Thursday, September 25, 2014

Preserving, pickling and storing

The effort and hard work that goes into growing our own food is worth it on so many levels. We can be confident that no harmful chemicals, including pesticides and fungicides, were used, we know that the work we put into maintaining good quality soil will reap benefits in relation to plant disease and infestation resistance and, that the final produce is full of micro-nutrients and bursting with flavour.


Typically, we often have a glut of produce at certain times of the year. Whether it be a beetroot, courgettes, soft fruit or root crops, we can always find a way of preserving this valuable resource for use later in the year.


Our main methods of preservation are  pickling, making jams and chutneys, dehydrating, freezing, vacuum storage, air-drying, bain marie and cool storage.


This year we have pickled chili peppers and green walnuts. We will pickle figs and beetroot later in the season.



Our freezer contents include diced root vegetables, soft fruit not yet made into jams, beaten eggs, cooked aubergine, tomatoes, blanched vegetables, various vegetable soups, sliced peppers, various herbs and peas.


We have dehydrated pears, piesco (wild peach), apple, beetroot and figs. These are then vacuum packed and used as energy foods for when we are out walking or trekking.


Chutney and pickle features high on our menus as it is a really useful way of using fresh vegetables. So far we have made Piccalilli, Pear Chutney and Tango Pickle.


Jams either made or to make are piesco, raspberry, fig, orange and mixed fruit. We will also be making membrillo (quince jelly) from fruit given to us by Luis' sister.

We are increasing the number of vegetables we preserve using a bain marie method and so far we have had success with leeks, green beans and peppers. We would love to try more so any suggestions please drop us a line in the comments.


Air-drying includes herbs, nuts, beans and chili.

Our cool storage includes potatoes, squash, marrow, apples and onions. We find that is there is a efficient, dry circulation of air, these crops will last form many months into spring and beyond next year.


We are lucky in so much that we have plenty of storage space and we are able to grow vegetables and some salad crops all year round which reduces the need to preserve foods, never-the-less it is great to be able to scan our storage shelves for ingredients and enjoy the fruits of our labour throughout the year.


Those of you who are involved in your own food production will know only too well the amount of time and effort it takes, many hours spent not only in the vegetable garden but also in the kitchen preparing and processing, but it really is worth it and you can taste the difference when freshness is preserved. A few years ago we wrote about experiences for living a simpler life and how we prepare our own food etc. It has proved to be one of the most viewed and read pieces on our blog with over 800 views. If you want to read it you can find it here:  Downsizing: less is more

What do you preserve, pickle or store? Any tips?





15 comments:

  1. How beautiful it all is! The onions and beets look picture-perfect. Its obvious how much care and attention goes into your gardening and food processing and storing, which is integral to your lifestyle, both defining and contributing to your way of life — your quality of life. Thank you for sharing it!

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    1. Thank you Jacqueline, we are fortunate and never forget things could be so different - quality of life is something we both cherish.

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  2. all looks excellent - feels like we have been stashing the product of our labours for months now.. oh we have! - a good feeling

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    1. Thanks CIG - yes it is a great feeling knowing you can feed yourself, family and friends. Hard work at time as you know, but worth it.

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  3. I always forget just how much hard work it is until we are in the middle of this season again! Nice to know that others are busy slaving as well, not just us living this slightly strange life. But yes, it is satisfying. Lovely photos, as always.

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    1. Thank you Veronica - Slightly strange but enjoyable eh?

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  4. Your veg garden always looks so orderly, do weeds ever dare show their selves ? We leave winter roots mainly in the ground, we lift beetroot and store in a clamp. Carrots, swede, turnips and parsnips stay in the ground as do leeks and celery. We said we would not freeze veg this year but still ended up with mange tout peas, broad beans and sweet corn in the freezer, plus many bags of tomatoes with more to come. Most of the soft fruit has either been bottled or made into jam. The barn is bursting with potatoes onions and garlic. Yes, it is very hard work but you know what you are eating and there is usually some surprise veg waiting to be picked when you pop out for the evenings meal veg.
    It's also great to have so much extra that you can give to friends or barter with.

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    1. Thank you Anne - the weeds are there but I must confess Luis is particularly good at making sure the garden is weed free. Most of our root crops also stay in the ground but being warmer than most places north, we have to be careful that they don't run to seed. I wish we had a barn, that must be so useful.

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  5. Looking really good and I am ever so slightly jealous of your weed free garden. Mine is very overgrown ... but despite that it's still producing loads and like you I am preserving stuff like mad for later. I am also planning to take over some of the loft room for storage as last winter I lost pumpkins to mould as it was so mild and other winters I have lost them to frost! Next on my preserving to do list is marrow and apricot jam (I think that is your recipe) and freezing French beans.

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    1. Thank you - The weeds are there....hiding but generally Luis keeps it fairly clear. Storage which has airflow works for us so your loft sounds ideal if it isn't too warm and had an air supply. Don't think the marrow and apricot recipe is ours but it sounds delicious so we might adopt it!

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  6. Can you explain the bain marie method please Ian?

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    1. Certainly... the contents are prepared accordingly then added to sterilised jars, topped up with appropriate liquid so covered (Syrup. saline or Acidic), lids sealed, jars placed on a cloth in large pan of water (up to necks) bring to boil and continue until a vacuum is created in jar - you can normally hear the lids pop inwards or if you tap them they sound different - this process usually takes up to 15 minutes depending on contents. Cool down, dry and store in cool darkened place. It works for us - we can keep jars of tomato pesto and such well over 12 months without a problem - probably longer but it never lasts that long!

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    2. Ah! What I call bottling and the Americans call canning. I do most of our fruit this way so I don't waste freezer space, we are still eating bottled peaches and pears that I did before we left Spain, I think the last bottle we opened was pears dated 2010, they were fine, still fresh and no lose of flavour.

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  7. Ooooh, I am so jealous! You are such great gardeners!

    I am new to vegetable gardening (I'm best at English roses), and I find it very challenging here in Toledo with our extreme summers. Plus, I'm scared to death of the snakes that are always around the veg crops, so I'm a definite hands-off summer veg gardener. I am very interested in fall and winter veggies, though, so I'll be sifting through your posts to learn what I can, even though our climates and soils are quite different. There seems to be a wealth of information!

    As for food storage, I make up pots of pisto manchego, which we go through quite a lot of with two teenage boys. When there are leftovers, I just freeze them. I do can figs, though, but I cut off the stems, unlike you. Do you do that for a reason?

    Saludos desde Toledo

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    1. Thank you Lady of LaMancha - We don't envy your snakes, we do get an odd one here but never really an issue. Mothballs scattered in the garden are supposed to deter them. Winter brassicas, root crops, leeks and winter lettuce are all in and hopefully will see us into spring. We leave a small stem on as it helps to preserve the juices when dehydrating and give a little sturdy handle when pickled. We love Toledo by the way.

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