Putting this produce season to good use (have I become a farmer?)

by Melody on September 14, 2011

We ended up with a ton of produce last week from our garden, my friend Monica’s garden and our weekly CSA pick-up.  I spent the better part of 2-3 days dicing, roasting, blanching, peeling and freezing several different things to get a head start on the fall/winter season.

My friend Monica gave us what can only be described as a boatload of tomatoes.  I decided to try my hand at homemade marinara sauce.  I blanched, peeled, seeded and diced all the tomatoes and threw them in the crock pot with onion, garlic and tons of different spices.  I let them simmer away all day and then used my immersion blender to create a slightly chunky sauce.

We ate some for dinner the night they were done cooking and I froze the remaining sauce.  To be perfectly honest, it was a lot of work even using the crock pot.  However.  The flavor.  Oh my heavens.  It’s possible that my taste buds revolted against all the flavor.  It was wonderful and smoky and delicious and I will be forever ruined from eating jarred sauce again.

My husband picked up a butternut squash from our CSA last week and I used it a few different ways.  I chopped up about 14 ounces of uncooked squash and used it to make a double batch of Butternut Squash Muffins. We ate half for breakfasts and lunches and froze the other half.

I roasted the remaining squash and once it was done, scraped the squash away from the skin.  I threw it all in the blender with a little bit of water and made puree.  I spread some on the grilled cheese sandwiches we had that night and froze the remaining puree.  I’ll use it to add to muffins, breads and even pasta sauce.  We picked up another squash this week, so I’m looking for new and creative ways to use it!

Monica also gave me some green bell peppers that I was never going to be able to use before we left for Seattle, so I diced them up and flash froze them for use in baking down the road.

Last but not least, I made a batch of homemade refried beans.  I was making a ridiculously delicious, completely homemade version of 7-Layer Dip and had all the ingredients for these beans so threw them in the crockpot the morning before I needed the dip.  After the beans cook all day, I mash them up in the crock pot and freeze in ice cube trays.  Once the cubes are frozen, I throw them in a gallon freezer bag and pop out a few cubes as I need them.

This recipe is actually from Emilie’s aunt and my kindergarten teacher.  I told you, Emilie and I go way back.

HOMEMADE REFRIED BEANS

Put all ingredients in crock pot in the morning:

(2) 16 oz bags pinto beans
1/2 lb raw bacon, chopped
(6) chopped garlic cloves
(8) cups water
2 T. chicken bouillion

I usually cook for 8-9 hours.  Add more water throughout the day if they get too dry.

I love knowing that we are using everything we have instead of letting food go to waste.  How do you stretch your produce this time of year?  Are you a canner or a freezer?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

suzy September 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Both! I used to can Homemade v8 (google) till i realized my hubby drinks it faster than I can make it. Now I just freeze all random veggies till I have enough for a pot full @ 6 quarts. 2 bottles go in fridge 1 in freezer. Green beans, beets, can. Onions, peppers tomatoes, any veggie, fruit close to turning I will freeze and pull out for stir fries or baking. I just have the house freezer so nothing gets lost.

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Miss Jay September 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm

I do both freezing and canning, though I do more canning. I can peaches, pears, applesauce, grape juice, and various jams. I freeze berries, and peaches (so great for smoothies!) In the past I have frozen green beans, corn, and apple cidar but not recently.

I also dehydrate fruit, mostly apples and plums. My dad has a farm in Eastern Washington, so what fruits & veggies I end up ‘stockpiling’ depends on when I can travel, and what is available for super cheap or free.

I am excited for the next trip in about a month – apples and grapes will be ripe at that time.

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Emilie September 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I just made marinara (used the same recipe) in my blender and didn’t peel, dice, seed, etc… It took me about 3 minutes to make it and my plan is just to crockpot it like you did. I just put everything in whole. I’m not sure it will taste as good but it might be worth the comparison because of the time factor.

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Melody September 15, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I’m going to bring some of my sauce over in November and we will do a taste comparison. If I can do it your way and have it taste fine, I’m in.

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Emilie September 15, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Oh, and I’m a freezer. But I’ve run out of freezer space. Will somebody teach me how to can?

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beth September 26, 2011 at 10:49 am

Pioneer Woman has a great step by step on how to can, under how to make her strawberry jam. You can use her method for anything though – applesauce, marinara, etc. :) It’s much easier than I had thought and saves so much room in the freezer!

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beth September 26, 2011 at 10:48 am

Melody, Any tips on how you blanched and peeled your tomatoes? Looking around on the internet, but thought I’d check in with you first. :) thanks! excited to give this a try!

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Melody September 27, 2011 at 5:57 am

I can’t even remember where I found the instructions, but I basically brought the water up to a boil, dropped in the tomatoes and boiled until the skins starting cracking open. I think it took about 5-6 minutes. Then I let them cool and the skins peeled off so easy!

Next time I would probably do it in smaller batches, as some of them ended up cooking a little too long. However, for this recipe I don’t really think it matters, since it all gets blended up anyway.

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