Our beautiful forest has created a floor of yellow, red, orange and brown leaves, the summertime flowers and fruits are returning to the earth, making way for the energies and beings of fall. The night temperatures are lower and daytime is sunny and there is no more sticky humidity. The seasons are turning. The energies of Autumn surround us. It’s a time of change. Just like Mother Gaia, we’re getting ready for winter on the off grid homestead as well. For us that means closing down the outside kitchen, getting the hot tent ready for winter including installing the wood burning stove and get all the harvest preserved. I got a new greenhouse for winter growing that needs to be assembled and seeds that need to get sowed. I love this time of year!
When I say harvest, I don’t mean only what I forage and grow, I’m including our bulk buying and what we find on sale. I’ve gotten pretty good at only buying whats on sale and stocking up when I do buy. Fortunately I’m able to make a lot of things and I’m learning to make more things. I’m buying less and less. I accomplish this about 90% of the time. The things I’m preserving from outside our farm and our a bulk buys are beans, peas, rice, salt, flour, sugar, vinegars, oils, etc. I much rather grow it all however, not all my crops did well this year. Growing all we need is a big accomplishment, I’ll eventually get there. It is our first year here, quite a difference from Wisconsin. It was a wonderful season of learning, next year will be better. Until then, I’m grateful for the bulk buys and what I’m able to grow.
I have a nice stockpile of dry beans I’ve been canning. Being mostly vegan, we don’t eat meat. Beans are a complete source of protein so their very important to our diet. We also happen to find them delicious! My canners have been working overtime! I also can whatever I have more of that we will eat before it goes bad. If the farmers market or Mennonites (They have a beautiful farm store here) have produce at great prices, I’ll stock up and preserve it. Potatoes, cabbage, herbs, cucumbers, fruit, etc, it can all be preserved one way or the other!
Jellies were something new for me this season, I love homemade jelly so I learned to make it. EASY!!! My jells turned out not only edible but delicious. We have a nice assortment of jelly sweetness to help us get through the winter months. I’m also making sure we have plenty of elderberry syrup. I foraged a lot of elderberries this year and got my hands on some organic, raw local honey. Need I say more?!? Elderberry syrup is in abundance this year!
We can’t forget the pups! I love getting organic chicken or, even better, chicken fresh from a local farm and making dog food. I try to get 14 jars of dog food out of one whole chicken. I add brown rice, bone broth (made from the last chicken), beans and dog friendly vegetables. I don’t can rice for human consumption, mostly because it turns to mush. That mush is great for dog food, particularly for my little silky terrier who doesn’t like to chew. I make bone broth out of the bones, can it and use it in the next batch of dog food. I also keep some on hand for medicinal use. We gotta keep the first aid kit stocked too!
Something else new to me this season is re-canning. Now this isn’t Ball Blue Book approved, for those who care. I don’t. Grandma never got anyone sick so I do what she did. I raised my kids canning, I never got anyone sick. I trust Grandma over any corporation that makes money off canning supplies. I understand the science behind it and what kills pathogens including the botulism bacteria. This and common sense trumps any book put out by any corporation in my world. For re-canning I only water bath can high acid foods. I don’t recommend re canning meat for you meat eaters out there. I process for the same amount of time I can fresh. For example, If I process my homemade spaghetti sauce for 30 minutes, that’s same amount of time I’ll process spaghetti sauce from a jar when re-canning.
Why re-can? Well, I do it for 2 reasons: less food waste and saving money. There is only 2 of us here, so far. We have adult children that may need to come home with all the nonsense going on in the Matrix. We’re preparing for that as well as our own needs. When doing my research, many people were canning from #10 cans…tomatoes, chilies, ketchup, etc. Buying in bulk and re-canning, what a great way to keep the family fed! #10 cans are not the only thing to re-can, I re-can from regular size packages. We currently have limited space for keeping things cold at the moment. We have an awesome cooler but it does have all the limits of a cooler…space, constantly filling the ice, etc. It’s what we have until we find a propane refrigerator. I very seldom use whole jars of spaghetti or BBQ sauce, etc at one time and very often throw them away after taking up room in the cooler and going bad. it also allows me to can in portions we’re going to use so there’s less waste and demand on the cooler space. Re-canning greatly cuts down on our food waste.
As mentioned above, I re-can spaghetti sauce, BBQ sauce, Mustard, pickles, basically anything you would can fresh in a water bath canner. I don’t re-can canned veggies because they turn to mush. I stock up on the frozen when their on sale and can them the same day. Their already blanched and won’t turn to mush. For things in vinegar such as pickles, I only re-can for 13 minutes. Botulism takes 10 minutes to kill so I process nothing under 13 minutes, just to be sure.
In addition to canning, I’m fermenting. I got into this for gut health. If our gut isn’t healthy, we’re not healthy. Fermented foods are pro- and pre- biotics, their great for our gut bacteria. Although I was eating healthy, I still had some digestive issues. After a month of eating just a tablespoon of fermented cabbage (saur kraut) a day, my issues disappeared. My digestion was much better, my energy level is way up and my mind is clearer. I’m sold on gut health!
As an herbalist, it would be a sin not to grow and forage my own herbs to dehydrate. Most of my herbs are not dried with heat, their hung. We do have a generator and a very nice electric dehydrator however, I like to do things the traditional way. It just seems more natural and healthy and why burn all that gas if I don’t need to? Herbs are like fruit and vegetables, they taste better when home grown and are higher in nutrients when harvested from the wild. The dehydrator is used mostly for fruits and vegetables as I like to have the dehydrated options on hand as well.
What are you doing to prep your pantry? I’d love to hear you experiences! Comment Below!