We are now entering into that wonderful phase where whole meals can be made with what we have raised on our farm. The other night, after our latest chicken harvest, I accompanied the roasted bird with greens, radishes, onions, beans and eggs from our own garden; as well as home made feta and hard cheese made from our own milk. All raised here. It’s a glorious feeling to step outside and 10 minutes later return with a meal.
But prior to that the boys and I had already brought in our first real garden harvest of the year. By that I mean more than we could eat in a week, more than a meal’s worth. No, we are now entering into preserving territory. This year we dedicated an entire raised bed to peas, we eat a lot of them through the winter and wanted to have as many of our own in the freezer as we could.
So about 10 days ago, when I determined that the pea harvest was very ready, I spent an afternoon with the boys clearing out that bed. We worked together, pulling off the pods, pulling out the plants and taking down the nylon trellis that had supported their growth all summer. I am aiming to plant fall garlic in this very bed in the next month and am very proud of my garden organizational skills! I hope to get more proficient with crop rotations in the future but for now it feels like a hopeful beginning.
We spent the evening together at the counter, podding the peas one by one. When Stephen got home he chipped in too, adding more little gems to the tubs and bags of peas. I had preserved about a third of the crop the week before but this would be the last push. I was glad to have the help of my two boys at the counter, especially Neirin who endured longer than anyone. He seemed fascinated by the process and enjoyed splitting each pod as if it were the first.
To preserve the peas I’ve blanched them (dunk them in a pot of boiling water for a minute) then transferred them to iced water. After than I froze them on my one nice baking tray in a single layer before banging them with a wooden spoon to release them into a big ziplock bag. It’s not exactly a technical process but it works! If you are ever tempted to skip the blanching piece don’t, it is crucial in preserving the peas at their very best. This technique is what you need for any vegetable freezing.
The preserving season is firmly upon us. I have to admit I’m in the midst of a mid-season energy lull so the thought of all that kitchen work doesn’t thrill me. But the thought of delicious jam in the middle of winter, of a freezer full of our own produce and home grown meat, of cheeses tucked away in the fridge for the cold and dark days in front of the fire…that does thrill me. So tomorrow we’ll be heading off to pick raspberries for jam, to add jars to our pantry and prepare ourselves for the long winter to come. But for now…summer isn’t over yet. Not by a long way.