The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food
By: Janet Chadwick
Many of us are enjoying the fruits of our labors right now. Vegetable gardens are brimming with squash, beans, tomatoes and cucumbers. Fruit is ripening in the orchards and berry patches, while herbs are at their peak. Even if we do not have a garden, farm stands and markets are overflowing with fresh produce just waiting for us to take it home.
Our mothers and grandmothers spent the summer canning, drying and freezing huge amounts of food for the winter. Bushel baskets of beans waiting to be broken and piles of corn to be shucked, were an everyday occurrence. It was their job to prepare food for the winter and they spent all summer and fall working hard, so that their families ate well.
Here in the 21st Century, it often takes two paychecks to make ends meet and people work long hours at their jobs. Kids play sports or participate in a number of activities outside the home. Mom and Dad not only have to work, but they keep the home running smoothly and they often play chauffer and coach. Long summer evenings spent breaking beans or shelling peas are outdated.
The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food is a great little helper for modern families. Janet Chadwick takes a no-nonsense approach to preserving the harvest with tips on preparing smaller batches, time saving cutting and freezing techniques and organizational advice. She places a big emphasis on innovative freezing and her suggestions for using ‘boil in bag' technology are quite interesting. She notes that vegetables can be blanched right in the bags, cutting down on the steps needed to freeze vegetables properly. The vegetables are never exposed to water, retaining all of the nuitrients.
One of the most interesting chapters is on preserving herbs. Many books are written on food preservation, but few include instructions on properly drying, freezing or bottling your herb harvest. She describes making herbal tea, flavored vinegars and herbal jellies. A great tip that most of us can make use of is freezing your herbs in ice cube trays with a bit of water. Bag up the ice cubes and keep them in your freezer. When you need a bit of flavor, simply pop a cube in your soup, stew or meat loaf. Each popular herb has proper harvest and drying instructions accompanied by suggested uses.
Speaking of meat loaf, there's a whole section of make ahead meals and entrees. At harvest time, a busy cook shouldn't have to stop and prepare a meal. (Another time saving tip)
There are sections for freezing, drying, canning and root cellaring. You do not actually have to have a root cellar for some of her suggestions either.
One of the best tips is how to keep produce in a fresh state for more than a day or so. That way, the cucumbers that will be too big to pickle by Saturday, can be harvested on Tuesday. There's so many little one-line tips sprinkled throughout this book that even seasoned harvest preservers will find information they can use. I feel like I'm more experienced than most gardeners when it comes to putting food by, but I found a great deal of information that I could use and am quite happy I purchased this book.