Yesterday was crazy in the kitchen. It is the beginning of true harvest season and that means pleasure in the kitchen with efforts going towards yields that will be enjoyed for months to come. Food prep, drying, freezing, canning, composting, seed saving……all were going on yesterday in our kitchen.
This morning the process will begin again. The morning chill can be felt here early today with outside temperatures a low 54 degrees. For the south that seems a tad cool. But, it does remind us on our farm that fall is fast approaching and this weekend we begin a months long journey of massive food preservation from our garden and orchard yields. A few leaves are beginning to yellow on the trees with wind gusts blowing some down. The hickory and walnuts are turning bright green soon to begin to yellow and fall to the ground for fall harvest. The squirrels are busy foraging away. They too understand the time is upon us…..a harvest home.
Let me give you a flavor of all we did yesterday in our kitchen to help make sense of a harvest home.
First things first, I processed all of the grapes I picked Friday in our grape orchard in order to make grape jelly on Sunday. The first step of the process is simple. You clean the grapes and put them in a big pot with some water and boil down the grapes while crushing them.
Once the grapes are crushed suitably, you strain the grape juice from the pulp. This pulp immediately goes to our chickens as we compost everything. Either the food waste goes to our birds or our worm compost bin.
The grape juice then goes in the refridgerator overnight. I will strain the juice with two layers of cheese cloth today and then will be making grape jelly. The pulp was sent outside to the chicken coop.
At the chicken coop I collected our eggs – seven this morning. Our hens we hatched out this spring are just starting to lay. This is good as we sell organic eggs to customers and we are in need of more egg layers. We are glad they are finally starting to lay.
Then of course it is time for breakfast. So, I baked fresh biscuits and cut up one of our fresh canteloupes from our garden. Here in the picture you see that we did three things – first the fruit for eating, second the rind went in the compost bin for the chickens and third on the window sill I am soaking the seeds to dry out later and store for next year’s planting. I always seed save the best fruit or vegetable and the FIRST for my seed saving. Why? This assures that the heirloom seeds I plant are hardy and are also early producers genetically. I select for these characteristics EVERY SINGLE YEAR. And the cycle improves on itself every year as well.
After breakfast we had extra awesome canteloupe. Since I have more ripening melons I decided to freeze these for use in winter when we like fruit smoothies but the grocery store fruit is terrible. We pull out our own frozen fruit and the smoothies are delicious. What you do with the cut up fruit is you set them on a cookie tray with a wax paper of some sort so they dont stick. You let them freeze like this. Then, once frozen you put them in a freezer bag and label it. By freezing individually, they will not stick together in the bag in a big clump.
Once the canteloupe is setting in the freezer, I turned to processing the seeds. After they were soaked to clean the seeds off, I transfered them to papertowel on tray with the seed name labeled. The seeds will dry like this for a few days before I package them up for next year. By the end of the day I had saved seeds for canteloupe, okra, cucumber, tomato, green bell pepper, cayenne paper, yellow squash and two types of beans. All those seeds will be next year’s garden. Amazing how that works!!
After all that seed saving was done it was time to focus on the rest of my extra produce and to also plan for dinner. So, first I took my extra green peppers and cut them up and placed them in my food dehydrator. These will all be saved for use this winter in soup stock and crock pot cooking. Once again, I saved the seeds and the waste went into the compost bin for the worms this time. I saved one extra pepper to use fresh for my homemade spagetti sauce I planned to make next.
While setting up the dehydrator for the bell peppers, I simultaneously removed the yellow summer squash I had been dehydrating that was now done. I took those out and placed them in a freezer bag, labeled them and then stuck them in the freezer. Yes, I put my dehydrated items to a large degree in the freezer. This extends the life of the dried food significantly. Obviously, if you need the freezer space for other things than put the dried food in air tight containers and place in a cool dark place in your home.
Next I went out to the garden and picked a bunch of fresh oregano, marjoram, basil and parsely for the spagetti sauce. I didnt worry about picking too much.
Upon return from the garden I processed a bunch of my extra tomatoes. I put them all in a pot and boiled them to remove the skins and proceeded to make spagetti sauce. This is such a rewarding experience because I literally use all our home grown ingredients. I used our tomatoes, our green bell pepper I had set aside, our onions and garlic we grew starting last fall and then all our own herbs. Then, on top of that, the hamburger I added was from our own cow. The only ingredients we didnt grow/raise were the salt, pepper and the noodles.
Then, with the extra herbs I had, I simply threw them in the dehydrator with the bell peppers to have them dry. I will store them in my herb cabinet for use this winter during the cold chilly months for stews and other such wonderful winter meals.
And that is a harvest home. The harvest season is so special to me and it really starts August 1st for me and runs all the way through to Christmas. It runs for five months in our heritage home because from the point of harvesting to the point of use – it truly spans that much time. Every step of this journey is so rewarding.
We encourage you to become a harvest home yourselves if you aren’t already. It is truly so easy and fun for the whole family. And, did I mention it is all organic without chemicals or GMOs and fills loved ones’ bellies in all of the best ways?
God Bless! L. Davis