Eating It Up
Now that you’ve relished the joys of preserving food (and perhaps a few sorrows,) it’s time to “eat it up” so to speak. Your canned, frozen, pickled and dried foods are at their peak now. As the months go by, the food remains safe, but gradually loses quality. Colors darken, spices intensify and nutritional value decreases. After a year or two on the shelf, strawberry jam, for example, may darken so much it becomes unpalatable.
Plan the pantry pare-down by making a list of all the preserved foods on the shelf and in the freezer. Do you have 8 or 28 jars of jam or canned pears? If you use a jar a week, when will your supply be used up? Frozen berries and jam are wisely consumed by May or June, giving you opportunity to replenish with 2007’s farm fresh berries. Think about when next year’s crop of peaches, pickling cukes and tomatoes will be available, and use up your current stash accordingly.
And make note of the method, variety of fruit, recipe or size of container that pleased you the most, so you can make the most of your preserving efforts next season.
Can’t eat it all yourself? Give it away to family and friends. Gifts of home-preserved foods are appreciated, especially by those who value the effort involved. Be sure and add a tag or label that provides details about the ingredients. And consider adding a recipe or ideas for how to use any specialty items, like chutneys or unique pickled foods.
NOTE: Charitable organizations will not accept home preserved food due to safety issues.
Don’t feel alone if you have a few orphans that nobody wants to eat, including you. When it comes to home food preservation, stuff happens. Practice makes perfect – or at least more delicious. Consider making fruit leather or yogurt smoothies out of not quite blue ribbon canned fruits. Meat marinades can use up unpopular jelly or jams.
Like a vacation, planning is part of the fun. Food preservation is often a 12 month adventure of learning, imagining, planting, harvesting, experimenting, preserving and eating.
Enjoy the process,