Summertime for many of us means taking advantage of all the wonderful spoils and capturing that by using different methods of food preservation so that we have garden-fresh produce for many seasons to come.
We love picking fruits of all kinds. From foraging for berries in our mountains, where we have to do a little climbing and work to get small pails of huckleberries, to simply sitting in the large patches of thimble and juneberries that blanket the forests.
What we lack from the forest, we get from our own homestead or get from our generous neighbors who offer their organic fruit if we will do the picking. Living in a banana belt, we have a vast variety of fruit: apricots, peaches, plums, apples, pears, cherries and even some types of kiwi are able to thrive in our climate. All of it gets picked and preserved.
Although everything we harvest on our homestead is very much the same as many of you out there, generally, our way of preservation is different.
Living off the grid often requires us to approach things from a unique perspective. Old ways become new ways with a more organic and green outlook!
So, in this article I share some off- grid ways to preserve some of your summertime spoils without having to plug in any appliance along the way. You may be surprised at how easy food preservation at your home can be without electricity!
What’s unique to our way of living is that, while most people are making freezer jam or packing up everything to freeze, we instead bypass this method and simply process everything for the pantry shelf. Even something as simple as freezer jam is a detail that needs to be addressed for our long-term storage and solar needs. Freezers use a lot of electricity, even if you are connected to the grid.
Plus, freezers offer a shorter-term approach to preservation that may not be fool-proof. When the electricity goes off, you may lose your precious spoils of summer. Even sitting in the freezer too long can lead to the dreaded freezer burn.
So, for us to sustain ourselves with practicality and assurance, everything should be preserved to go on the shelf and not in a freezer. Taking this new approach will, for many of you, free up your freezer space and also give you more long-term storage for your food.
Here are two summertime jam recipes that are easy and make for a great pantry shelf jam!
Cherry Preserves with Honey
Another example of practical, off-grid thinking is dehydrating foods. When I lived on the grid, my Excalibur dehydrator was running all summer long. I simply plugged it in and forgot about it. I also used my oven for some of my drying. All of these conventional methods were simple and practical. But how often we overlook the power of summertime and the sun, which is free to use!
Therefore, when it comes to dehydration, we utilize homemade items, such as our handmade air dryer. Even the window screens that are not in use get pulled and stacked with 2-by-4s to create drying racks. Many of us overlook all the items laying around the garage that can be made into a simple drying rack. Be creative with this approach — you don't need much to create a outdoor drying rack!
Check out our homemade dehydrator, which has air-dried many of our garden spoils:
Another viable source for dehydration that is sitting is our garages are our vehicles. Vehicles are the best and fastest way to dehydrate even the toughest of foods that may seem to really require the use of an electric dehydrator.
Take for instance fruit rollups. Recipes usually require the fruit rollups to sit in the oven for hours, using valuable propane or electricity. Other recipes require the use of that electric dehydrator, which again has to be left on for hours.
Not on our homestead. We simply cook our fruit, spread it out on parchment paper and place the trays right inside the hot vehicle! Within a day or two, the leathers are ready to eat.
So, next time you pick some berries, or want to dehydrate some fresh celery or other garden veggies, try some of these out-of-the-box off-grid ideas. You will be surprised how easy they are, and how rewarding it will be to not plug in the appliance and experiment going green.
Any ripe fruit, washed, cut, and de-pitted, if necessary
1. Place fruit in big stock pot. Cook on medium heat till soft.
2. Optional: Add honey, stevia, agave, or sugar to sweeten.
3. Remove from heat, and spread onto sheets of parchment paper on cookie sheets.
4. Add creative edibles, such as sunflower seeds, chia, flax seeds, or coconut flakes.
5. Place trays in hot vehicle and let the sun and heat go to work.
In 1 to 3 days, depending on the fruit and weather conditions, you will have fruit leathers.
Starry Hilder and her husband, Mark, live off-grid on a 13-acre self-sustaining homestead in the stunning mountains of Northern Idaho. Unique in their approach to homesteading, they rely on working with nature and utilizing their skills and knowledge with a back-to-basic outlook. From hunting and fishing, to gardening, composting, canning, and trail running, paddling, and hiking, there is never a dull moment on their property. Starry enjoys sharing her journey and all their life skills on their YouTube channel. Read all of Starrys' MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.