Halloween marks the end of the harvest here in Western PA. The small towns shift from harvest festivals to Christmas Light up nights and Holiday Craft Shows. George and I have spent the weekend beginning to tighten things up for the winter. He has pulled his beloved Tommato plants and we made our final trip to our Farmer's Market, which closes today until next July. Most of the preserving I have written about up to now has been canning, but I also do some freezing and cellaring.
I dont't have a fruit cellar exactly, but we do have a storage room under what used to be and enclosed porch and is now our entryway. It is quite a bit cooler than the rest of the house, but doesn't freeze, and it has no windows. This year we are trying storing a box of apples and a box of winter squash. We wrapped the squash and apples in paper to avoid spreading of spoilage then carefully placed them in boxes. Here I should mention that a good portion of the squash were an acorn variety that came up as a "volunteer" in our compost pile. I love those little presents from mother nature.
I also do a small amount of freezing for the winter. The reason that the ammount is small is that I tend to forget about the food that I have frozen for some reason, and in the many cases, such as tomatoes or soup, it takes too long to thaw them. But this year I froze a few things, such as the potatoes and green beans I mentioned before, and today I froze some more potatoes, this time with bacon. Without fail, however, I always sock away a gallon freezer bag full of frozen sweet peppers.
Frozen Sweet Peppers
1) Wash, seed and slice the peppers.
2) Place about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of sliced peppers in a sandwich bag, remove the air and seal.
3) Place all of the sandwich bags into a gallon freezer bag and freeze.
These keep very nicely all year, and are very usefull for adding to stir fries, pizzas, cheesesteaks, omlets, etc. The flavor is a little stronger in the frozen peppers, so you may not want to use as many as you would fresh. They are also much cheaper than buying fresh in the middle of winter.
I am winding down the canning season, at least the water-bathing. I have a half-bushel of apples left to turn into applesauce tomorrow, and then I think I will begin packing up. For one thing, the harvest is nearly over, with only a few squash left at the local farmers' markets. Also, my larder is stocked to overflowing! I may get ambitious and try to take a full inventory of all that I have done, but here is at least a partial list:
2 bushels of peaches, canned sliced in medium syrup
grape syrup (see above)
20 pints of salsa
tomato soup (lots)
red onion relish
sweet onion relish
bread and butter pickles
roasted red pepper spread
cubed butternut squash
spiced fruit compote
peach syrup (leftover from the spiced peaches)
After having a well stocked pantry, the next topic in my guide to How to Survive the Winter is the Fall Getaway. I find that this helps my morale immensely. We go to Chincoteague every fall to watch some of the fall migration of waterfowl, to eat the delicious local harvest (crab, oysters, and fresh fish), and to just relax. Our other family vacations tend to be more frenzied, in a do everything/see everything kind of way, but there is a comfort in our fall vacation. We return to the same small town, stay in the same hotel (often the same room), and do the same sort of activities every year. I return refreshed and ready to face the winter.
I have a reputation as a good cook, and a crafty person, but not everything always goes well for me. I have always had trouble with jellies and jams setting properly. This year, before last sunday, I had made:
3 batches of runny Peach Jalepeno Jam
1 batch of runny regular Peach Jam
1 batch of super gummy Grape Jelly
1 batch of Grape Syrup (supposed to have been Jelly-which I had processed twice, with a new package of pectin each time).
On Saturday George took me to the Franklin Applefest, and bought me a fresh load of produce including 2 fresh batches of grapes. So once again with some trepidation I set out to make Jelly. I am pretty sure that the problem with the syrup is that I forgot to boil the juice and pectin before I added the sugar. And I am happy to report that I was successful and now have a pantry full of 3 types of grape jelly, Mixed Grape (3 colors) Concord Grape, and Grape Apple (which I made by re-cooking the pulp from the first two batches with the apple cores from the 18 pints of applesauce that I also made that day). I still don't know what my Jam problem is, but I am more confident that I can make grape jelly.
Also I made more soup and applesauce. And I began my venture into pressure canning with green beans.