Last year, our garden was…sad. But, as I like to remind myself, my main project was growing and giving birth to Abigail. My goal was to have lots of tomatoes canned, enough for the whole year, and I did pretty well considering the lack of energy I had.
This coming year, I have big goals, but aside from the goals of the amounts I want to preserve, my biggest overall goal is to eat and preserve everything I can with as little waste as possible. Because we’re also doing meat birds that will be lots of our meat for the year, I want to reserve freezer space for that as much as possible and use my dehydrator and canners as much as I can.
My other goal is to have enough produce that I can sell some at the farmer’s market. I’d love the garden to be an extra source of income for us this year since I’ll be putting a lot of time and effort into it. I also want to have a business that the kids are involved in since blogging isn’t really something they can help a lot with. I love showing them how much fun making money can be so they aren’t raised with the idea that work and making money is all hard and drudgery.
I love canning with my steam canner, it’s so much faster and easier than water bath canning or pressure canning, so I don’t mind using it. It also means I can save the freezer space for things that can’t be canned or dehydrated.
Hot pepper jelly (50) – Honestly, I think I’ll have a hard time finding enough uses for all the pepper plants I have going, but I’m okay with it since this hot pepper jelly from Mel’s Kitchen is Ian’s favorite thing I make from the garden. I want to have plenty to eat and to share!
Tomatoes – 100-200 quarts of diced tomatoes and 26 quarts of Italian tomato sauce. I have no idea what to expect as far as the yield of my tomato plants. I know there will be a lot, but how much exactly? I don’t have enough experience to know, which is why I have such a huge range.
Berry jams (100 pints) – We have a mulberry tree in the front yard that produces in May or June, which is always loaded with berries. We also have strawberries and raspberries this year, both of which should be ripe in June. Looks like June will be a very jam-heavy month for me!
Brussels Sprouts – Ian loves these, so I’ll be freezing these in portions for his work lunches, and if I can find a way to prepare them so I enjoy eating them, I’ll save some in family-sized portions too.
Freezer meals – really, this deserves to be its own post, but my intention is to make some freezer meals straight from the garden to the freezer. I love making veggie stews, and with what I’m growing this year it should be easy to do. One of the things I did last year was freezing the ingredients in “layers” – as I pulled things out of the garden I would chop them, then throw them into gallon-sized freezer bags until the bags were full. That helps deal with the overwhelm of the harvest season, and helps me because it means more finished meals in the freezer that I just have to heat and eat, while possibly adding a protein like canned venison or chicken.
Something I have yet to figure out is how exactly we’re storing our carrots, potatoes, and winter squash. Our basement in our rental house is so wet that it’s not a good place to store food, so I’m trying to figure out a solution for that. I’ll keep you posted once we know.
I am so excited to order me Amazon gift cards for the holidays so I could order myself an Excalibur dehydrator with all the bells and whistles. I was inspired by this blog post when I read about how she uses her tomato peels leftover from canning to making tomato powder. I read some blog posts about how to use tomato powder because I’d never heard of it. Now that I know you can use it anywhere that you can use regular tomatoes, or whenever you want to add a stronger tomato flavor to a dish without giving it a more watery texture… I can’t wait to try this! I’m also excited because using the dehydrator isn’t as labor-intensive as the process of canning, so if I’m overwhelmed with the amount of produce coming in from the garden I can slice some tomatoes (up to 15 square feet worth!) and let them process themselves for a while.
I’ll also be dehydrating all the herbs I don’t use fresh, which should be a lot. They’ll be used for cooking and herbal teas.
Apparently you can also dehydrate spinach (this blogger says it’s great!) so, I’m going to be trying that as well as freezing it.
I’m also glad to know I can make celery powder as this blogger does. Celery is great in soups, but it’s bulky in the freezer for the calories it provides and I’d like to have a way to preserve it that uses less valuable freezer space.
Zucchini can also be dehydrated – thank the Universe! I was so overrun with zucchini last year that it was overwhelming. I’m trying to converse freezer space since we’ll have a lot of chicken in the freezer, so this will be helpful! This blog post is the guide I’ll be using.
Last year we planted raspberries with the hopes they would produce well this summer, so I hope I have enough berries to can, eat fresh, and dehydrate. We’ll see if I need this handy guide for dehydrating. It’d be great if I did, but honestly, my kids love raspberries so much, I’ll be surprised if anything happens besides them getting eaten straight off the plant.
The biggest thing I’m excited about dehydrating (besides tomatoes, my first love) is mulberries from our enormous mulberry tree. Last year we had so much produce I could barely keep up. My family loves the taste of the berries, so having the powder will be great because it means I can add the flavor to staple recipes like yogurt and smoothies.
Wow. That looks like a lot, but I know that it will be spread out over months of work, so it should be more manageable. I also know that adding in a method that is hands-off that takes a long time (thank you, dehydrator!) will make things a lot easier for me this year. With the number of plants we’re growing I’ll need all the extra help I can get!