Monday, October 22, 2012

Freezing Food For The Winter

This summer, I mentioned that we took our first stab at gardening this year. The results were mixed. The weather wasn't good for certain vegetables, like broccoli, but was perfect for other things, like carrots.
Here is an example of our carrot harvest:

We have perfected the octocarrot! Sure to be a huge hit. 
Here's how our mutant carrots came to be: Late this past spring, our neighbor gave me tiny carrot starts (barely the width of a thread). I popped them into the ground because I was grateful for the neighborliness, rather than planting carrots from seed...which would have actually been easier and less time consuming. And, apparently, by accepting this kindness I angered the gardening spirits who viciously twisted our carrots into monstrous orange freaks. That, or the little root filaments got twisted when I popped them into the ground. But it's probably the spirit thing.

Anywho, we learned a lot this year. It was fun and the octocarrots were both delicious and amusing. Amusing because all but one carrot was a horrible mutation...which actually made the normal carrot stand out and you could tell that all the other carrots were whispering insults behind its sad, straight little back.

We learned that we should start our garden earlier this next year. Our peppers didn't have time to change color, so they are all green. Also, because of frost, many of the tomatoes had to be picked before they were ripe. They are currently wrapped in newspaper in a cardboard box in the garage...we were told this would allow them to ripen. We'll see. I may end up with a box of moldy, green tomatoes.

In addition to our own vegetables, we have continued to frequent the two local farmer's markets. That's where we got broccoli and red/orange peppers to make up for our own incompetence. Also, we super love the farmer's market. It's local produce (read: more fresh and therefore nutrient rich) and you get to support your local economy, not to mention meeting a lot of very cool people who will tell you the amusing names of their various crops. My personal favorite, the red onion known as the Red Zeppelin.

For the past couple of months we have been preparing food for the winter. Mostly, this involves cutting up the vegetables, blanching them, and then vacuum sealing them. Here's my favorite website on the topic:

Octocarrots look completely normal once you chop them into bits.

Servings of green beans and carrots, sealed up and ready for the freezer.

This works out really great during the winter. It saves time - all the cleaning and chopping is already done, and it provides summer/fall fresh vegetables. Much tastier and nutritious than the options you get in the produce aisle in December! We've actually gone uber-geek this year and made a spreadsheet of what we have and how much; very helpful for meal prep and for maintaining our nerd status.

In addition to serving sizes of vegetables, we also vacuum seal soup mixes (all the vegetables for a soup - just add broth and spices) and sauce starters (usually diced, cooked tomatoes, onion, garlic, and spices) that I can just add meat or additional vegetables to and toss with pasta. This works out really well for quick meals.

I know what some of you are thinking - who wants to spend all that time prepping food now for later?? Well, the husband and I have a system. We pop in a movie (one we've seen enough that it won't be too distracting) or our favorite playlist, and we work together*. In two hours, we can get through a week's worth of vegetables. Totally worth it! 

*I know what you're thinking. How romantic can you get, right? 

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