Preserving Food for Winter Storage

Mary Lou Shaw preserves her summer’s harvest by freezing, canning, drying and winter storage in a homemade, basement root cellar.

| January 11, 2013

A homemade basement root cellar

This season's harvest included potatoes, shallots, onions and sweet potatoes. Winter squash would usually be included in this basement root cellar. Ideally, the temperature would be in the upper 30 to lower 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Photo Courtesy Carlisle Press

Mary Lou Shaw, author of Growing Local Food (Carlisle Press, 2012), is empowering individuals and communities to grow more of their own food. This book is a good primer on getting back to a healthier lifestyle with 22 chapters that explore ideas as simple as growing herbs in a pot to information on catching rain water for the garden. The following excerpt is taken from chapter 20, “Additional Ways to Store Food for the Winter.” 

Buy this book in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Growing Local Food.

Preserving Food for the Winter

“It’s convenient to have a root cellar or a basement where canned goods can be stored, but if you have neither, you can still put aside local garden produce to eat in the wintertime. It’s meaningful and satisfying to do just one or two new things each year that will get you closer to self-sufficiency and healthier food. Perhaps you can freeze a few tomatoes when they’re in excess at the farmers’ market. Next year you might want to buy equipment to can tomatoes. You’ll smile to see them in the kitchen cupboard instead of processed food from the store.”

There are other ways besides canning and fermenting to have local food to eat in the wintertime. Here are three more ways to preserve the summer harvest for our winter feasts:

The freezer still seems essential: The content of our freezer varies with the current year’s harvest. We always enjoy the small green beans that are barely steamed before being placed in freezer bags. The pressure cooker softens vegetables, so I prefer freezing them to preserve their texture. My mouth waters now to think of winter meals when we cook them lightly in olive oil, garlic and salt. I’ve learned to label freezer 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 this year I used the water bath method to can them. Shredded zucchini or even zucchini bread is frozen, and makes easy desserts and nice gifts in the winter.

The downside to using a freezer was that our electricity came from a coal-burning plant. We’re dependent on freezing for preserving the chicken and beef from our farm, so are delighted that we finally got solar panels installed.

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