I am about to let you in on a deep, dark secret. Shhh…. One of my greatest hopes for my family is to become self-sufficient and live partially “off the grid”. I say this with cautious trepidation, because my husband’s reaction to this same statement was an adamant “Are you kidding me?! I can’t be an off-the-grid electrician!?!” And, that’s okay. It’s a majorly, humongous bold statement and a life-changing choice at that.
So, I am aiming for self-sufficient.
As I’ve mentioned before, I recently read the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and in it she discusses taking advantage of the harvest and produce when it is abundant and its price is the cheapest. Her family amassed over 500 pounds in tomatoes and canned the majority of them into sauces, salsa and relish. My initial reaction to their bounty was astonishment, but I shamefully admit, it quickly developed into jealously. Here’s the thing – I don’t want to GROW 500 pounds of tomatoes. I want to KNOW what to do with 500 pounds of tomatoes.
One of the keys to fully utilizing our local produce is taking advantage of its plethora and preparing it for storage and use during the fall and winter months. In addition to the immediate gratification of growing and using our own produce, the cost benefits come back tenfold. When it comes to home preservation I am a novice at best. Each year I make homemade jams and jellies and I have tried my hand at granola from scratch and even dried a batch or two of teriyaki beef jerky. Last summer I even took home two first place blue ribbons for my award winning jams at the local county fair! I have all the tools: boiling bath canners, dozens of canning jars in various sizes, a dehydrator and an ice cream maker, but I lack the know how.
I want to have the old grandmother who takes me under her wing every August and we spend afternoons toiling away over a simmering pot bubbling on the stove. Or, hot summer days with a fresh tub of ice cream in the freezer awaiting a scoop. The older generations on my side of the family passed away before their time and I was either too young or immature to benefit from their knowledge. And, honestly the ones that are still alive aren’t the type to spend weekend afternoons preserving the harvest. They are wonderful, loving, amazing people – but they are not canners. And, that is more than okay.
So, I am hoping that is where you all come in. I have goals and plans, but I am lacking the definitive guidance needed to successfully execute them.
And, I am making a pledge. Please note the carefully chosen phrase “learn how to”, not “successfully make”.
I pledge to learn how to make my own canned tomatoes. I want to make both crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. No spices, just the base ready for recipes.
I pledge to learn how to make homemade THICK yogurt. Not runny. Not slimy. Beautiful, gelatinous, sweet yogurt.
I pledge to learn how to make fruit leather from fresh strawberries, cherries, raspberries, apricots and blackberries.
I pledge to learn how to make a massively delicious, tummy-filling, healthy granola.
I pledge to learn how to make homemade ice cream and sorbet (Can you even make sorbet at home?!)
I pledge to learn how to make my own applesauce. I’d like it to be canned, but I can swing some freezer space if need be.
I pledge to learn how to make my own flaky, buttery piecrust.
I pledge to learn how to freeze my harvest that is best off steamed and not canned; green beans, peas, corn.
I pledge to learn how to prepare and actually eat a pumpkin. Maybe even can it for future pie filling…
I pledge to preserve my harvest while it’s at its peak and price affordable.
The list of goals is long and probably hinges on ridiculously overoptimistic. But, I want to try. If you have a great recipe or a trick for any of these pledges, I would much appreciate them. I am looking for a surrogate expert that I can lean on and learn from. I will gladly accept multiple offers. Are there any takers? I want to be ready for my 500 pounds of tomatoes should I decide to grow them. Bring on the bounty!