two jars of home made tomato chutney
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Finding methods of food storage is important when becoming self sufficient. Store, freeze and preserve different foods when there is excess of it. That’s what fills the gap in the low harvest periods.

Use methods of storage and preservation of food that works for you. Make the most out of your crop when it produces well. Don’t let it go to waste.

Even the most experienced gardener has periods when their fresh vegetables are not producing that well. To have food in the freezer, long time storage and preserved food available is essential for those periods when being self sufficient

Below are my top methods of food storage and preserving that I use the most at home:

Freeze produce

Freezing fresh produce is my favorite way to preserve them and make them last all winter.

I freeze as much as possible. Its easy to do and its very handy to have frozen free flow vegetables in convenient sized bags.

When done right frozen steamed vegetables keeps well and are very similar quality to the fresh product when reheated

Below is a list of fruit, vegetables and herbs that freeze really well. Some vegetables are better to quickly steam or blanch first and others are best to freeze raw.

Steamed/blanched

Raw

  • Broccoli
  • Beans
  • Cauliflower
  • Snow peas
  • Peas
  • carrots
  • Zucchini/Courgette
  • cherry tomatoes
  • dill
  • Apples
  • Pear
  • garlic
  • stone fruit

It’s very convenient to have serving sized freezer bags of homegrown fruit and vegetables in winter. They are very easy to reheat and keep well in the freezer for several months.

A zip lock bag with frozen snow peas inside
3 clear plastic bags of frozen vegetables

How to freeze vegetables

First of all you want to freeze them as fresh as possible.

Don’t wait until the vegetables has been sitting in the fridge for too long and starting to go limp or leave them in the garden too long until they are going to seed before picking and preparing for the freezer.

Instead you want to pick the vegetable in it’s prime and prepare for the freezer straight away. That way you have the best possible result and very close to the fresh product.

Prepare the vegetable how you normally would. Cut them or trim them the way you like it.

Steamed vegetables

  • Quickly steam or blanch in boiling water. Under cook them slightly then you refresh them in ice water. Make sure they are really cold then drain them in a colander until the are very dry. You don’t want excess water on the vegetable so make sure they have drained off properly.
  • Spread the vegetables out on large trays. Just a single layer then put them in the freezer. You want them to freeze quickly (snap freeze). Use the quick freeze button if your freezer has one. Wait until they are frozen all the way through.
  • Put your frozen veggies in convenient sized bags and leave them in the freezer until you need them.

Raw vegetables

  • Cherry tomatoes I just discard any green bits. Wash them and dry them properly, then spread them out a single layer on a tray in the freezer. Quick freeze if you got it. Once frozen just put them in bags. I use mine mainly for pasta sauce, stew or other sauces. You can hardly tell the difference between using fresh or frozen cherry tomatoes once the sauce is ready
  • Zucchini just take the stalk off and cut the way you would like and spread a single layer out on a tray then freeze. I normally slice, cube and grate (The grated zucchini is great for baking, fritters or chutney)
  • Finely chop garlic – just peel and chop it fine in the food processor with enough olive oil to cover it all. Put it in zip lock bags and freeze it. That way I can just defrost a bag at the time and use a spoonful in the cooking when needed.
  • Apples, pear can be peeled, cored and cut then frozen raw in freezer bags
  • Stone fruit – simply remove the stone and cut in halves or quarters
  • dill – pick the leaves of the stalks and put in freezer bags
Many peeled apples on a white bench top
Apples and pears can be frozen very easily
An apple slicer cored and cut an apple into 8 slices
frozen apples are great for baking
puree of garlic in a blender pouring in to a glass jar
Pureed garlic freezes really well

You can also mix some of the pureed garlic with soft butter and chopped parsley. Roll it in cling film like a log then freeze the butter log.

Garlic butter can easily be used in cooking or melt some on your meat or seafood instead of a sauce

Eggs

Eggs can also be frozen

In winter the hens lay a lot less and it can be handy to have frozen eggs to pull out. They are fine for baking, making scrambled eggs and make an excellent bacon and egg pie.

Simply just crack the eggs and put 3-4 in a small zip lock bag then freeze.

It’s best to defrost the eggs slowly. Overnight in the fridge is best.

Preserving

Pick fruits like apples and pears and preserve them

Make sauce, chutneys and jellies out of them.

A large green crates full of green and red apples
Don’t let your apples go to waste. Freeze and preserve them for winter instead
Applesauce compote cooking in a large square sauce pan. A wooden spoon stirring the sauce
Apple sauce is a great accompaniment for roast pork and can be used in baking too. Apple sauce adds flavor and moisture to many baked goods.

Herbs like parsley, basil or rocket can be made into pesto or other paste’s. That way you can keep them in a jar for months and use a spoon when needed.

green cherry tomatoes outside on a tomato plant

Tomatoes will stop ripening in Autumn.  There is usually a few green tomatoes left on the plant that wont ripen.

Pick the green tomatoes before the frost gets to them and make jam and chutney. An excellent accompaniment for cheese and roast meat.

You can find my green tomato chutney recipe here

Long time storing

If you have the space to plant big crops of things that can be stored for a long time. That is the best step towards becoming self sufficient.

Find long term food storage methods that works for you and your situation so you can enjoy your homegrown foods all year around

I dig up my root vegetables before the ground gets too wet. They don’t store as well if they are in wet ground when dug up.

3 potatoes on top of garden soil
Digging up potatoes and storing them for winter
3 parsnips digged up from the garden
Digging up parsnip and storing them for winter

Place the root vegetables in crates with newspaper on top and bottom. Don’t wash them or remove the dirt, then keep them in a dark cool place with plenty of air circulation. They keep well (a few months) especially the potatoes.

Read about how to grow stunning potatoes effortlessly at home here

If I notice they start to go soft and won’t keep well for much longer then I make batches of soup and freeze it.

Carrots can be blanched and frozen or made into hummus or chutney. I pickle beetroot if I have any.

Store garlic,

The garlic should be harvested when the soil it grows in is really dry to prevent the garlic from going moldy when storing.

After the garlic has been dug up, leave it to dry in crates for a few days to a week somewhere shady with airflow so the dirt on the outside is really dry and crumbles or falls off easily.

Then brush the outside clean with a nail brush and cut the long, thin string like roots off so they are really short. Hang them in bunches upside down from the green stalks for a couple of weeks until the green stalks are totally dried.

garlic hanging and storing for winter

Now you can cut the stalks off to really short stumps or you can plait it then hang and store the garlic in a cool, dark, breezy spot and use it as needed. Garlic keeps really well for about 6 months like this.

Try not to let anything go to waste. Using different methods of food storage and preserving depending on what food it is.

I spend more time in the garden and the kitchen and less time in the supermarket. Just the way I like it!

Drying

Wild mushrooms

Wild mushrooms can be found growing in the paddocks, garden, parks or forest depending on the variety.

freshly picked porcini mushrooms on a white kitchen bench

Birch bolete mushrooms mainly grow in the garden and parks. They dry and store really well.

I prefer to slice them thin, dry them by spreading the mushroom slices out on a news paper and leave somewhere warm and dry until they are ready. They need to be totally dry otherwise they don’t store well.

sliced porcini mushrooms drying on news paper

dried, sliced porcini mushrooms in a zip lock bag

The time for this varies a depending on how thin the slices are, temperature etc. It can be anything from overnight to a couple of days. I then store them in zip lock bags in the cupboard.

They store really well for at least one year if I dry them properly. Once dried they are easily added to soups, stews and sauces.

I prefer the flavor and texture of the birch bolete when dried first. The flavor tends to intensify and the texture are firmer. 

If you have chantarelles, morelles or black trumpets in your area. They can be dried easily too. Just spread them out on news paper and leave somewhere warm and dry until totally dried. Mix them around every now and then so they dry evenly.

The black trumpets and the brown chantarelles dry rather quickly because they are quite thin. Yellow chantarelles takes a bit longer because they are meatier.

I just hydrate the dried mushrooms again in hot water before I’m about to use them. Then add them to soup, sauces, tarts or stews. (The soaking liquid is full of lovely flavor so be sure to use it in your sauce or stew as well). You can also fry the mushrooms in a frying pan after they have been hydrated

These are the main methods of food storage and preserving that I do at home with my home grown and gathered food. There are many more things you can do. Pickling and fermenting are some examples. Find the best food storage and preserving techniques that works for you and start making your homegrown food last longer.

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