Healthy Beginnings

Eat Locally Grown Food All Year

It just makes sense to eat locally grown food as much as possible. Not only is less petroleum used to transport it, but best of all, local produce is picked ripe — when it’s at its peak of flavor and nutrition.

Saving Summer Produce for the Cold Months
Canning is still basic. For years, I’ve used a water-bath canner to preserve tomatoes, pickles and some orchard fruits. High-acid foods can be safely preserved this way, but when in doubt, the Ball Blue Book of Preserving gives guidance in all aspects of canning.

Fermenting and pickling add variety. Cabbage and cucumbers are two things that I ferment in crocks in the basement before canning. The advantage of putting cucumbers in a brine-filled crock is that it allows me to add a few each day as I gather them from the garden. After the crop has peaked and we’re able to eat each day’s harvest, I allow a couple weeks for those in the crock to pickle before I can them.

I cut and salt the cabbage destined to be sauerkraut, then put it in the crock and pound it with a wooden mallet. When preparing sauerkraut, use noniodized salt to protect the necessary bacteria for fermentation. It takes only a few weeks for the cabbage to ferment. Then I pack it in quart jars that are processed in a water bath.

I sometimes use a more direct method of making sauerkraut and just pack shredded cabbage into clean quart jars, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of noniodized salt on top and fill the jars up to their necks with boiling water. After placing the lid and ring on, the cabbage will ferment right in the jar without further processing. Cabbage (and sauerkraut) is high in vitamin C, so we don’t need to import oranges in the winter!

The freezer still seems essential. The contents of the freezer vary with the current year’s harvest. The pressure cooker softens vegetables, but freezing preserves their texture. I’ve learned to label bags so I don’t thaw diced bell peppers for dinner when I wanted green beans.

Some of last year’s peaches made it into the freezer, too, but preserving them by canning them in a hot-water bath would have been an option, too. Shredded zucchini is frozen, so it’s easy to make desserts, such as zucchini bread, in winter.

It’s fun to dry or dehydrate foods. Dried beans have become a staple at our house, and we use them frequently in winter meals. Many varieties of beans have made their way to us through friends and seed savers.

If one variety of beans appears dry and I have an extra moment, I cut or pull the vines and put them in a basket in the hot tool shed. They stay there until the slower evenings when I pull out a lawn chair to face the sunset and sit and shell beans into a large bowl. When the chickens head into their coop, I close up the henhouse and go inside for the night, too. No wonder I find it a pleasure instead of work!

Excerpted from Mother Earth News magazine, the original guide to living wisely. For more information contact Mother Earth News at (800) 234-3368 or email at www.motherearthnews.com to subscribe. ©2005 by Ogden Publications, Inc.