Embrace Freshness, Support Local: Thornapple CSA's New Journey Begins!

Preserving the Seasons: Canning and Freezing Your CSA Bounty

June 26, 2024

Table of Contents

Preserving the Seasons: Canning and Freezing Your CSA Bounty

The Joys of Food Preservation

One of the highlights of my life these last few months has been food preservation. It looks me right in the face every time I step foot in our amazing root cellar at the Thornapple CSA. From seed to storage, there is nothing more satisfying than preserving the bounty of the season, especially when you can watch a crop throughout its entire lifetime. My shelves are full of some amazing local produce, thanks both to my job at the farm and having friends in the farm community.

I am still relatively new to food preserving, and the volume needed for a highly self-sustaining lifestyle hasn’t been attainable quite yet, so it seems like less of a chore and more of an experiment. We all know there are much less time-strenuous ways of getting and keeping food, but I’m enjoying honing the craft of putting up food for the winter. When I’m sweating over a hot stove by myself, I often think about the times when people would participate in community canning parties. It seems like a big stretch to organize events like that today, but it seems like such a great thing, and I love hearing stories about farm members getting together with friends and family to process food together.

It’s so great to know exactly what you’re eating and where it comes from, and doing the work with others makes it an occasion rather than just a chore. Plus, the apple fruit roll-ups I made with local apples taste much better than Betty Crocker’s.

Preserving Through the Seasons

As the seasons change, so does the rhythm of preservation at the farm. After last week’s storm, the fields are covered in snow, though it looks like we may lose it all this week. A good hard freeze gives our soil a nice reset each year and can kill invasive pests, so we’re hoping that we do get some extended winter weather soon, and we sure could use some moisture in the ground.

Towards the end of this harvest season, we removed all of the plastic walls from one of the greenhouses to give the soil inside a much-needed snow treatment this winter. While the plastic stays up on most of the greenhouses every winter, we try to leave it off over winter when it needs to be replaced. This helps wash away mineral build-ups from many seasons of irrigation, loosen the soil with a few good freeze-thaw cycles, and build up the subsoil water reserves.

I have a feeling that one of the first tasks to happen on the farm this spring is reassembling the greenhouse. I hope we have some calm days this spring because any breeze can get pretty exciting when you’re holding a 48×150 foot kite. If you see us hitchhiking back from Wisconsin in April, you’ll know what happened!

Preserving the Harvest

As the winter sets in, the farm’s focus shifts to preserving the bounty we’ve harvested throughout the year. One of the most satisfying ways to do this is through canning and freezing.

As I mentioned before, my shelves are full of some amazing local produce, and a big part of that is thanks to the canning and freezing I’ve been doing. Homemade dill pickles are a particular favorite of mine – I may not like them on my burgers, but I always eat them on the side. There’s something about the crisp, tangy flavor that just hits the spot.

One of my friends on the farm, Stacy, is a dill pickle connoisseur. She loves to smother her burgers in them, and I have to admit, it does make the burgers that much better. Preserving the summer harvest is such a great way to get a taste of local food all year long.

I’m still learning the ins and outs of canning and freezing, but each time I do it, I feel more confident. It’s like a dance, where you have to time everything just right to get the perfect result. And the satisfaction of seeing all those jars and bags lined up on the shelves, knowing that they’re full of nutritious, delicious food that I helped bring to life, is simply unbeatable.

Canning 101

Canning is one of the most traditional and reliable ways to preserve the bounty of the seasons. Whether you’re putting up jams, pickles, or whole vegetables, the process is essentially the same: you fill sterilized jars with your prepared food, seal them airtight, and then process them in a water bath or pressure canner to kill any potentially harmful microorganisms.

The key to successful canning is paying close attention to the details. Things like proper jar cleaning, accurate processing times, and maintaining the correct pH balance in your recipes can make all the difference between a shelf-stable, long-lasting product and a disappointing, spoiled batch.

One of my favorite canning projects is homemade dill pickles. The recipe I use is super simple – just cucumbers, vinegar, dill, garlic, and a few spices. The hardest part is waiting the 4-6 weeks for them to fully ferment and develop that perfect, tangy flavor.

But the wait is always worth it. Those crisp, flavorful pickle slices are the perfect addition to burgers, sandwiches, and even just as a snack on their own. And I love knowing that I made them myself, from start to finish, using only the freshest, locally-grown ingredients.

Freezing for the Future

While canning is great for shelf-stable goods, freezing is an excellent option for preserving the fresh, vibrant flavors of fruits and vegetables. It’s a quick and easy way to lock in the peak of the season’s bounty and enjoy it months down the line.

The key to successful freezing is all about preparation. Blanching vegetables before freezing helps to stop enzymatic actions that can lead to loss of flavor, color, and texture. And using the right containers or bags, with as little air exposure as possible, is crucial for maintaining quality.

One of my go-to freezing projects is making homemade tomato sauce. I love the process of roasting the tomatoes, simmering them down into a thick, rich sauce, and then ladling it into freezer-safe bags. It’s such a satisfying feeling to know that I have jars of that amazing flavor stashed away, ready to be thawed and enjoyed throughout the winter.

But it’s not just savory items that benefit from freezing. Frozen fruit is a lifesaver for making smoothies, pies, and other sweet treats. And nothing beats the taste of homemade frozen berries or stone fruits, still bursting with the sunshine of summer.

Preserving the Seasons, Year-Round

Whether it’s canning, freezing, or even root cellaring, the act of preserving the harvest is a time-honored tradition that connects us to the rhythms of the natural world. It’s a way to capture the essence of each season and carry it with us, nourishing our bodies and souls throughout the year.

As I look around my kitchen and pantry, I see the fruits of my labor – jars of jewel-toned jams, bags of crisp, flash-frozen vegetables, and rows of fermented pickles waiting to be cracked open. And each time I reach for one of these preserved treasures, I’m transported back to the moments I spent harvesting, processing, and carefully putting them up for the future.

It’s a lot of work, to be sure, but it’s also a labor of love. When I’m standing over a hot canning pot or wrestling with a stubborn freezer bag, I often think about the generations of farmers and homesteaders who came before me, doing this same dance with the seasons. And I feel a deep sense of connection, not just to the land and the food, but to the rich tapestry of human history that has always been woven through the act of preserving the harvest.

So as the snow falls and the days grow shorter, I’ll be in my kitchen, stirring pots and sealing jars, knowing that with each batch, I’m capturing a little piece of summer, fall, and spring, to be savored and shared throughout the long, cold winter. It’s a rhythm as old as time, and one that I’m grateful to be a part of, here at the Thornapple CSA.

About Us

Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

Follow On

Subscrive Our Newsletter
To Get More Updates

© 2023 Thornapplecsa.com. All Rights Reserved