Food preservation roundup

As our Oregon weather hastens quickly toward winter, Robin and I have been scrambling to gather and preserve any garden produce that survived the crazy summer season. Here are some of the highlights, in no particular order:

These are ground cherry. They are … weird. I think I like them. We have only one plant this year, but it produced quite a lot of fruit. You wait till they fall off to eat them. The texture is like a grape, but “meatier”, and the taste finishes like a starfruit … maybe.

We continue to harvest carrots, when we remember. This was our first real success with carrots, although some were lost to weeds. We also grew some purple carrots for Robin’s mom, which grew about a foot long. Carrots seem to like our sandy soil

What do you do with jumbo zucchini? Make jumbo zucchini-aid .. no .. wait, that’s a terrible idea! Instead, we decided to make “zucchini chips” in the dehumidifier. We tried various flavorings: salt+peppered, onion powder, and garlic powder. They take 24 hours in the dehumidifier at 135°F. The chips are crunchy and flavorful and make us wish we had more zucchini.

Robin planted several melons, but only one produced a full size watermelon. She was very excited by this, and ate the whole thing tonight. My dog watched with sad eyes and felt abused.

I planted 4 Cascade Hops bines in the spring and grew them on bean poles. They did pretty well, with most growing 8′ long and all setting at least a few flowers. I tore a few flowers open during the season to check on their progress, and the last one was packed with yellow lupin and smelled of wonderfully hoppy northwest beer. We picked the hops just before the first big rain, and put them on trays in the dehumidifier for 12 hours on the lowest setting. The final result was papery with open petals. I separated them into zip-lock bags by weight and froze them. For anyone interested in the numbers, I started with about 3oz of fresh hops (dried on the bine as long as possible). I ended up with 1.15 oz of dried hops–a 60% reduction in weight. I was feeling pretty proud of my little 1oz first year crop, until a neighbor told me that their harvest would fill a 30gal drum!

We dug the last of our potato rows, and despite the problems, it was a pretty good year. We harvested about 5 five-gallon buckets full of red, white, and yukon potatoes. Although the blight certainly impacted our crop size in some rows, the blight-free certified row suffered the most from a serious rodent infestation. We are going to have to spend some time this winter trapping gophers and voles, as it’s frustrating to dig up potato shells instead of whole potatoes. Thank goodness we aren’t vegan .. we’d starve!

After last year’s huge tomato canning (52 quarts?) we still have plenty left, so Robin decided to try her hand at salsa instead. We’ve done 4 batches of salsa so far–one late at night like usual. We’ve stuck to the Spicy Salsa and Zesty Salsa recipes from the current Blue Ball Canning book. Ron recommended the Zesty recipe, and it’s probably our favorite too. So far we’ve canned 34 pints of salsa. It’s so simple and we love salsa so much that I can see this becoming a staple for us. I haven’t worked out the price-per-ounce yet, but I suspect it’s much cheaper than the little $4 jars at the grocery store. (And fresher tasting too!)

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9 Responses to Food preservation roundup

  1. Ron says:

    Your salsa looks great! Congrats!

    The next time we have a bumper crop of zucchini, I want to try those chips – they sound great.


  2. Benita says:

    Aren’t tomatoes pretty in glass canning jars? And I never thought of making zucchini chips. Hmmm… It might be a great way to add more veggies into the ol’diet. Thanks!!

  3. Leigh says:

    The salsa sounds yummy. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

    I’m impressed that your zucchini chips got crunchy. I tried dehydrating yellow summer squash last year, but not for so long so I didn’t get crunchy results. I’ll definitely have to try them again. Maybe next year because I doubt I’ll have any leftover zucchini from our few late planted plants.

    I’m curious about the ground cherries. Did you preserve any? I’ve heard they make good jam. I’ve never tried them before though.

  4. lee says:

    Ron – Yeah, we are really pleased with the salsa. (And eagerly watching another batch of tomatoes ripen on the vine.) Now I just need to grow some corn to have home-made tortilla chips …

    Benita – I added a picture of the final zucchini chip result. We have done 3 batches now. Not sure if we will get enough zucchini to do another. With the right spices, they are definitely an easy way to eat your veggies!

    Leigh – The zucchini was probably all the way dry in about 20 hours, but I think Oregon’s low-humidity summers plays a pretty big roll in that. Dehydrator times seem to vary quite a lot. We did notice on the last batch that they rather quickly re-hydrated to the point of being bendable in only about 4 hours in the open air. All the others we bagged and froze immediately. (No need to freeze them if they are dry, but we have more freezer space than cupboard space.)

    We didn’t try making jam, although I see more ground cherries out there. It’d be an interesting project. I’d never even heard of ground cherry jam until I read this post just recently.

  5. Lynn says:

    Zucchini chips is a wonderful idea! Last year I had so many zucchini I didn’t know what to do with them all. Next time, I’ll be making zucchini chips! Thanks for the idea! The salsa sounds so very good, too. I think I’m getting hungry reading about the ground cherries, the watermelon, the carrots… And I’m getting thirsty thinking about homemade beer! Wait, it’s only 10AM!!

  6. lee says:

    Lynn – If it’s homemade, I think it counts as a refreshment at 10AM instead of alcoholism! ­čÖé

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