’Tis the season of pears, apples, late blackberries, early mushrooms and preserving garden vegetable abundance.
What better time to fill our cellars, pantries, freezers and basements with nutrient-dense, local and just plain delicious produce? Along the way we’re also reducing our footprint, building immune systems and possibly even supporting the local economy.
Some of you are already well ahead of the game and have stacks of preserves, favourite recipes on cards and a wealth of mason jars. If not, no need to panic. There are a few creative solutions to last minute, fall food preserving.
If you’re keen to do your own canning, freezing and drying, great! You don’t even need to have all your own equipment. How about hosting a canning evening with a friend or family member? Get some kids involved in the chopping and cleaning up. All involved are usually rewarded with yummy, taste-testing opportunities and maybe even treats for the road.
Canning jars are definitely tricky to find at this point, but a few stores are still ordering in new stock and a call out to friends or visit to the thrift store may land you the treasure you seek.
Didn’t grow a garden this year? Plenty of neighbours have a glut of fruit in their yards they don’t know what to do with. Offer to pick and share the harvest they aren’t yet accessing. Beyond this, there are u-pick berry farms, the tail end of blackberry season, the farmers’ market, canning trading circles and multiple market gardens peppered throughout the region to acquire some local food fare.
Some grocery stores will soon be getting winter squash you can store somewhere cool in your home without needing to process at all for a number of months. Curing winter squash, however, greatly extends its storage capacity.
If you’re growing your own, wait until the leaves begin to wither, but remember to harvest before the first frost. You can harden off your squash after picking by curing in the sun for about 10 days, rotating occasionally. This should result in a thicker skin that your nail can’t puncture easily.
Some keeners even go another step and treat the skin with a light vinegar-infused cloth wipe to kill off any fungi and bacteria that could be lurking. Squash with intact stems also tend to preserve longer.
If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of food you have, opt for simpler preservation methods like pitting and freezing or air drying. Borrow or invest in a dehydrator for larger volumes of fruit and even veggies; kale chips are a fun option for your kale forest.
Fruit butters and sauces are good go-tos that are simpler, but, let’s be honest, still involve an investment of time peeling, stirring and sanitizing.
Frozen fruit is one of the best options if you have a freezer chest as you can decide what to do with it later into the fall. Wine, jam, fruit leather and crumbles all come from the same humble beginnings.
This is the ideal time to cash in on nature’s abundance to enjoy by the light of the fire in the quieter days of winter.
Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste-reduction education program. For more information, email info@LetsTalkTrash.ca or go to LetsTalkTrash.ca.