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A Harvest Preserved

One of the questions that I get asked from time to time is how we preserve our harvest.  When we first started preserving food, even before putting things in the freezer, we chose to can as much as possible.  We started off pressure canning, and then later on, I learned how to water bath can as well.  Today, our food preservation includes not only canning and freezing but also dehydrating and curing food.

apothecary and home canned food storage

Above, you'll see some of our home-canned food and most of our teas and herbs stored in this hutch that was built by my father-in-law, Richard. We've got both herbs we foraged and those we've grown, dehydrated, and stored in glass jars in the upper part of the hutch. On the countertop, tomatoes are  ripening from our summer harvest. We've also got a tub of quinoa that we harvested and winnowed a while ago. And, of course, in the ceramic jar are bones for our dog, Mojo.  Finally, the wooden chicken holds medicines and supplements for the chickens, ducks, cats and dog. The lower shelves in the hutch hold apple and pear cider, canned pears, salsa, jams and jellies, beets, applesauce, and spicy dilly beans.

Food storage

The rest of our home-canned foods are stored in the kitchen, allowing easier access this year than prior years when we kept this food in the cellar.  Our vintage kitchen features eight of these high shelves, where a chair or stool is required to reach.  I believe these cupboards were built with home-canned food in mind, as the shelves are the perfect height for the jars. The shelves also work great for storing extra empty jars.

harvest preserved

These shelves hold tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, zucchini relish, canned summer squash, zucchini pineapple, green beans, tomatillo salsa, more jams and jellies, and home canned tuna.

About once a week, I get a chair from the dining room and climb up to the long, high row of shelves to get supplies for upcoming meals. And when I do that, I often feel like I'm grocery shopping in my own private store.  The same feeling strikes me as I go out to the garden to gather fresh greens this time of year -- lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss chard, cilantro, parsley, and bok choy.  So many foods are right here in and around our home, allowing us to avoid buying these foods from the grocery store or shop mid-week for fresh ingredients.  It's that way with eggs, too, as we have enough hens to keep our family stocked  with eggs over the colder months.  Our girls have slowed down production, but they haven't stopped entirely, giving us one to three eggs total each day during fall and winter.  

harvest preserved

Out near the laundry room is our freezer, where we have squirreled away another part of the harvest. Berries, cherries, tomatoes, garlic scape pesto, peas, beans, fish and a whole bunch else...each shelf goes back a ways and is full.  There are even homemade apple pies in there ready to be baked.

Pumpkins line our parlor, where my husband and I sit each morning to drink coffee and read the news.  All those bright orange gourds surround us as we talk about what's going on in the world.  There's also a sugar pie pumpkin on the counter next to the stove, awaiting Thanksgiving dinner, where it will be featured as pumpkin pie. Gratitude.  That's what I feel when I look at these chubby pumpkins that bless us with their goodness from our garden.

There's one other space with food stored away, and that's the old freezer/refrigerator room where our vintage dairy farm used to keep milk and butchered cows.  It isn't operational right now, but the space is being used. I decided to hold our garlic in there this year. The garlic is hanging from the vintage meat hooks.

harvest preserved

Adjacent to where the garlic hangs, we've got our bee supplies.  Frames of honeycomb, some of which are still filled with pollen, are preserved here for next spring when we hope to set up our beehives once again after this year's devastation.  It smells lovely in this room, kind of a sweet beeswax aroma.

bees honeycomb preserved on frames

Preserving the honeycomb on the frames gives us a head start next year since the bees won't have to expend energy building comb before they can collect nectar.

Having a well-stocked pantry, freezer and apothecary has become one of our favorite parts of the farm. The preserved food is a blessing because we don't have to worry about food security. This has especially been true during the pandemic.  We are also less impacted by disruptions that exist in the supply chain during these uncertain times. If necessary, we would have enough food to sustain us without going to the store, since we have protein sources, including eggs and fishing within walking distance, and all the vitamins and nutrients provided through homegrown foods.  We also have medicinal herbs all around us. I am ever so grateful for these blessings.