• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

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

 
John Todd
Posts: 42
3
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Oh how our gardens grow!

So much so that we can't process all that food without spending entire days-after-days running the canner, dehydrator, smoker, etc.  Even then, it's coming in faster than we can process and we're losing a lot of it.

I need a faster, easier method of preserving lots of food.  It's your typical garden veggies type of produce.

Perhaps my question is not so much about method but workflow?  Does anyone have a "food shop" that gets cranked up when the garden produce starts coming in?

I have an entire room I can devote to this, and some very large spaces outdoors.  Any equipment used outdoors would have to stay outdoors for many days/weeks until the season winds down.

I don't know quite what I am asking?  I know what I want: to efficiently preserve all that garden produce.  But geez, we can only run 2 canner loads a day.  We easily need to run the equivalent of 20 canner loads a day for several days/ couple of weeks at a time.   Dehydrators?  I'm thinking of building a humongous one for outdoors use and run it off an extension cord.

What to do?  Youtube videos?  Personal pages showing what others have done?

If there is no readily available solution, then let's troubleshoot/dialogue on this.  A home preservation room.  In springtime it would be a sprouting/transplant room! 

Thanks!
-John
 
Todd Parr
pollinator
Posts: 1416
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
58
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I dabble in canning (meaning I don't can nearly enough, just some venison) and fermentation but for me the most cost and time effective method is freezing for the produce that can be handled that way.  For squash, I just keep it in the basement off the floor for as long as possible, and potatoes stay in a root cellar.  I couldn't process enough food otherwise and still work for a living   I bought another freezer recently and unless it's a grid-down situation, you can't beat it.

If you have some extra time, I would think a very large solar dehydrator and a root cellar would go a long way to helping.
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1537
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
22
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Selling it or converting it into livestock might be options.
 
Sergio Cunha
Posts: 15
Location: Southeast Brazil
1
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Are the days sunny now where you live?  If so, you can try this simple way to dehydratate:
Build one or more long "tables" att a sunny spot using pallets. The tables must be inclined to the same angle of the sun at noon. The pallets should be chemical free.
Make a rim 3 or 4 inches tall on the edges of the table.
Cover the whole table,  rim and all, with cotton or linen cloth. The cloth should be in natural brownish collor, not white and without any dyeing. Use a whole cloth, not pieces, or insects will enter from below. "Sink" the cloth, so it will touch the whole surface of the pallets.
Put the fruits or vegetables on that table and cover the whole thing with a very thin cloth. This second cloth should not touch  the food.That kind of fabric used on mosquito net is ideal. On the evening cover the tables with plastic so it won't get wet at night. Take the plastic out in the morning.
The food willl be deydatrated in tree to five days.
I suggest you try this method in only one pallet  first and see if it works in your region.
 
Mark Tudor
Posts: 112
Location: SoCal USA
13
bike cat dog tiny house trees
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
While it won't help much now, would it help next year to either plant a wider variety of plants that ripen throughout the season, or stagger planting once every week or two? So instead of a massive harvest in 1-2 weeks, you have smaller harvests over 4-8 weeks for each growing season? That would be the cheapest option, while the more expensive option is to buy a canner for every burner on the stove.
 
Jim Fry
Posts: 145
Location: Stone Garden Farm Richfield Twp., Ohio
13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What do you mean, "...we can only run 2 canner loads a day."? Do you mean only two batches a day? Or do you mean you only have the space to use two canners at a time? If two batches, that doesn't really make sense. Even if you "heat" for an hour, its still fairly easy to do 5/8 or more heats a day. If you mean you can only run two canners at a time, get another stove. There are wood stoves on craigslist all the time. Get one and park it outside. --Or, ...get a bigger canner. We use the standard size, but I've seen ones that are bigger around to take more jars, and even some that allow stacking jars on top of each other.

Another thing you can do is delay processing the most non-perishable foods. Put them in a cool spot, out of the light and get to them as you have time. For drying we use old window screens. We lay them on top of each other back to back so there is a two inch or so gap between the screens. We lay cheese cloth on the bottom screen and place the herbs/vegies on the cloth. Then lay the other screen on top to keep off flies. We have short chains on each corner and hang the screens near the ceiling of our pantry, which is well ventilated and has no direct sunlight. Everything dries remarkably well and quickly. One other thing we do is invite friends over to help process and preserve. It makes a nice social event, and they always seem to enjoy the well spent and friendly time.
 
Mike Jay
Posts: 801
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
43
books food preservation hunting solar trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm not sure why you can only run two canner loads a day? 

Some ways we have increased our canning efficiency are:

Victorio food strainer lets you take roughly chopped up tomatoes and turn them into puree/juice and a separate pile of seeds/skin/stems.  Also takes softened quartered apples and turns them into applesauce and a separate pile of seeds/skin/pith. 

We use the Victorio to juice the tomatoes every four days.  Once juiced, the first batch goes in the fridge.  Four days later we juice the new tomatoes and can both batches of juice into soup/sauce/etc. 

If the canner is the limitation, get two so you can toggle between them as you make your food.

Keep the jars warm in the oven.

Try to do all your salsa in one shot, tomato sauce in another, etc. 

Freeze berries for jelly/jam until winter when you have more time.

Look into a steam canner to replace your water bath canner.  This isn't a pressure canner.  It just uses steam to heat the jars to 212 degrees and uses much less water = less time and energy.

Our best set-up was a cinder block arrangement with a steel plate on top and a chimney.  We could use free wood to heat the steel plate and then fit two canners, two stock pots and a few other pots on the hot steel.  4 of us working together turned 8 bushels of apples into 140 quarts of applesauce in a 6 hour day.  One person chopped apples into fourths or eights, another put them in a stock pot with 1" of water for a few minutes and then cranked them through the Victorio, a third took the finished applesauce and put it back on the cooker and added cinnamon and the third and fourth person worked together to fill jars and keep two water bath canners working hard.

I'd love to have a canning kitchen outside to keep the mess in one place.  Maybe next year.....
 
Stacy Witscher
Posts: 128
Location: SF Bay Area
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi John, is there a reason that you can only do 2 canner loads a day? Are you limited by canner size/capacity, or time, etc.? During peak preservation time, I try to alternate between methods and recipes. Like lately, I've had an abundance of cucumbers, so I have 8 quarts of refrigerator pickles, no canning required, 12 pints of low-temperature pasteurization pickles (for which I gather cucumbers over multiple days to do a big load as they are more time consuming). And, given that I was going to be out of town for a couple of days I harvested tiny cucumbers for Cornichons a Cru, again no canning required, to give me some lee way until I way home and able to deal with things again.

Each crop has equally diverse preservation methods, allowing me to never get bogged down in one.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
Posts: 2673
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
518
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I thought that bottling and/or dehydrating was all about spending entire days on the project... Like others, I was startled by the comment about only doing two canner loads per day. Looking forward to hearing about that... There are tools that allow scalding hot jars to be taken out of pressure canners so that the next batch can go right back in.

If pickling something like green beans, the bottles only need to be in a water bath for perhaps 10 minutes, but for pressure cooking, it might take 90 minutes. So pickling things rather than bottling can save a lot of time.

How much food can I actually eat? Doesn't do much good to preserve something, if I am not going to eat it. At my place, if we have 20 bottles of pickled green beans, that's more than enough for a year. It helps a lot for canning to be a family/community event. The more help, the quicker it goes. Even if the help only sits and gabs.

Some crops, like corn, I want to harvest all at once, and do the entire dirty project in one day if possible. What a mess cutting corn off the cobs. Other crops like bottled green beans come in a few at a time for a month. So they get handled as they get ready.

My favorite crops for preserving are things like onions, garlic, carrots, beets, turnips, potatoes, squash, flour corn, dry beans. They get harvested and stored on a shelf or cellar until used. Some crops will sit in the field for months, waiting to be harvested. They can be harvested for preserving when other things are not needing to be preserved.

I don't have any inclination to preserve everything that comes out of my garden. I'd rather feed excess zucchini to the neighbor's pig, or to the compost heap, than have a food that I don't care for cluttering up my freezer.


 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Posts: 10066
Location: Portugal
936
bee bike books duck forest garden greening the desert solar trees wofati
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
How about a large solar dehydrator or two?

 
David Livingston
master steward
Posts: 3786
Location: Anjou ,France
191
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Pickling , chutneys and jams don't need the canning process
Also grow types of food that keeps well.
Eg green Kuri pumpkins keep until may

David
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 992
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
125
books forest garden rabbit solar tiny house woodworking
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've never had the problem you're looking at because I can stagger my harvests, plus grow most things year around. But if confronted with a massive harvest, I would try to diversify how I preserved the crop. Can some. Dry some. Make pickles. Make sauces, syrups, chutneys, etc. Freeze some. I'd pick some things in the  early stage, such as thin tiny beans or green tomatoes. And leave some to mature, such as letting beans and peas go to green shell or dry stage. That would help relieve the pressure of preserving the harvest all in the same week.

I would seek to trade or sell some of the excess so that it wouldn't turn into a loss. I often do that now, giving small excesses to neighbors with the understanding that they will give me something in return in the future. A variation of this, I have given my excess bananas to a person who makes various bananas products. They give a nice selection of their goods back to me as payment for the bananas. Thus I get dried banana chips, banana leather, banana butter, banana syrup, and banana bread that I didn't have to put my own time and effort into. Another variation -- I sometimes give excess to the local restaurant who, in return, gives me credit for future meals.
 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 391
Location: Missouri Ozarks
33
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We are trying more and more to focus on things whose preservation requires little work beyond harvesting.  Seminole pumpkins keep well at room temp.  We're still eating ones harvested nearly a year ago, and they have made it through a humid Missouri summer.  Some of them went moldy, or started to rot, but the pigs didn't care.  Grains and legumes/pulses too.  Field corn.  And root crops that keep well in the ground.  And cold-hardy greens.

Then there are things like sauerkraut.  A few good cabbages, a kraut cutter, and a 5-gallon crock, and you can put up quite a lot of food in very little time.

There's a book called Preserving Food Without Canning, Freezing, (etc. etc. -- I don't recall the exact title) that has some good tips, both for smaller and larger quantities of produce.

I would dehydrate a lot more if I had a way to do it more efficiently.  I just did 9 trays of pears.  After slicing all those pears just so, and laying them on the trays just so, and dealing with sticky fingers and a sticky knife and a sticky cutting board, I was just done.
 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1808
Location: Pacific Northwest
297
cat duck forest garden hugelkultur cooking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wes Hunter wrote: I would dehydrate a lot more if I had a way to do it more efficiently.  I just did 9 trays of pears.  After slicing all those pears just so, and laying them on the trays just so, and dealing with sticky fingers and a sticky knife and a sticky cutting board, I was just done.


One of these (https://www.amazon.com/MAGNESIUM-PEELER-Spiralizer-Durable-Magnesium) things really helps with that. Spear the pear with it and spin it through. It peals, cores, and slices it into one big spiral. You then do one cut down the side of the pear, and WAH-LA! you have sliced pears (or apples). All you then have to do is lay the slices on the tray, which doesn't take too long.



Without one of those, it is a pain, though! I've been slicing bananas, as we got two big crates of them, to make banana chips. It's long, sticky work! Fruit leather is easier--blend the bananas in the blender and pour on the fruit leather tray. Takes a long time to dehydrate, though, and I only have two of the fruit leather trays...
 
Mike Jay
Posts: 801
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
43
books food preservation hunting solar trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Another hint for pears is to slice them in half just off center of the stem, then use a sharpened spoon or melon baller to scoop out the core parts and then cut out the stem bit from the half that has it.  I haven't made a spoon like this yet but I heard of it from an experienced homesteader.
 
S Tonin
Posts: 42
Location: zone 6a, ish
6
food preservation forest garden fungi trees
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As others mentioned: freeze berries and soft fruits for jams and all the tomatoes you plan to juice/sauce.  Canning them over the winter helps keep the house warm, too.  If you're keeping your dehydrator running 24/7, do the things that don't take long (herbs, greens) as the first batch of the day, then put in the things that take longer (tomatoes, peppers, etc).  Depending on your timing (and weather), you should be able to do two batches of greens in the dehydrator and still have time for something bigger overnight.  If you dehydrate things like shredded zucchini, carrots, or beets, use a food processor to do the shredding for you (provided you have electricity and that's the route you want to go) and then freeze them.  They can be thawed and dehydrated later without appreciable loss of quality or nutrition.  Also batch-prepping stuff for multiple uses can be a great help when it's going to all be processed in a reasonable timeframe--like, saving a week's worth of peppers, then washing/ cutting up all at once.  In the same vein, do all your chopping and pre-measure into individual containers for each batch.  Like, when I do salsa, I typically have enough to do two batches at a time.  One I make medium-hot and one I make mild, but all the ingredients are basically the same.  I use dollar store iced tea pitchers (the kind with oz/ cups marked on the sides) to measure my ingredients (wet and dry measuring cups are the same by volume anyway; this isn't something that requires the precision of 100% exact, level measurements like baking does).  I chop up all my peppers and distribute them between the pitchers, then the rest go in a bowl to be dehydrated.   I might can one batch of salsa that same day and do the other the following day, do both right away, or put both off.  At least it's one step done for multiple projects.

For canning, the more room you have to work, the better.  I keep my jars and utensils on a cookie sheet lined with a tea towel so I have a modular set-up I can move out of my way until I need to use it.  According to the newest canning guidelines, you don't need to scald your jars or even keep them hot--thoroughly washed room-temperature jars are safe when processed correctly, so even if you store them in the oven to keep them out of the way while working, you don't have to turn it on (which is a boon in the height of summer).  The only issue may be breakage/ cracks with jars if the temperature difference is too great (liquids capable of being heated past 212*, like sugar syrups, might be marginally more risky, especially if the ambient temp is cool and/or there are strong drafts).  Also remember that high-acid foods (jams, jellies, chutneys, salsas, pickles, etc.) that aren't water-bath processed won't last as long, may not properly seal or (even worse) create a false seal.  Yes, they do still use older preserving methods in Europe and around the world, including open kettle canning, but people still get very sick from them when they do go bad.  A little mold might not kill you, but it changes the pH so that bacteria can grow; in some cases, that can kill you.  My feeling is this: if I'm going to put out the time and expense (even if the food is free, the energy, jars, and lids are not, nor is my labor) of preserving something, I want to take all precautions I can to ensure I'll be able to eat the food and that it won't make me sick.  (Sorry, I'm kind of a crusader on proper canning practices and I tend to evangelize.)

I think if you're looking for ideas on set-up for a preserving room, start by doing an image search for variations of "farmhouse summer kitchen" to see what kinds of set-ups might make sense in your space/ for your work style.  YouTube resources: Fouch-o-matic Off Grid, An American Homestead, and Our Half-Acre Homestead all have variations of outdoor summer kitchens; the first two are off-grid and OHAH's is not.  It's been a while since I watched any YouTubes, so I'm blanking on any others, but I know there are more.  Another thing you can look up is how industrial kitchens are set up for workflow.  And, if you're ever near Lancaster County, PA, there's a place called the Jam & Relish Kitchen in Intercourse (yes, it is the town name) that has an observation window into their canning kitchen so you can get an idea of how they do it.  It might even be on YouTube, I haven't checked.

You know how you work and what kind of help you can expect to have, so I would start with that.  Assembly-line is always faster and more efficient than one person working in three square feet of space.  Make sure everyone who's going to be working can come to agreement about the set-up, though; if you have one person who doesn't intuit the logic of the layout, it might waste more time than it saves.  Every two years, my parents buy 100 ears of corn (we don't have the land to grow sweet corn, nor the sunlight, sigh) to freeze.  We have the process streamlined now, and it's the biggest single food preservation project we do (I do all my canning without help, it's just easier for me).  The key to making it work for us is setting up the stations the night before, and taking short, frequent breaks (I need to step away from the hot stove, someone else needs to uncramp their hands from repetitive motions, plus it evens things out so there are no bottlnecks in the flow).  Because of the way the burners are set up on the stove, I need to work backwards to what's intuitive to me, but it's a minor thing.  I use the canner to blanch the corn, then it goes into a stock pot of ice water, then into a waiting dishpan to be moved to the kitchen island where my dad uses an electric knife to cut it off the cob.  Everything falls onto a cookie sheet, which is emptied into a either a large bowl or a stock pot (we keep two or sometimes three cycling once we get going).  Cobs go into a tub on the floor (I use some of them for corn stock, but most just end up on the compost pile).  When the bowl is full, it goes over to the kitchen table, where my mom is in charge of bagging, tagging, and sealing.  We've used quart-sized sandwich bags and vacuum sealed in the past; I actually prefer the Ziplock because the corn is so wet that it's nothing but problems for the Foodsaver.  All those bags get arranged in a box, then go down to the basement freezer.  From shucking to freezing, it takes three of us about four hours (though, with all the Foodsaver problems last year, it took us over six because we had a bottleneck at the end).  I also did some experimenting with dehydrating (which was a win, because I love stewed dried sweet corn, it's a regional thing) and oven-drying, so my routine next year is probably going to change in the end step to accommodate loading dehydrator trays.

That also reminds me: Cookie sheets are your friend.  The big aluminum half-sheets are the best- sturdy and with lots of surface area.  Put one under a cutting board and it catches all the juice so you're not constantly wiping countertops.  They make handy transport for any odds and ends to be shuttled between stations.  Line them with a towel and fill your canning jars on them; unload the canner onto one (again, towel-lined; works as insulation and helps with slippage) so you can get the cooling jars out of your way (though try not to move them until the seals pop or, for pressure canned food, as long as you can realistically wait for the liquid to stop boiling in the jar--the longer the better.).  Dump your dehydrator trays onto one before packaging instead of fooling with trying to bend the screens or pick each piece off individually.  In that same vein, dollar-store dish pans are invaluable if you're not opposed to plastic and ick.  They're great for washing things, carrying things, and they're a good shape and size for holding a large volume of stuff without taking up a larger footprint than necessary.  Restaurant bins (either plastic or stainless steel) would probably be just as good (though more expensive and harder to find, depending on where you live) and, if they're the ones with lids, you can just pop them in the fridge.  And they stack, which is also a big bonus.

If you're a person who works most efficiently from lists and schedules and outlines, make one.  You'll probably have an idea of what you'll be harvesting at least a week ahead of time, so make a list of each crop and the expected yield and how long it will keep in the fridge/ cellar/ countertop, then decide what you want to do with each of them, then write out the steps for any and all of the methods of preservation you choose.  I'm very poor with time management when it comes to event planning (and let's face it, preserving a lot of food at once is an event), so I often make a loose list of the steps I need to take to get things done so I don't get overwhelmed.  It also allows me to find chores I can combine to save time, or things I can schedule to happen concurrently ("while jars are in canner, wash pot salsa was in").  For some people it's just intuitive or routine to do this stuff, but for others it isn't, and doing dry-runs, even on paper, can help.

And one last bit of advice for big, ongoing preservation projects: CLEAN AS YOU GO.  If you dribble, wipe it up.  Finished with a bowl?  Wash it right away.  Don't leave everything until the end of the day; it's overwhelming and terrible and no one likes cleaning.  I say this because I'm bad at practicing what I preach, but I'm trying to get better.  If you have the room to have a dish pan or container of soapy water handy, it just makes everything so much easier.
 
John Todd
Posts: 42
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is all good stuff!  Thanks, and keep it coming!
 
Stacy Witscher
Posts: 128
Location: SF Bay Area
3
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To add to the cookie sheets are your friends idea, I buy only standard half-sheet pans, and utilize a speed rack which holds 18 half-sheet pans (or 9 sheet pans, but I don't find these useful in a home kitchen). I have also built a drying rack for the speed rack, simple 1x2's with window screening, which I dry herbs and stuff on. This takes care of the lots of half-sheet pans but no where to put them dilemma. Makes very good use of a small footprint, and it rolls.
 
Katie Jarvis
Posts: 68
2
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you check out "american homestead" on youtube, they have an episode about the outdoor canner they built. It's HUGE since she cans most of their food for the winter from their garden. That could allow you to do all your canning more easily.
 
John Todd
Posts: 42
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow! SO many videos, and I can't seem to find the one I want.  Anyway you could throw us a link to it?
 
Katie Jarvis
Posts: 68
2
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sorry about that, they do have a ton of videos! Here's the one about the canner! They are pretty good about responding to emails if you wanted to ask them for more details.

https://youtu.be/zkRoIgis7kQ
 
Katie Jarvis
Posts: 68
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Oh, and you can fast forward to 6 min to grt to the canning part
 
John Todd
Posts: 42
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks!
 
R Scott
Posts: 3362
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Katie Jarvis wrote:Sorry about that, they do have a ton of videos! Here's the one about the canner! They are pretty good about responding to emails if you wanted to ask them for more details.

https://youtu.be/zkRoIgis7kQ


Using the maple syrup evaporator as a canner is pretty smart thinking! That is some serious production capacity!

Lacto fermentation is my favorite method for easy no power preserving, especially if you only have a jar or two at a time.  But freezing is definitely my favorite for most veggies if you have freezer space.

 
Laurie Lee
Posts: 1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Why not share your surplus with friends and neighbors? Is it possible that you planted too much for your needs? I feel that wasting food is a sin. Yes, I know that's a politically incorrect word, but there it is. I got over my guilt in wasting food when my friend had a bumper crop of apples and she expected me to harvest all that she didn't want. I could not do it all, and finally have up. At first, I felt guilty. Then I started to laugh. All those apples were God's joke on me. We can't use everything that He gives us, and I think it's okay too toss some of it in the compost pile--but not before we offer to share.
 
Ben Tyler
Posts: 20
1
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow, what a great thread! Thanks for all the info everyone! Here's my 0.02 on preserving methods:

First of all, we're off grid but I sure do wish I could plug in a couple chest freezers in the basement.

This year we're actually trying to NOT can anything for the first time, and so far it's not that bad. My reasoning is that canning is by far the messiest and most involved preservation method, and it's only been around since the mid-1800's. So before that everyone got along just fine without it.

#1 Easiest Preservation Method: We grow lots of cold-tolerant crops (and the most cold-tolerant varieties of them) that can simply be kept in the ground until needed, possibly under row cover or mulch. Carrots, parsnips, leeks, cabbage, kale, Brussels, chard, collards, these things are all just going to weather the storm out there. We'll keep an eye on the night time temps and give them more row cover when they need it, or harvest and process if we think it might get too cold.

#2: As previously stated, storage crops are great, like potatoes, onions, garlic, squashes, pumpkins, apples, beets, winter turnips - and eggs too, actually. We have lots of paper bags full of these things now. Just have to remember to check on your stores weekly and remove anything that's starting to go bad. Also, we don't bother trying to keep everything at their proper humidity levels. Everything is in the same cool, dry location. All this means is our root crops become dry, shriveled little rocks that need to be boiled to soften them before eating, not a big deal.

#3: Drying. This year we're drying a LOT of stuff. All of our fruits (except for our best appes), greens, herbs, mushrooms, and most veggies. Our drying locations have been running at maximum capacity since early June. Things are tapering off now, but we'll still be drying things into October. We have 3 drying locations: solar dryer, greenhouse, and barn rafters.

The solar dryer is the powerhouse of the three. One or two sunny days will turn anything crispy dry. Its main drawback is its small size. We reserve the solar dryer for the wettest, choicest crops, like fruit, mushrooms and tomatoes.

The greenhouse is second-best. Once all the seedlings are planted out by early June, we scrub the greenhouse clean, tie down a shade cloth over the whole thing (don't want too much sun exposure), scrub all of our wooden seed trays, and turn them into drying racks. The greenhouse takes 2-4 sunny days to dry most things, but its capacity is MUCH bigger than the dryer. One drawback is the risk of flies. This is why we keep our wettest stuff in the dryer, which is totally insect-proof. Drying greens and herbs are of little interest to insects and pass unnoticed.

The third best is the barn rafters. Our barn is dark and cool but very dry and well ventilated. It takes a week or two for things to get crispy dry hanging up in the rafters. But the beauty of the barn is that it can quickly receive a huge amount of produce for drying, with very little prepping needed. We tie bunches of herbs, flowers, greens, onions and garlic with twine and hang them from the rafters. No up-front chopping necessary, just a quick wash and tie em up. When they're done, cram them in brown paper bags and move them to their permanent storage location. Later, in winter when we have more free time, we revisit the bags and remove the stems, or crush the long onion greens into tiny bits with our hands, etc. Mush easier to do those things when the plants are brittle and dry.

EDIT: I almost forgot to mention lactofermentation and making vinegar! Sauerkraut will last for months and months in jars in the pantry, and our apple cider vinegar made from the slow accumulation of cores and unsavory bits lasts for 2 years or more. I make big batches of both in food grade 5 gallon buckets.
 
John Todd
Posts: 42
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This thread keeps getting awesomer and awesomer! 

Keep'em coming, folks!

Let's start throwing in links to pages/articles/videos on non-canning preservation.  We could turn this thread into a mini library.

Thanks!
-John

 
Gail Gardner
Posts: 126
Location: SE Oklahoma
2
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
S Tonin wrote: Every two years, my parents buy 100 ears of corn (we don't have the land to grow sweet corn, nor the sunlight, sigh) to freeze.  We have the process streamlined now, and it's the biggest single food preservation project we do 


A friend of mine whose family farmed with teams of horses in the early 1900s told me they put the corn cobs in the holes under plants. I think she told me for watermelons, but I have since seen people putting corn meal in the soil under tomatoes.

So an alternate use of the corn cobs that could enhance your other garden plants is to put a cob in each hole under what you transplant. This could require more research to determine which plants would benefit (or at least not be detrimental).

Hopefully, others here may have some further input on this.
 
Bring out your dead! Or a tiny ad:
Video of all the PDC and ATC (~177 hours) - HD instant view
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/paul-wheaton/digital-market/Video-PDC-ATC-hours-HD
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!