Putting Food By.





Yes, it has been hot. Really wicked hot, hovering around 100 F. But that doesn't stop the veggies from coming in from the garden. When they're ready, they're ready.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours canning up some garlic dill pickles (hot water bath canned). I am trying to put by all that I am able to this year to help feed us right through the winter. While I won't put by enough for all of our meals I like to think that everyday this winter the work I do now will help fill our table. It might be something as simple as our rhubarb ketchup or a crock of homemade ginger carrots, but it will be our own pantry food.

We are stocking our larder in four ways: 1) from our garden; 2) from our CSA share; 3) purchasing in bulk from local farmer friends; and 4) by foraging/hunting/fishing. My goal this season is to put food by in some capacity every week.

So far we have jam, yesterday's pickles, lots of various dried teas from forest and garden, and a freezer full of ketchup, greens, rhubarb, berries, assorted pestos, local trout, and summer butter (butter made from grass fed local milk).

Putting food by is a regular part of our routine. I make a weekly trip to a friend's farm to buy whatever she has in abundance that I can put by. No special requests. I just get what she has to get rid of. The price is right, and I like the connection of visiting with my friend and leaving with her produce. This week it was cucumbers. I'm expecting beets and broccoli next week.

You can supplement at your local farmer's market. Going late in the day will get you a bargain on what the farmers haven't sold and don't want to bring home. If you're new to food preservation look for a good book at the library or ask around. You might now someone more seasoned at this than you.

While I normally make live-fermented pickles, I wanted some that would still be firm and delicious come February. Asking around locally led me to a great recipe from a nearby mama and I got to work.

Along with the cucumbers I used garlic (from a friend), dill (volunteers that appeared behind my asparagus patch – fence jumpers from the neighbor's garden), wild grape leaves (foraged on my way home with the cucumbers to help keep the pickles crunch), sea salt, water, and vinegar. I canned 13 assorted pints and quarts and set them joyously in the pantry last night. (For the seasoned canner, the proportions were 2 3/4 C vinegar, 3 C water, 1/4 C salt.)

There is something about watching those shelves fill. It's magical. It is a feeling of wealth, abundance, and self-reliance. It's happiness in jar form.

Soon I will harvest many heads of cabbage, cucumbers for live-fermenting, and armloads of kale and chard from the garden. And they will be put by. I can't wait. I'm a bit of a geek, but food is my bliss these days.

19 thoughts on “Putting Food By.

  1. Cassandra says:

    I’ve been wanting to try pickles this year! I have been kind of snooping around the farmer’s market each week for when the pickling cucumbers are ready. Looks like it is time, thanks for the heads-up! 🙂

  2. Pamela R says:

    I’m so doing this. We did a bunch of live fermentation last year and I only did one small batch of canned pickles…suddenly, come February, we found ourselves buying pickles…oye. (Plus, my canned ones were softer than I would have liked…we use oak leaves in our live fermentation, but I’ll have to try the grape leaves in the canned pickles…crunch is everything.) Thanks.

  3. Denise says:

    Those pickles look divine! I’m picking up half a bushel this afternoon and have been doing some crispy pickle research and just came across this tidbit: “You will need to cut the ends off (about ¼-inch, the blossom harbors microbes that can cause softening. ) and then slice them lengthwise if you like spears. I remove both ends, but, since the enzymes are in the blossom end, the key is removing the blossom end; you can leave the stem end on, if you like.” I’m going to use the same basic recipe as you, so we should do a taste test!

  4. kate says:

    Since you brought up fishing, I have to ask about what you keep. My husband is also an avid fly fisher and we don’t keep fish for fear of all of their accumulations of crap…though really wish we could, (what an amazing source of food Lake Michigan could be.) Do you feel good eating fish in your neck of the woods? Do you try to do it minimally? I would love to salt and dry fish and preserve it.

  5. Rachel Wolf says:

    There was a fascinating study I saw somewhere where rats were given mercury. 1/2 of them were first given antibiotics. The other 1/2 were not. The rats with healthy gut flora (IE: the control group) excreted 90 some percent of the mercury they consumed. The antibiotic-fed rats with unhealthy gut flora excreted only… I dont know 5 percent or something. Weve decided to eat fish but to keep the rest of our bodies in balance. That being said, these are spring creek trout. I wouldnt let my kids eat our of Lake Michigan. (Sigh.)

    ~ Rachel

  6. Rachel Wolf says:

    Ooh. That would have been great info oh, say, 18 hours ago. Oh well! Well see how they turn out. The one lid failure I had I tried one from today. So good! xo R

  7. Karlamcurry.wordpress.com says:

    I feel like such a newbie to all this stuff. I want to be self-sustaining, but it feels like there’s this endless pool of knowledge to be had and there are other endless pools of knowledge to be had about other things (homeschool, living a green and healthy lifestyle, etc). It gets overwhelming!

    My hubby talked me out of a CSA when we decided to have our own garden, but we’re not getting an abundance. 🙁 There are things of which we may have extra, but I don’t know how much we’ll be able to put away.

    I have these grand notions of gardening and canning, I skim a variety of resources when I can, but it never seems like enough. Arrrgh!

  8. Rachel Wolf says:

    Take it one step at a time. You are where you are. What are you most interested in? Maybe this is not the year for canning, but perhaps youll harvest something to dry for tea. Go slow. I didnt can pickles last year, and I didnt make jam the year before that. Baby steps. Baby steps.

    ~ Rachel

  9. Pamela R says:

    Good to know, I thought it was a sure thing. I have a couple of other ideas up my sleeve, so maybe we’ll do a few small batches to see what works best. Too bad I wasn’t into all of this when my grandma was alive. I really could have used some of her garden wisdom! It’s strange how we should all be in communities with sure-fire recipes for this sort of thing (where we are just making our own little adjustments instead of reading books and searching on others’ blogs), but it has sort of skipped a generation and I guess it’s now our turn to reclaim it. Thanks again.

  10. Pamela R says:

    That is so funny, because I’ve read that, but for some reason, still focused more on the stem end. Thanks for that quote, it will help me keep them crisp this year!

  11. kate says:

    That does sound like an amazing study. We are definitely not likely to eat fish here in the corn dessert of Illinois, too much farm runoff, but we still hope to return to WI this fall and be part of a healthier stream ecosystem. My husband has tried to get me fly fishing for years, but I haven’t really gotten into it. I feel though if it could be part of our home economy and sustenance I may have more motivation.

  12. Ms. Smoochy says:

    I just made pickles yesterday too. My recipe was much like yours except with a jalapeño (sliced in half) in the mix for good measure. All was well until one jar exploded in the bath. Such a sad loss.

  13. Rachel Wolf says:

    I fly fished with Pete right up until I was quite pregnant with Sage. I liked it, Pete LOVES it. I will do it again but now my priorities have shifted. Id rather forage than fish, so thats how we work it.


  14. dannielle says:

    Question from a newby canner, how long do the pickles have to set before they are pickles? did a batch today with a combo of your method here and the other one listed above cutting the ends off.

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