Monday, September 27, 2010

Figs

Thanks to a wonderful friend, today I had my first figs. I look forward to them with excitement every year. I just love figs. The question I get with figs is, how do you tell they are ripe? Usually the fig will begin to drape over a little and become soft. This variety changes to a shade of purple and it is easy to tell when it is ripe. There are other varieties which turn a slightly lighter green but still become nice and soft to the touch.
The other question I get is how do you preserve them? Well I usually don't. I do cut and dry a few just for fun but figs are not easy to get in big quantities and they are so good I just can help but to eat them fresh.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dehydrating Peaches

Dehydrating is the best way to preserve peaches. You don't need to skin them or do any thing to them besides taking off the pit and cutting. How you cut is up to you, I like to cut them into peach rings and a little less than a quarter of an inch but don't make the thickness a science. Once cut, you put them on the dehydrator trays and leave them for about 12 hours. If you like them a little soft, you might have to store them in the freezer. I like them very dry and I keep them in canning jars in a dark room. This is a great way to re-use the lids that you can't use for canning (you are only supposed to use them for canning once).

This week I was able to get a hold on a lot of peaches that were on their last day. I had 20 dehydrator trays all going at once just to make sure non of the fruit went to waste. It must have only taken me about 30 minutes to get them all cut.

Like a lot of my fruit, I will keep half of what I produced and I will give half back to the person who provided me with the fruit. This way no money is exchanged and everyone comes out a winner.

This is a picture of the three jars that I am keeping for myself.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Canning Corn


In order to can any vegetable, you need to have a pressure cooker. A pressure cooker is necesary due to the low acidity of vegetables. The only "vegetable" you can safely can without a pressure cooker is a tomato.

In this example, I am using the "cold pack" canning method. That means that the item being canned enters the can cold and a hot liquid is added. In this case the liquid happens to be lightly salted water.

These are small jars and only needed 15 minutes in the pressure cooker but the time depends on how big your jars are.

I guess this might be a good time to tell you that there is nothing to afraid of when it comes to pressure cooking. I too was not too sure the first
time I used it but now I feel very safe around it.

The following is a great site that will give you all the information you need to know in order to can corn. I wish you luck in your squirrel endeavors.


http://www.pickyourown.org/howtocancornrawpack.htm











Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Fall/winter Garden

This year, I decided to finally try my hand at winter gardening. I went to Kramer's, which is located here in McMinnville Oregon, and found that they had a wonderful little cold crop section. Cold crops are crops that do not require a green house. Some of the starts that I bought were broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce, and swizz chard. I am also interested in growing some bok choy, which did very well in early spring. The people at Kramer's told me that they get their deliveries on Wednesday and they should have more things such as cabbage and brussels sprouts. I used coco mulch to try and keep away slugs.

If you have any suggestions on other crops I could grow please comment below.


Coco mulch is bad for dogs and as you can tell on the picture they like it. Make sure that you keep the mulch out of areas that dogs frequent.





Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Preserving Basil and Making Pesto

This is a great method for preserving herbs like basil. This recipe will save you a lot of time when winter comes, and its a great way to relive summer. My wife and I use this pesto through much of winter. We make pasta and add the frozen pesto cubes to the pot to thaw. You can also add a nice Italian sausage to the pasta to complete the meal.

I hope you enjoy the video.



Sunday, September 12, 2010

Drying Herbs



Many of us grow herbs in our gardens. Herbs are great to dry for winter because you do not need a dehydrator. On a nice warm day, you can put your herbs in a flat pan in your car and they will dry during the day. I have done this with mint, basil, and with parsley.

You can also dry leaves for tea during the winter. Many people don't know that raspberry blackberry, and blueberry leaves make great tea. You can also dry lemon balm, and chamomile.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Canning Apple Sauce

This is the time of the year to make and preserve apple sauce. I love opening a jar of apple sauce to put on my pancakes. Apple sauce is also great for baking, usually substituting for eggs as a much healthier binder.

If you are not familiar with canning, this is a great way to start. There are many tools out there but the most important ones are a 5 quart pot for cooking your fruit, and a 7-10 quart pot for the canning lined so that the jars are not touching the bottom, I usually use the small lid rings but you could use a steamer basket.

It is important to sanitize your jars and lids. I put my jars in the dishwasher and use the heat dry setting.

I have included a video that will take you through the steps of making apple sauce. Please take the time to watch it through before you start. 








Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dehydrating Plums

Dehydrated plums are great, they are nothing like what you get at the store. Like apples, plums do not require any special treatment, you just cut them and put them on the dehydrator. I have made a small video that will take you through the steps and will show you how they should look when they are done. Let me know if you have any questions.

Excalibur 3900 Deluxe Series 9 Tray Food Dehydrator - BlackNesco FD-75PR 700-Watt Food Dehydrator



The video cuts off at the end and should have said "The ones that are not completely dry... I just save and I dry later." 
video

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dehydrating Apples

Dehydrating apples is the best place to start when you are new to a dehydrator. You can use any kind of apple, some are sweeter than others and some are more tart. I find that the sweeter the apple the more they brown. I personally don’t mind at all if they brown a little because I don’t think it has any affect on the taste. If you really don’t want them to turn color you can put them in a lemon or salt water solution for about 10 minutes, and then place them on te dehydrator.

Step one: Use a good chef knife for apples. You will notice that I use a different knife for some of my fruit. If you are having problems cutting, just remember that practice makes perfect, its a great way to work on your knife skills.

Step two: Remember not to leave any skin on the top or the bottom of the fruit. There skin is there to protect the fruit and it does a great job of keeping the moister inside.


video

Step three: I cant give you an exact measurement on how thick to cut them. The thicker they are the longer they will take to dry but its all the same in the end.  Just look at the pictures and the video to get a good idea.



Step four: I usually put my dehydrators outside. I have never had any issues with bugs, I think it gets to hot in there for them to even try getting in. It is also much more quiet that way. When the house starts to get cold, later in the year, I bring it inside to help out.


video

Step five: You will know they are done when they come off easily from the tray. This might take about 7-10 hours. I usually start mine early in the day or late in the evening. Don’t worry about over-drying. If you start yours in the middle of the day you can leave them over night and just lower your temperature to the lowest setting (if you have temperature control).

I have some pictures and some video on this post. I hope that the video format does not give you guys too many issues. Hope you have a fun and let me know if you have any questions.

Friday, September 3, 2010

My Urban Garden


It has been a lot of fun to put together our garden. It is much more fun to water food than to water grass. We have been adding a little at a time for the last 3 years. If it were not for Rebecca, most of the things on the garden would not be alive anymore, she is awesome. The spots that don't have anything anymore use to have potatoes, onions, garlic, and different greens. Those same spots now have carrots, fava beans, and will soon have spinach, garlic, and maybe lettuce. I have never planted a winter garden so I hope it works, you will find out in future post.

Where to start? If you are planning on planting things next year and you have grass it needs to be covered. The first year we planted our garden, we turned over grass, that was a lot of work. From then on, I would cover the grass with a newspaper and cardboard and then I would finish off the job in March by rototilling it by hand, add a little compost and plant a couple of things.

Planting blueberries, raspberries, and other fruit trees is much easier. We got most of our plants from Kreamer's (located right by the steel mill in Mcminnville). They are really nice and will answer any questions you might have.

Remember that Its easier to do this little by little. Patience is the name of the game with gardening, but once its all set up, its much easier to maintain.

















Blackberries


It seems like we are coming towards the end of the blackberry season.


What to look for:

Too soft= eat them, I know, its already getting difficult.

Too hard= come back in a few days.

If they give just a little when you touch them then they are ready to come home with you.

Poison ivy= go to a different place. Unless you happen not to be allergic, like me. How do you find out? Well lets just say it might not be very fun to run test out on the field.

I usually freeze mine by rinsing them, putting them in pan, and then into a zip-log bag. This way they don't end up in a big ice cube.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Green Beans

Now most people who know me know that I don't work a lot with vegetables. However, I always make an exception for a couple of them. These green beans came from Bernard's Farm on HW 18 towards Willamina. Right now they have a lot of different things such as green beans, awesome corn, cucumbers, and squash. These green beans were very fresh. You can do a U-pick for many of the things they sell there and it comes with a nice discount.

As you can see from the picture above there are a few things you will need. Two years ago I tried to take the lazy way out. I just put the beans in the bag and then tried to cook them in mid-winter. The skin was so tough, they were terrible.

Start boiling water and wash your beans.







This might seem like a lot of work but you will be amazed at how much work this will save you later. All you will need to do is set them in the fridge before you go to work and when you come home you heat the pan add a little butter or oil, salt, and pepper and they will cook super fast.

Snap the ends of the beans. If they are fresh you will not need the knife, I did not. The ends are tough and always need to be removed.



















Cook (par-boil) the beans for about 3 minutes. Remember you are not cooking the beans, you are just cooking their skins. The rest of the cooking will happen later in the year.











Put them in pans, these are pizza pans.
I had these in the freezer for a bit to help the beans cool faster but its not necessary.













Then put them in the freezer over night and into zip-log bags the next day.

Intro

Hello to anyone who is interested in preserving food for winter or just eating local food more often. I will begin by saying that I do not know it all, I know this might come as a surprise to a lot of people but its true. If you have any suggestions or ideas please let me know by sending me an email to efrain.arredondo@mac.com .

I have been preserving food for about 4 years now and it is something that I really enjoy. I don't think there is anything better than opening a jar of peaches in May or eating dried strawberries during Christmas time. I love opening a jar and remembering the sunny day I bought the fruit, the conversations I had with the people who were there, and the way I felt connected with the greater community around me. I was hesitant to start this blog in late August, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Thank you for your interest and please join me on a crazy journey I call Yamhill Squirrel.