Our chores in the garden are long past and, as winter settles in, most gardeners are probably already looking at nursery catalogs. But if you worked hard last season, you should have a cupboard or freezer full of goodies to warm you through the cold weeks ahead. Here are some recipes to help you use the bounty.
A wide variety of home-grown vegetables can be canned or frozen, some with more success than others. Freezing methods produce an end result closest to fresh, but storage time is limited; canning is the method of choice for those vegetables you wish to be able to keep on the shelf for a while. Some good choices for freezing and/or canning include all types of legumes (beans, peas, etc.), both winter and summer squash, corn, root vegetables such as beets or carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, onions, and okra. Having a wide variety of preserved vegetables in your pantry or freezer will make winter cooking much easier.
Carrots are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and, while they are delicious fresh and crunchy right out of the garden, they also lend themselves to both canning and freezing. They should be pared, then sliced into quarter inch rounds. Follow canning or freezing instructions to finish. The USDA Canning Guide is an excellent source of information for all types of preserving.
This yummy casserole is a favorite in the farm kitchen.
2 pounds canned, frozen, or fresh carrots; sliced 1/4 cup margarine 1/4 cup minced onion 1/4 cup flour 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard 2 cups milk 1 teaspoon salt 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 1 cup bread crumbs
Cook carrots until tender, drain and set aside. Lightly grease a 2-quart casserole. Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt the margarine in a heavy saucepan, lower heat and add onion; cook until tender. Add flour and mustard and stir until smooth, then cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, then cook over medium heat until thick; add salt and cheese, stir until cheese melts. Add carrots and mix, then place in casserole. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly. Add bread crumbs and bake another 5 minutes. Serves 6
Sweet potatoes aren't quite so easy to grow, but they are so healthy and tasty, they are worth a try. If not, then buy some and "put some by". Sweet potatoes can be cubed or pureed, frozen, or they can be cubed, then canned. (USDA guide cautions against canning pureed vegetables.) For this recipe, you'll use cubed or fresh.
Raisin and Sweet Potato Scones
1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup whole wheat flour 1/4 cup corn bran 1/2 cup raisins, chopped 1/2 cup shredded sweet potato 1 teaspoon cream of tartar 1/2 teaspoon baking soda pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon buttermilk 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Oil a cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 475F. Mix flours, corn bran, raisins, sweet potato, cream of tartar, soda and spices. Stir in buttermilk and oil until well blended. Dust hands with flour and knead mixture for about 2 minutes. Roll dough on lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out 2-1/2 inch rounds and transfer them to cookie sheet. Bake for 6 - 8 minutes Mkes about 18 scones.
Everybody's favorite! Green string beans are a staple on most tables year around, but don't just heat and eat--try this tangy dish using either canned or frozen beans, and freshly canned or frozen tomatoes-yes, frozen! Sliced tomatoes freeze well and are perfect for casseroles and cooked dishes. Just slice, pack in plastic bag, remove excess air, and freeze. They don't need to be thawed before use. Just drop them in the pot.
Spanish Green Beans
1 pound canned or frozen green beans 1 small onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, minced 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 5 whole canned tomatoes, diced 2 medium green peppers, chopped
Saute onion and garlic in butter or margarine until tender. Add the beans, salt and pepper; cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in tomatoes and green pepper; cover and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serves 4 to 6
As you while away the winter months enjoying warm, delicious dishes from your garden, think about what you'll plant for next winter's fare.
Toni Leland has been writing for over 20 years. As a spokesman for the Ohio State University Master Gardener program, she has written a biweekly newspaper column and is the editor of the Muskingum County MG newsletter, Connections; she currently writes for GRIT, Over the Back Fence, and Country Living magazines. She has been a gardener all her life, working soil all over the world. In her day job, she scripts and produces educational DVDs about caring for Miniature Horses, writes and edits books about them, and has published five novels.