Fall Cookery – Preserving Local Food

Hay Bale

Hay Bale

I connected with Local Harvest CSA last week. The farm looked great.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey stopped there with my state representative, Bobby Kaufmann. I spent a couple of hours chatting and collecting information for an article that appeared Saturday in the Iowa City Press Citizen.

The next day Susan provided three crates of bell pepper seconds to eat and preserve. The freezer and vegetable drawer are now full. The good news is there weren’t many clinkers among them.

Our garden kept me busy this summer, producing more than enough for our kitchen and some to give some away. Tomatoes, kale and hot peppers are in abundance. The rest of the Red Delicious apples will soon be harvested. I spent most of Monday in the kitchen preserving food.

The kitchen day began with picking a bucket of tomatoes and jalapeno peppers in the garden.

Cutting the bad spots from the tomatoes, I cooked them and made sauce using an old timey tomato juicer with a wooden cone. The byproduct was 1-1/2 quarts of juice which is chilling in the ice box, ready for soup.

Coring and cutting bell peppers into slabs for the freezer is straightforward. I freeze them on a cookie sheet, then bag them for storage. That way they don’t freeze together. Two bags left from last year were in good shape so I added six more — a full year’s supply.

A bag of roasted red peppers and one of jalapenos was left in the freezer from last year. After thawing, I cut the jalapenos in half and put both into the Dutch oven. Adding bits and pieces of pepper leftover from the freezing operation, once tender, the lot went into the food processor until the mixture reached the consistency of relish. I put the result into half-pint jars and processed in a water bath.

I make some applesauce each year even though there is plenty in the pantry. The labor produced two quarts which wait in the ice box until more jars are ready to process in the water bath.

The remainder of the first crate of Red Delicious apples was juiced. I spent half an hour managing vinegar, bottling what was finished from the two-quart jar started in the spring and adding new juice to the mother. There are three finished quarts in the pantry. I may never buy apple cider vinegar again.

When the sun set, the implements of preservation were scattered on the counter — clean and drying. Yesterday I used my hand tomato juicer, a sieve, an apple peeler, an electric juicer, the food processor, a turkey baster, the granite ware water-bath canner, and the usual lot of bowls, jars, lids and rings. Knowing what to do makes it easier with each passing year.

There is a sense that these days of harvest cookery can’t go on forever. Suffice it I’ll keep living them for as long as possible, trying to learn from every season.

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