I think that all of us have come to realize that times are not what they used to be. Jobs are more scarce, the economy is crap and prices on things like fresh produce will probably go up this winter when they're not readily in season. This is one of the reasons we decided to plant our garden. Unfortunately it hasn't gone as well as we had hoped, with our corn getting corn smut (I swear it's real, I didn't make it up!), our tomatoes getting blossom end rot and a recent infestation of squash bugs. So although I'm working on saving the tomatoes, zucchini and pumpkin and they may be salvageable, the corn is dead. (That scene in Oklahoma keeps rolling over in my mind...."Poor Jud is deeeeeeaaaaaaad..." Only I hear it as "Our corn is dead." I'm weird that way.)
That's all the more reason why I wanted to start freezing as much of the fresh vegetables as possible. I tried to think of how I would use them and froze them accordingly. For instance, the zucchini I would primarily use in zucchini bread (I'd love at Christmas-time to be able to give beautifully wrapped loaves of yummy zucchini bread to friends). And carrots would either be shredded and used in said zucchini bread or sliced up & put into stews or simmered all day in a crock pot with a roast. Mmmmmmmmmm.....
So that's why I spent several hours yesterday harvesting (sounds so much better than "picking"), washing, peeling, slicing, blanching and freezing carrots. You should see my orange-tinted finger nails... But the end result was worth it. Fourteen cups of sliced carrots and two cups of small whole baby carrots tucked away into our freezer, waiting to be pulled out and cooked on a cold winter day or any other time between now and next summer. Then after the carrots, just for good measure I did the same thing (minus the peeling & slicing of course) to the green beans I had picked from the garden. It was a small amount of green beans, just enough for a side dish with one meal--my husband commented, "That's not going to get us very far." But this was just one harvesting. Green beans grow constantly and as you pick the mature ones, they continually reproduce. So each time I harvest a new batch I'll prepare it & pop it in the freezer.
Here's a little tip, thanks to my mom. (Hi Mom!) A couple of weeks ago I had spent the good part of an afternoon shredding zucchini and carrots for that zucchini bread I was talking about. I knew I was going to be using it zucchini bread and would need to measure out one cup of each for the mix. Not knowing if zucchini & carrots could be frozen together, I called my mom and asked her. She suggested freezing the shredded vegetables in muffin tins (did you know they measure exactly 1/2 cup each?) and then popping those into freezer bags. What an awesome idea! And it worked great! (Thanks Mom!)
I can't help but feel a little smug over knowing I've got things stored away in my freezer so that any time I need a side dish or an addition to a stew I can just pull it out and use it. I keep thinking of all the trips to the grocery store when I can skip past the produce section, knowing I have my own private little produce section waiting at home in my freezer. Things haven't gotten bad enough (yet) in our world that this is an absolute necessity. I can only imagine back in the pioneer days when food harvested during the summer and fall had to sustain a whole family throughout winter. I can imagine long hours out in the fields (no tiny gardens for the pioneers!) in fall, looking for those last remnants of the veggies that are going to nourish your family when you're snowed in and can't get to town. (Sorry, I appear to be channeling my inner Laura Ingalls....) But there is definite satisfaction in knowing we will save money during these tough times by storing up our own food. And just wait until we get our pork and beef in the freezer...I'll be over the moon. :)
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