Preserving Projects for the Winter Months
When people think of preserving food they often think of summer. Seeds are planted, gardens are tended, and the abundance and variety of foods available during the summer months is incredible. But, we’re here to remind you there are tons of canning projects to tackle during the winter months.
Here in Northern Ontario our landscape is covered in snow for the better part of five months. Our plants lay dormant and most of us shut ourselves in to hibernate. Winter makes for the perfect time to commit to those preserving tasks which require more time, like soup. Matt and I thoroughly relish spending Saturday and Sunday stirring over a huge pot of soup. The process is time-consuming especially if your recipe calls for stock and pressure canning times are lengthy but the results are well worth the effort.
Ontario grown root vegetables including rutabaga, carrots, turnips, and squash are hardy keepers and can be found in most grocery stores throughout the winter months. So, think soup! It’s a great winter project and there’s nothing like a steaming boil of soup to take away the chill on a cold winter’s day. Here are two of our favorite soup recipes Tuscan Minestrone and Spicy Chick Pea and Butternut Squash.
Winter is also a great time to put up those foods you didn’t have time to deal with in the throes of canning season. When the growing is good most of us can’t keep up with everything that’s harvested and some times the best way to manage your time during the summer is to freeze fruits and veggies you can tend later. Now is later. Dig deep into your freezer and pull out your stock pile of elderberries, raspberries, strawberries or whatever didn’t make it into jars and take care of it while you have some extra time. We froze over 9lbs of elderberries and can now spend the time making it into delicious jams and jellies.
Citrus is also everywhere so dive in head first and try your hand at making some bitter-sweet marmalade. Whether you live in Canada or the United States (or further a field) now is the time to work with citrus. The varieties are vast, providing you with a tremendous assortment of oranges (blood oranges, navel, valencia, cara cara) as well as different types of sweet grapefruits, lemons, and limes. Skies the limit. Over the past few years we’ve been fortunate to be visiting family in Florida during the hub of citrus harvest and we’ve made about ten different kinds. A few of our favorites include Blood Orange Marmalade, or one with a little extra heat Bitter Heat .
While we are talking about Florida, let’s inspire those living in warmer climates to think about picking and preserving in-season fruits and vegetables. In Florida strawberries, tomatoes, tomatillos, and peppers are ready to find their way into jars. A few weeks ago, (while visiting family in Florida) we spent the day picking in the fields at Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market. It’s awesome for a country Canadian girl to be hanging out in the dirt on a sunny afternoon (in the middle of winter) surrounded by so much preserving possibility and having the entire family embrace the adventure. It was a great afternoon and everyone picked oodles of berries. My sister-in-law was turning her gangs collection into jam and freezing the rest. While my mom ended up doing the bulk of the work for the rest of us, washing and slicing over 12lbs of strawberries to dehydrate. She’s become a master dehydrator.
We would be remiss if we did not mention making tomatillo mexican salsa, tomato jam, tomato sauce, and pressure canning some stewed tomatoes. We will have to wait until next August and September before our Ontario grown tomatoes and tomatillos are ready to preserve but for residents of Florida these darlings are calling out to be canned. The above mentioned recipes are staples in our home and with each passing summer we put up more and more bushels as we find a greater number of recipes to include them in. Next summer, we are going to tackle whole tomatoes which we’ll be able to use during the winter in some of our soups.
Hopefully, this has provided you with some food for thought and inspired you to think about canning all year-long. In fact, we find the winter months the opportune time to preserve because there is less pressure to get the food out of the garden and into jars. We have more time to focus on experimenting with recipes and our efforts are not as divided as they are in the summer when we are tending to the garden, property, and running our busy art business.
We’d love to hear about your winter preserving projects? Where you live and what is available?