Like Squirrels from Time Immemorial – Preparing for Winter

November 1, 2011

I’d actually be a really lousy squirrel, because this amount of food wouldn’t last me long, but I still did more than I ever have before in terms of saving food for the winter. In past years, once the farm stands were done selling tomatoes and delicata squash for the year, I started getting all of my produce from the grocery store. So after sometime around October, it was back to standard, grocery store vegetables. This year I decided to try to do a little planning ahead so we would have at least a few bites of Farmers’ Market produce later on in the year. I don’t feel up to taking on canning yet, but that still leaves freezing!

A few weeks ago, I bought about nine pounds of heirloom tomatoes at the Boulder Farmers’ Market from Far Out Gardens (whose tomatoes are divine), and made a huge batch of tomato sauce. I used my usual recipe, utilizing onions and some wonderful, strong-flavored garlic from the Farmers’ Market as well. I kept enough sauce for a pasta dish during the week, and then put 2-person sized portions into freezer bags, and stacked them on the fast freeze shelf to set up. A couple of weeks later (but before the recent snow), I went to the Boulder Farmers’ Market expecting to find no tomatoes whatsoever, but Growing Gardens had two boxes of paste tomatoes. Some were a little overripe, but I found about four pounds of really nice ones. So I made another batch of tomato sauce, albeit smaller, and got another pasta dish and two more freezer bags out of it.

Local Heirloom Tomatoes for Tomato Sauce

Heirloom Tomatoes for Tomato Sauce

I just loved the colorful array of tomatoes. They looked even cooler after I dropped them in boiling water to loosen the skins and peeled them.

Peeled Heirloom Tomatoes

Peeled Heirloom Tomatoes

I started out using our big (and tall) soup pot to cook the large batch, but it was taking absolutely forever to cook down, so I transferred it into our large, rounded (and wide) saute pan, so there was more surface area exposed to the air. It still took about 3 hours to make the larger batch, but was well worth it!

Cooking down the tomatoes

Cooking Down Tomatoes

Getting the tomato sauce into freezer bags was a bit messier in reality than I imagined it beforehand, picturing myself competently transferring it without any spills and no waste. But after I got out as much air as I could and sealed them up, cleanup of the outside of the bags (and the counters) wasn’t too bad, and I didn’t lose too much sauce.

Frozen Tomato Sauce

Frozen Tomato Sauce

My other big freezing endeavor was to make pumpkin puree out of a gorgeous (and purportedly sweet) pumpkin I bought at Munson Farms.

Pumpkin

My Gorgeous Blue-Grey-Green Pumpkin

I actually started laughing about half-way through cutting this thing up. I read some column or essay or book at some time where a woman was talking about how she decided to make a pumpkin pie from scratch, scoffing at all the people using a 15 oz can of pumpkin (or as my husband calls it, cylindrical pumpkin). Then at some point she became overwhelmed by the amount of effort, and started wishing more than anything that she had a 15 oz can of pumpkin. As I finished cutting up the first half, I totally understood where she was coming from. And I also figured out why most of the pages I found on the internet with information on how to roast pumpkin indicated that you should pick a couple of those small pie pumpkins. These big pumpkins have dense, robust shells! After I finished cutting it into smaller pieces, I cut the shell off, and arranged the pieces on a couple of baking sheets. I didn’t use oil or anything additional, I just put them right into the oven as is (about 350-375 degrees), and baked them until they were tender.

Pumpkin ready to be roasted

Pumpkin Ready to be Roasted

Then came the puréeing. And more puréeing. And still more puréeing. I had never gotten to know my food processor quite this intimately before, but I can say we’ve seen each other in some messy situations now. I’m never very good about keeping my hands clean when it deals with transferring stuff into and out of a food processor (or into freezer bags (see above)), so there was a lot of pumpkin puree on the processor handle, the cover, the counters, the cupboards. But, once it was done, I had the four bags below (about 1-15 oz can each), plus three more 15-oz cans’ worth in a plastic container for pumpkin bread and pumpkin soup this week. And it really is a very tasty pumpkin. The stuff out of the can doesn’t taste very sweet at all, but this definitely has a bit of sweetness. I’m looking forward to cooking and baking with it. So all in all, a very successful pumpkin purée making experience (albeit a little laborious and messy).

Pumpkin puree ready to freeze

Pumpkin Puree, Ready to Freeze

My other preemptive winter preparation was to purchase 2 $5 bags of gorgeous, spicy garlic from Wee Bee Farms. Each bag was 6 cloves, so I should be good for about 8-12 weeks, depending on how garlicky I am in the months to come. I love this garlic – you can tell as you peel it and chop into it how much more fragrant it is than the usual common grocery store garlic. And I checked the storage information for the kind I bought to make sure it would be good through December or January.

Garlic from Wee Bee Farms

Garlic from Wee Bee Farms

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