If you are like me at the end of the gardening season each year I vow that next year it will be different and I will plant a smaller vegetable garden. I make plans for it and then after winter drags on forever I can’t wait for the first day the soil is able to be worked. It is not so much that I can’t plant a smaller garden I just don’t want to. In the end though I am presented with some problems when it comes time for harvesting.
After working all day it is sometimes difficult to come home and can tomatoes or to make pickles yet there is all this food sitting in the garden waiting to be eaten or preserved before it goes bad. In the past I would try and drag up enough energy to do a little canning each evening but sometimes that became impossible. I was fortunate in that I was friends with one of the people that ran the local food pantry and so it was always a welcome call when they heard my voice on the other end of the line. Fresh produce does not hold up well so it is great when someone comes up with some extra tomatoes or cucumbers and at least the food did not go to waste.
Over the years though I have been able to develop some quick way to preserve the harvest and still be able to have home grown tomatoes and peppers long after the garden has been bedded down for the year. Tomatoes can be frozen in freezer bags then used for cooking chili and sauces through out the winter. For paste tomatoes you can always cut the tops off and squeeze out the seeds chopped them up in a food processor and freeze them. If you have a food dehydrator you can dry them, then place in jars cover them with olive oil and store them in the refrigerator. Of course they are not as good as canned but they good and it is better than buying tomatoes.
Peppers are a bit easier you can store both sweet and hot peepers by freezing them. Cut the pepper length wise and remove the stem and seeds. Slice the peppers into strips and place in freezer bags then squeeze out the air and place them in the freezer. Now you have a supply of peppers for stir fry or to add to any dish while cooking. A word of caution about the hot peppers. Whenever you are handling hot peppers always where rubber gloves. The oils will get in your skin and can cause you major irritation and discomfort for several days.
Peppers can be pickled if you prefer instead. Cut the peppers up as above but pack tightly into clean jars to within a half an inch of the top. Pour in white vinegar to cover over the top of the peppers then place the lid on the jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 12 months. Great for adding to salads or on sandwiches.
So the next time you have an abundance of harvest and only a little bit of time try one of these alternate preserving methods.