Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Going Green week seven- eating local and summer preservation

I’ve pretty well disappeared for some time around here...and I really miss writing. Partly because of life. Partly because of family trips and a crazy July. Partly because of some lifestyle changes and spending more time working to implement healthier eating. And partly because it’s summer, and all the fresh bounty is in!

Several years ago I started canning for my family, and for a few years, we were pretty faithful about doing a few staples….tomatoes, peaches, applesauce, apple pie filling (for syrup). We also froze, and still do, green beans, blueberries and some other things depending on the year. But somewhere in there it got to feeling like so much work that we weren’t really saving money, which at the time was the primary motivator. Tomatoes got dropped, though my family’s continued doing the apple stuff, since it’s something they use that’s easy and for which the taste difference compensates for time. I haven’t really done anything (except blueberries and green beans) since we got married….till this year.

This year, healthier living has become a front-line priority for us, and one of the steps we’ve taken is eating as much local as possible. We’ve been feasting on lots of fresh stuff, and have slowly been putting stuff away as it’s come into season. August will really be the big month! Now, I have a better motivator than saving money, which makes the effort feel so much more worth it….I want to feed my family the best of the best- the very healthiest I can. I want to support local farmers and help them continue to thrive as they provide us with high-quality produce. Not to mention, the stuff tastes awesome. An added bonus, I am saving quite a bit of money on at least most of the stuff I do. (Side note: the focus of this article is mostly on produce, but we also do local meats, milk, eggs and butter- most of those we have done for some time. My meats and milk are cheaper than the grocery store’s sale prices (as long as I buy in bulk), which makes it super easy to justify!)

We are currently eating only local produce, with the exception of cherries (one of Ben’s favorites) and bananas (not many, but they’re an easy fruit Vivi loves). That beans that what we eat depends on what’s at the market….it’s also meant less variety in each week’s fair, and instead, a continual move of different foods. It’s been so much fun to feel healthier and to eat stuff that tastes SO good. I don’t know what we’re going to do come October…I would imagine that after our feast this year there will be some foods we just won’t really eat until they’re in season again next year- the taste would just be too disappointing. And some things we’ll get used to making do with, for the sake of still getting raw stuff. Fruit wise, we’ll start enjoying tropical fruits again, and we’ll also eat a lot of smoothies (from fruits I’ve frozen this summer) to count towards our fruit consumption. Raw veggies will be the thing we’ll just have to deal with. Although I’m wondering lately…would slightly cooked local produce (say, green beans) be as healthy as/healthier than veggies grown in mass quantities on a mega farm who-knows-where? I don’t know….but it’s something I’m curious about.

So far, we’ve preserved 5 gallons of strawberries (from our patch, and without encroaching on eating as many as we desired!), 1 gallon mulberries (from a neighbor’s tree), several bags of rhubarb (also unused of a neighbor’s), 50+ lbs of blueberries (mostly frozen, some dehydrated), 6 gallons sliced peaches, 2 quarts dried peaches and 15 quarts canned peaches. I’m still debating about whether or not to do more peaches…another affordable option for getting peaches has arisen, but I need to decide and act in the next week. So, we might also just call that good for the year and see how it lasts us. Next up will be green beans (probably about 20 quarts frozen). We’re also planning to do around 10 lbs each of tart cherries and raspberries (frozen). Then tomatoes should be ready….we’re planning on cut tomatoes (around 20 quarts/20 pints), tomato sauce (same) and if I find recipes we enjoy, spaghetti sauce (14 quarts) and pizza sauce (10-14 pints). I’m really excited about the latter two because it’ll be so fun to have fresh, healthy convenience foods that I’ve never had access to…and that are healthier than the homemade stuff I’ve done in the past using store bought canned tomatoes. We’ll also be trying a V8 type recipe that came highly recommended…only 7-14 quarts. With all the fresh stuff, it sounded good although I’ve never drank veggie juice, and it seemed like a good way to incorporate more veggies, something we’ve talked about doing. If I have space, I’ll do 5-10 quarts (frozen) of corn. This isn’t a huge priority, so we’ll see what space looks like….we don’t eat corn plain since it isn’t that nutritious (and if we’re splurging on a food, there’s other things we’d prefer), so I just need it for the occasional soup we enjoy it in. I’m okay with buying organic frozen corn for that purpose this year, if need be. Then we’ll be into apple season, where we’ll do applesauce (21-28 quarts), apple pie filling (14ish quarts) and dried apples (4+ quarts). We may or may not do other things as produce or inspiration becomes available….but that’s the current general goal.

It’s a really exciting journey! We’re having fun focusing on our health, and it’s fun to think that after these next couple months, I’ll have lots of local produce stored up for my family and little or no need for any canned/preserved/processed stuff this coming year. It also seems most ideal to start now, while we’re a small, growing family, who doesn’t need a whole ton of food, so that the idea of canning/freezing for all our needs when our family’s bigger doesn’t seem so overwhelming….it’ll just be a gradual process of adding a small number of cans to what I do each year. We’re excited to see where all God will lead us on our journey to better health.


  1. Busy busy! I just canned 13 quarts of green beans last night, and I really need to head out to the farm to pick today...if the rain would go away! We froze 5 gallons of strawberries, 2 gallons of rhubarb so far, getting ready to can 30 pints of rhubarb jam and pumpkin butter from last years frozen stash, so far we have 4 gallons of squash frozen and I'm sure much more to come, a gallon and a half of blueberries frozen, and just waiting for the craziness of tomato and apple season to hit!

  2. Fun post! I'd love to hear more about the different healthier eating stuff you're doing. :)

    In regards to canning, how do you deal with all the extra heat generated when you do it in the summer? Maybe that's not an issue for you there, but here in CA, in our small house, I try to rarely run the oven and even cut down on the stovetop cooking I do. So,canning during the summer doesn't even seem like an option...too bad you can't can using a grill! Any ideas?

  3. Jessica- that's definitely an issue, especially since you're boiling a huge pot of water all day! I, too, try to limit my cookery usage in the summer. We have AC, but try to not use it extensively, and I don't handle heat well. worked out perfectly that I discovered you aren't supposed to can on our (Amana smooth top) stove. We purchased an outdoor propane-heated burner that sits maybe a foot off the ground and hooks up to a propane tank. So far, after Ben figured out a problem with their directions, I've liked it. It doesn't totally do away with the heat, since you still have to heat up stuff, boil lids, etc., somewhere, but it seems like it made a huge difference. I actually canned one batch inside when I was having issues and couldn't get the outdoor burner to stay lit and decided I had to do something and didn't care at that point (the constantly going out issue Ben solved, and we didn't have any more issues, not even when it was raining fairly hard out there!)....and it heated up the house so fast compared to how it had been previously and was the rest of the day. :-) Anyway- it was around $50 and from Amazon...I can get the exact name/link if you're interested. I'm hoping to write more about some of the things we've changed- it's been a really fun and exciting journey- especially with Ben fully on board. I've been reading more Weston Price stuff and trying to move us better in that direction, like soaking grains, amongst other things...and do more thoroughly from scratch, like not buying cans of beans, something that's too easy to fall into, but which I haven't done for a few months now. I've done some "challenges" where I have strict grocery challenges (actually, only done one, and just started a second, to last August/Sept) and it's been really fun to see how much it helped form permanent (so far... :-)) habits after it was over, since that was the real goal of them.

    Holly- yeah, I'm looking forward to having tomato season done even though it hasnt' started. That'll be busiest! :-D Where do you guys pick stuff you don't grow yourself?

  4. Such a fun post to read :-). I'm inspired by how much you're buying local, even though you don't have a large garden. It's really really hard for me to be motivated 15 minutes to the closest farmer's market (that only is open specific hours 2 days per week) when we can walk to buy the rest of our groceries! We drive 40 minutes for milk, but buy 98% of our groceries within walking distance, which I love! Buying locally is something I would like to incorporate more of, but it will be gradual. And someday I hope to have chickens and a garden :-). But we'll see! For now I have 3 tomato containers on the patio ;-).

  5. Susan- yeah, I can relate! I don't like shopping/running errands/going incorporating local stuff has been gradual for us, too. To my discredit, I've known of this milk source (10 or so minutes away) for over a year....and only been getting it consistently for a month. Because, you know, it's an extra stop....turning my weekly 1/2 hour trips (our grocery store is a 5 minute drive) into *gasp* almost an hour. And taking time to go to the farmer market (also fairly close) is one more stop, plus the time to browse and compare various stands and pay multiple times.... So yeah...I can do a good job of talking myself out of it, and had to get excessively motivated before finally actually taking advantage of the resources I have practically in my backyard! :-) And, some things I have help my mother in law buys eggs from the same place I do, so she picks ours up for us. I don't think I'd be doing the egg deal otherwise. Small's better than nothing!

    By the way, Jessica....I'm really looking forward to apple canning season. it's the one thing that can be fun b/c it will (hopefully) be cooler by then, and kind of nice to spend the day cooking/canning yummy fall-y stuff! :-)

  6. Hmmm...that's a good idea about having the burner outside...if you don't mind, I'd love to see the link if you have it handy. :)

    And okay, reading that comment exchange made me feel a lot better. Other than our small garden (that we FINALLY got our first tomatoes from a few days ago...a cold spring really set everything back), I find it really hard to eat specifically locally (most of what we eat [i.e. from Trader Joe's] is grown in CA, but not LOCALLY if you know what I mean). The nearest good farmer's market (i.e. has consistently good produce) is an hour away and the hours don't really work for us. The nearest good milk source is 45 minutes away. I find it really hard to justify doing those kind of stops with two littles...AND the milk is $8/gallon! :P Anyway...don't mean to vent...I DID recently find a good egg source that we can walk to...that was exciting! :)

  7. Here it is, sorry it took a while! :-) It wasn't a problem at all...just had to go to Amazon. ;-)

    You and Susan have made me realize just how spoiled I am!!! I guess we all have certain assets in the places we live, and have to do the best we can with them. Obviously, Ohio's a much better place to live than I ever realized.

    I didn't mean for the post to set a golden standard for what everyone should be doing, either....that's what I get for writing in a hurry. ;-) It's just what we've been doing to take advantage of what we have and how we've appreciated the journey. I've been aware of the milk source, 10 minutes away, and no more expensive (currently quite a bit cheaper) than regular milk for over a year. We've been buying for a little over a month. Which feels quite pathetic....but it takes quite a bit of motivation for me to make an extra stop- even if it's just across the street from my usual store. I've been streaky before about how much I visit our produce market in the summer. I'll really love it this winter with two kiddos, two car seats, two coats, two sets of of my favorite things about spring (just with siblings) has always been being able to ditch the coats and all the other extras and just go. :-D