Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Puttin' Up Vegetables

In our part of Northwest Florida, we are in the middle of our growing season.    Again, the Lord has blessed us with an abundant crop.  We've canned our snake beans, frozen our squash, peas and corn, and are in the middle of harvesting the tomatoes and cucumbers (did anyone say tomato sandwich?).
Baby watermelons and muskmelons are on the vines.  Soon, though, as the summer wears on, it will be too hot, and the garden will take a little break (and so will we).  Of course, things like peppers and eggplant will struggle through and revive again toward the end of summer.  Then we will have another opportunity to plant a late summer garden with squash, snake beans,  some late tomatoes, and possibly some more potatoes.  I like to stretch out the growing season as long as I can.  
There's nothing like fresh garden vegetables during the summer months, and if you can preserve some of them for the winter months, you will not only have some mighty fine eating come winter, but you will also save quite a bit on you grocery bill.  
If you haven't tried freezing your produce, give it a try.  It really is an easy thing to do, and something the kids can help with as well.
Last week we finished freezing our first row of pink-eye-purple-hull peas.  This pea is akin to black-eye peas, but not as dry.  
After shelling the peas (grab the kids for this task), I wash them under running water and put them into a strainer to drain.  Work in small amounts. 
 I go ahead and put them in my wire basket that I use to blanch them in.  Next, I blanch them in a large pot of boiling water.
 After two minutes of blanching, I quickly drain them and plunge  them into ice water to begin the cooling process.
Here are some squash I put up a couple of weeks ago.
After cooling in the ice bath, I gently lay the vegetables on a clean dish towel to further cool and drain.
Aren't vegetable pretty?
At this point, the hard work is done.  Now, all that's left is to put the vegetables into a freezer container.  I measure out about two cups of vegetables for each quart bag.
 After pouring the vegetables into the bag, I gently squeeze out as much air as possible and lay the bags flat.  This way they stack nicely in the freezer.
 Place them in the freezer and that's all there is to it!  You'll be all ready to enjoy the fresh taste of summer all through the coming year!
For more information on canning and freezing methods, check with your local County Extension Office.  They have all kinds of valuable information on gardening and preserving foods.  You can also check with the USDA's website here.