing a bit more on the fermentation/pickling side of stored food. A gifted sauerkraut crock has gone sadly under-used. We've tended to pack the freezers full of tomatoes, chard/kale, sweet peppers, random fruits, etc. One chest freezer has left-over beef from a local producer that we are still working out way through in addition to our chickens. One useful development has been transitioning some of the sweet corn out of the freezer and drying it on the cob, then shelling it as dried kernels into a jar for use as parching ('popped') corn and alternatively thrown into soups and stews. We've also stopped shelling out the dry beans in the fall: The dried pods containing the beans are just left in a paper bag and each time a meal is desired, enough is shelled out for that meal.
 
Larisa Walk
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Mike Jay wrote:That's too funny.  I was going to mention Larisa's design in my post but I thought it may be TMI.  I just attended her presentations at the MREA energy fair and I think that design has a lot to offer (for our climate).  Apparently she is putting up a years worth of food each year and drying a lot of it.

I have not tried drying green beans but I'll give it a shot this year.  I've heard you can thread a string through them and hang them to dry.  I have no idea what the reconstituted texture would be.

Regarding the frozen green beans...  I think the way you cook them impacts how they feel.  We let the beans defrost on the counter and then put them in a steamer on the stove.  When they just turn shiny green, they're done.

As for energy intensiveness of canning, I have an idea for you if you're in the country.  Make a cinder block and steel plate cooker.  I use mine for maple syrup in the spring as well (without the steel plate).  I don't have a photo at the moment but when I build my next one I'll take some pics.  Basically you make a 3-4 block high unit that is about 2' wide by 5' long.  Open on the front and closed in on the other three sides.  At the back you need to get creative to make a chimney.  Put a 6' chimney of single wall (cheap) stove pipe.  Put a 1/4" thick steel plate on top of the blocks and light a fire underneath.  On my old rig I could run two canners, two kettles and a few small pots all at the same time.  Wood is the input so no fossil fuel use.  I'm sorry I don't have a pic but if you do a google image search for "cinder block arch" you'll see what I mean.

Resprouting looks interesting.  We haven't tried it but it looks like it would give you some good green stuff in the winter.


Hi everyone, Larisa Walk here.  Thought I'd weigh in on this topic.  We do solar dry a large part of our annual harvests, all the things that most folks would either freeze or pressure can, along with anything else that doesn't store in the root cellar.  We do as little canning as possible, mostly tomato sauce and pickles and gallons of tomato and high-acid fruit juices.  We are off-grid solar but mostly use electric for canning/cooking in the summer with LP gas cooktop as a backup.  Our methods are covered in our book which is available on the website.  I did want to share my experience with drying green beans.  The first year I did it, in the mid 1970's, I did the string and hang method.  After I did that I knew why they were called "leather britches" as that's about what they tasted like.  Now I lightly steam blanch the 1/4" sliced beans and put them in the dryer.  When reconstituted they are more like canned beans than fresh frozen, but waaaay better than the leather britches.  If reconstituted in a bit of hot water, they are quite tasty in a winter bean salad.  The steam blanching before drying is necessary for a few crops besides beans: peas, asparagus, sweet corn, broccoli, and cauliflower.

We do grow and put away all of our veggies, fruits (except raisins), dry beans/peas, and some grains/oil seeds/nuts (except oats, millet, buckwheat and rice, sesame and sunflower).  The foods we buy are purchased in bulk a couple of times a year.  We are in Zone 4 in SE MN in the Driftless Region (unglaciated bluff and steep valleys) with hot, humid summers.  The food dryer has been working for us for over 30 years after experimenting with other solar-powered designs of all kinds.  This design is the most simple to build and use and meets our demands for high volume, absolutely dependable outcomes.  Combined with the root cellar, it is the heart of our winter meals.

If you're interested in wood-fired outdoor cooking, did you get a look at the InStove.org rocket stoves with built-in canners (BWB, pressure, or autoclaves) at the Energy Fair?  I really like their stoves and that they donate stoves from their profits as part of their mission.  Their new design is made to be portable so that aid workers can take it with them when they fly in.  We may have to consider this instead of having the LP gas as a backup, or the existing antique cook stove that's in our sauna.  I think it would be even more fuel efficient, at least for canning.
 
Rebecca Norman
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Thank you for sharing your experience, Larisa!

Larisa Walk wrote:We are off-grid solar but mostly use electric for canning/cooking in the summer with LP gas cooktop as a backup.


Does this mean in the daytime you have so much solar electricity that you can cook on an electric stove? Or something else?

---------

I live in a very dry climate, so we dry a whole lot. Dried tomatoes are sooooo delicious that we barely can any at all. They get so dry here that we powder them in the blender, and then they are as easy to use as tomato puree. I even sprinkle the powder on buttered toast, yum!

I have never blanched anything; I tried drying green beans but they came out tough. I'll try blanching them this year. We dry cauliflower and eggplant without blanching and they do come out a bit tougher than fresh, but not bad. Personally I don't find unblanched dried broccoli tough at all, though. I cook it in with pasta and enjoy it a lot. One other thing that comes out terribly tough is slices of the Indian bottle gourd lauki; I guess I should try it blanched, or just keep leaving it for fresh use only.

I bet nobody here likes this vegetable, but I do: Indian bitter gourd, karela, reconstitutes perfectly, just like fresh.

-----------
We also have a cold winter, and in addition the highways to our region are closed for 4 or 5 months of winter, so storage is essential.

Drying: large amounts of tomatoes, eggplants, wild greens. Smaller amounts of turnips, cauliflower, broccoli, bitter gourd, and apricot leather. Seabuckthorn berries for juice.

Canning: Large amounts of apricot jam and apricots in syrup. Small amounts of tomato ketchup and chutney, just a recipe experiment. Small amounts of sweet-sour-salty green apricot chutney.

Fermenting: Large amounts of mostly cabbage based pickle, basically local style (oiled) pickle and kimchi.

Root cellaring: 15-liter containers of pickle. Potatoes, carrots, and bit of others. Eggs. Onions, garlic and some winter squash indoors.

Greenhouses: Leafy greens: Swiss chard, a local mustard green or chinese cabbage called "salat" in the local language, and a bit of other greens like spinach and lettuce. I brought kale seeds last year and it worked great; will grow more in future. Personally I also grow lettuce, arugula, mustard greens, claytonia, dill, and a yummy local herb Dracocephalum moldavica in the winter greenhouse. And flowers are good for winter emotional health: calendula does best.
 
Larisa Walk
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Hi Rebecca,
We use a restaurant-sized electric hotplate (1500W).  The regular hotplate that we have is only 900W.  We also have a 12VDC homemade electric oven for cooking and a parabolic solar cooker (outdoors).  Our solar system is sized for the short and often cloudy days of winter, so in the summer there is much power to do other things.  Besides cooking we heat our domestic water, pump irrigation water from our rainwater cisterns, and an electric tractor, mower, wood chipper, and chainsaw to harvest the excess PV power on long, sunny days. 

Have you dried any of the apricots?  We don't can any fruit jams but use reconstituted fruit as "jams".  If soaked for several hours they work well for that use.  We do like to add chia seed to make a jam-like consistency.  If we're in a rush, the dried fruit can be reconstituted on the stove with some arrowroot added to thicken.

We dry lots of our smaller tomatoes and even add some of them into the canned tomatoes when cooking for the added flavor and to thicken the canned sauce.  We also dry lots of eggplants, not blanched, and use them to thicken sauces as well.  We really like them in our version of chili which we call ratachili ;>.  We do an assortment of krauts over the cold months, mostly kohlrabi/radish/turnips from the root cellar, a half gallon at a time.  The roots store really well and that way we avoid the kraut going bad or having to can large batches rather than having it fresh.

While we aren't snowed in for months at a time, our food storage is sufficient to accommodate that possibility.  We do have fresh greens all winter, mostly lettuce, kale and napa cabbage.  There's always good food to eat no matter the weather.
 
John Weiland
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Thanks for the added exchanges here and glad to have your input on the drying, Larisa, as humidity is something we battle in the northern Plains....not something we ever had to worry about west of the Rockies.  It strikes me that we probably use a lot more "freezering" as a storage method (3 chest freezers) than many and I'm hoping to transition to more drying in the future.  Larisa, wouldn't just blending reconstituted fruit give it a jam-like consistency if enough pectin were present in the fruit already?  I use chia seed protein powder as an egg substitute and binder in many recipes, but had not explored using it as a general thickener.  Also, you note year-round production (?) of greens like lettuce, etc.....is winter production under grow lights and/or in a greenhouse/solarium? Also although we've do some pickling, the use of fermentation for both veggie storage and nut-based cheese/yogurt is something we are just starting on with encouraging initial results. 
 
Larisa Walk
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Hi John, the "jam" made by reconstituting dried fruit doesn't require the chia to thicken exactly, but it does help make the fruit more "gel-like" in consistency.  It's more of a texture thing than anything else.  As for the winter salad greens, we grow lettuce in window boxes starting in early fall in our SE facing sun porch.  When it gets too cold, beyond what an overnight covering can mitigate, we bring the planters into the south windows of the house.  There is no supplemental lighting.  The plants are full sized by this point.  After Halloween the days are less than 10 hours long and growth is slowed to a snail's pace.  But the plants can be harvested of their outer leaves as needed.  We usually harvest until the New Year or so.  Plantings made in mid winter don't really do much without supplemental lighting so we take a break from lettuce and don't begin succession planting again until the end of January.  The planters move back into the porch sometime in March.  This winter we had some self-seeded celery pop up in some of the planters and I seeded lettuce in with them.  The celery did better than ever as they were growing from about mid January instead of the usual mid February start we do intentionally.  I think I'll be planting them at that time from now on and leaving them in the containers as we have such a slug problem here.  The container grown plants of salad and celery are free from the slug damage that is so rampant in the rest of the garden.

As for the napa cabbage and kale, we do winter over some plants in our greenhouse.  We don't harvest heavily from these plants as they are destined for seed production in the spring more than for a food source.  However, we do store some napa in the root cellar.  We're going to be doing more if it this year as my friend Kathleen from Plum Creek Seeds has successfully wintered napa in her cellar until mid April.  When the lettuce is gone or nearly so, the napa is still in fine shape and can sub for raw salads or be cooked as stir fry or in soup.

We want to do more on the fermentation front with nuts and seeds to make yogurt and cheese.  Haven't done a lot with that yet so more experiments will be taking place in our kitchen.  I'd also like to experiment with making tempeh from our home-grown garden beans and peas.  Always looking at new ways of improving our local food cuisine and having fun to boot.
 
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