Well, I spent the better part of Saturday harvesting fruit from the garden. Sadly, the apple maggots had eaten most of my apples. Next year, I will have to explore organic controls...it is quite a bit of work since it is a large tree. Pears were attacked by scab, but only on one tree, so I will have to address that, too. I think a sulfur oil will work there. I also harvested the Italian plums, but I waited too long and many had already fallen off the tree. Dang it, writing a book in the middle of summer really puts a crimp in my gardening style. And surprisingly, I had a ton of San Marzano tomatoes to harvest. We had cool weather and I thought for sure that fall was here, but we are back up to the 80's and 90's. I may even have another harvest!
All of this harvesting ultimately results in a bunch of preserving. I thought I would share with you some of my methods, in the event you find yourself in a similar predicament.
Apples and Pears: These are great for storage. It just so happens that the varieties I have are low sugar and water content, which makes them awesome for storage as is. I could store them in a cool (40 degree) space with limited humidity and they would be fine for several months. Important to remember that apples give off a gas that causes other fruit to ripen...so wrap them in newspaper first.
However, I decided to make apple/pear sauce, then freeze for fresh eating and baking. It is super simple, just quarter the fruit and remove the seeds and stems. Saute with butter and a bit of apple juice until soft. Whir in a food processor and you have a great storage method. For mine, I like to add brown sugar, molasses, salt, allspice and cinnamon. It makes a great side at dinner.
To freeze this mixture, I spread it out on a tray, add a layer of plastic wrap to the top and freeze. Then, I break or cut it into portions and vacuum seal. Pop it back into the freezer and it will be fresh for up to a year.
I also dried some of the pears in the dehydrator. I suggest removing the skins, cutting into 1/4 inch thick pieces and sprinkling with fruit fresh. Then set the dehydrator and let it go to town!
Tomatoes: Last year, I harvested, made sauce and canned my tomatoes in a water bath. This year, I did not have the time or energy to do that. So, these are being stored in one of three ways. The first, and easiest, is dehydrating. I just quarter the tomatoes and spread it out on the drying trays. Plug in the machine and presto, dried tomatoes! Then I vacuum seal and store in a dark, cool location.
I also roasted some tomatoes in the oven. I cut them in half, sprinkled with salt, pepper and olive oil and roasted at 400 degrees for about an hour. This really concentrates the flavors of the tomatoes and makes them fantastic to add in pasta dishes. When removed from the oven, allow to cool, then store in vacuum sealed bags and freeze.
Finally, I am making tons of tomato paste. The thing about tomato paste is that it is super easy and can be added to any dish, including store bought canned sauce or tomatoes, to boost the flavor. I clean the tomatoes, cut in half and drop into a large stock pot. It is important to bring this mixture to a boil over medium heat. Add a bit of water to the bottom to get it started, if needed. Then reduce the heat just a bit and let simmer until the mixture is reduced by 2/3. Grab a food mill and use it to screen out the seeds and skins. Pour onto a sheet pan and let cool. Cover with a bit of plastic wrap and freeze. Then break into portions, vacuum seal and store in the freezer.
It ended up that there were so few plums that I just halved them and dehydrated them. I stopped the process before they were completely dehydrated because sometimes that makes fruit to tough for my tastes. But, because I did that, they will have to be frozen. So, as usual, I vacuum sealed and popped it into the freezer.
And in case you were wondering...I have a 7 cu ft chest freezer...which comes in handy! It is already full of berries...which will make fantastic crumbles and cobblers over the long, wet winter.
It is easier to preserve the harvest than you might think. Give it a try and let me know how it goes...