Eat Locally Grown Food All Year

Here are inspiring ideas to preserve food and extend the growing season so you can enjoy fresh food year-round.

| September 10, 2009

  • Canned food in basement
    Canned food, stored in the basement, is just one method of preserving food for the winter. You can preserve apples, pickles, vegetable blends, whole tomatoes and tomato juice by canning.

  • Canned food in basement

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. Unfortunately, though, believing in the merits of locally grown food won’t help many of us in the cold months. Community supported agriculture (CSA) subscriptions end and farmers markets close down as our own gardens die with the first frosts.

I know that people survived with only local produce all year before we started buying food from all over the world. Rediscovering some of the methods our ancestors used has been an annual challenge for my husband, Tom, and me. We are gradually learning how to eat all year from our 13-acre homestead in Ohio. To do this, we preserve the summer harvest and extend the growing season.

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. This past year was our first growing celery, and there was such a bumper crop that I dug the pressure cooker out of the corner of the garage and put it to work. That allowed me to can a concoction of the extra tomatoes, sweet onions, celery, bell peppers, basil and parsley in quart jars labeled “veggies.” This highly nutritious potion is finding its way into stews, spaghetti sauce, soups and chili. No one has yet commented on the uniqueness of having celery in spaghetti sauce! Canning does take time during the high-yield months of August and September, but lining the jars up on the shelves gives me the same visual pleasure as piecing together a quilt — and the same satisfaction that I imagine a squirrel enjoys. (For more detailed information on canning, read Home Canning Basics.)

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. I really enjoy that because it reminds me of my Peace Corps days — women pounding millet with large wooden pestles. To add to my enjoyment, I use red cabbage, which gives a unique kaleidoscope pattern with each slice. 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 would like to have crocks of food in the basement throughout the winter, but I find it difficult to avoid introducing unwanted bacteria when fishing out portions for dinner.

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!

8/25/2010 10:43:08 AM

You can get reusable BPA Free canning lids here: The company is called Tattler and the website says BPA Free. BPA leaches when the lids are washed or heated, not just with high acid foods or with the food touching. The BPA off-gases into the foods, and the moisture creates drips of water that can help to leach the chemical into your food.

9/12/2009 9:10:36 AM

I have been searching for a way to find canning lids that are made without BPA and so far I have only found one canning/jarring system that does not have it. They are the Weck glass jars with glass lids and rubber gaskets- the lids are held on with metal clips while the jars are processed but are taken off after they are done- the really big downside to these are that they can only be used for water bath processing with high sugar or high acid foods and the cost is quite high. While researching the lids I have come to the conclusion that it is still better (my opinions only here) to can my own produce with the canning lids as most of the BPA that leaches into the foods is from canned foods with high acid levels where the food is touching the BPA lined cans- jarred tomatoes where the tomato product does not stay in contact with the lid should have far less than the canned ones that are just sitting in the lined cans-Plus I know where all the produce and ingredients come from when I home can my own foods. I will still try to get the lid manufacturer's to reconsider the BPA in their lids by writing letters and sending Emails-Consumers that make their wishes known can sometimes change the way products are made- The baby bottle companies are already starting to make BPA Free bottles due to the demand, I don't see why WE as consumers of foods can not demand the same respect and attention to the problem. Just go to the Ball web site and drop them a comment on their "contact us" page, let them know that we want BPA free lids, you never know-your email might just be the one to tip the scales!

Gaenor Howe_2
9/11/2009 8:54:06 AM

Is there a source for BPA-free canning lids? It's ridiculous that, after taking all the time and effort to home can, one should still be exposed to toxic chemicals. Just keeping cans upright is not enough.


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