Canned foods and bottled meads and ciders ready for action...
The path from gardening to food preservation is a short and well-traveled one. In the ongoing quest to eat from our garden year-round, I've gone further and further down that path over the past few years. It's been a sweaty journey (standing over steaming pots in August) but a satisfying one.
I loved this recent story on NPR about the home canning renaissance - it made me feel a little less odd, or at least not alone in my oddity, as I perused my shelves and cabinets full of homegrown items.
Christopher finally had to build more shelves for food storage this year, as my jars of canned goods had begun to creep across the floor and down the hallway and our clothes were being squeezed out of the closet by winter squash and sweet potatoes.
We have finally reached the point this year where we really can eat homegrown foods every day in the winter, and where a large part of our winter diet comes from foods we preserved from the garden.
A few heroic vegetables like winter squash, sweet potatoes, garlic, dry beans, and potatoes make it easy - no canning, freezing, fermenting, or packing in oil required.
Greek Sweet Red squash
Cured sweet potatoes in storage.
Of course there are also a few unbelievably hardy vegetables like this chard harvested in mid-January, thanks to floating row cover, make a nice fresh addition to all of the roots and relishes too.
One day we'll get in the rhythm of hoophouse greens in the winter -- all of our lettuces and winter greens growing under cover in the hoophouse now are too tiny to harvest, since we planted them a bit too late.
Bruchetta with local bread (made with NC-grown wheat!) topped with a bunch of preserved spreads -- frozen mole paste and frozen pesto, and canned sweet pepper hash andgreen tomato marmalade.
There is something magical about eating those precious preserved foods in the wintertime - it seems like such a special treat.
I always feel like I'm opening a little gift from myself when I pop open a jar of tomatoes or peppers or dilly beans.
Cherry tomatoes, basil, and pearl onions preserved in salt and oil (recipe and details here) - I sauteed them in olive oil and added fresh greens, garlic, and garbanzos for a hearty winter stew.
Sweet peppers roasted and packed in oil.
Homegrown dry black beans with garlic and preserved sweet peppers, pesto from last summer's basil, and homegrown German Butterball potato "bruchettas" with various homegrown/homemade toppings, including creamy sweet potatoes.
Dilly beans, pickled green cherry tomatoes, and various other preserved things.
And then there is the occasional special winter food gift - Chinese chestnuts from Ali in this case.