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Keep Your Homegrown And Local Food Through The Winter

This week I want to share with you just a bit about how Ben and I store food in our home for the winter. The harvests are almost in, and most of us are accumulating large quantities of vegetables, fruits, jams, jellies, pickles, and other food stuffs to tuck away for the winter.

Some vegetables require a little bit of moisture, and others like to be stored dry conditions. In our household, we tend to just store root crops and winter squash vegetables in a cool room with a separate door. The room is only heated for a couple hours a night, and only if we happen to be in there relaxing. The vegetables are stored in crates, protected from sunlight with a black table cloth.

Winter squash and root vegetables

Cool and dark storage for winter squash and root vegetables

The crates allow for good circulation to prevent the vegetables from rotting, while the table cloth keeps out the damaging effects of sunlight on stored food. Because we only have one storage setting (dry), we will only store those vegetables that like it to be a bit on the dry side and cool: in our case, onions and winter squashes. We also store potatoes and sweet potatoes in this space, even though they tend to like a little bit more humidity. We don’t keep any of the vegetables more than a couple of months, so they do okay in the drier conditions.

Warm pantry with fermenting foods

Warm pantry with fermenting foods

For foods that don’t need to be kept cool, or even prefer the warmth, we have a couple of pantries. When you walk into our house there is a walk-in closet style cupboard behind our refrigerator. We store a lot of bulk foods in here: rices, grains and beans. It’s also where we store our fermenting vegetables and fermenting drinks (we ferment kombucha on a fairly regular basis). This is a perfect spot for our ferments because it also happens to store our water heater. The ferments benefit from a little bit of warmth, especially during the day when the rest of the house is cool; this room stays about 5 – 10 degrees warmer.

So, our items that need to be stored in cool, dry settings are in a room where the heat is rarely on, and those vegetables that are fermenting—and like to stay warm when the rest of the house is cool—are stored in this walk in closet, which seems to do just fine for the pickles, dilly beans, kimchi, and kombucha.

On to the rest of the house! Usually we store our eggs in the refrigerator, but as the egg season starts to wind down and we stop selling them (by design), we start scrambling them and freezing the eggs in blocks. This allows us to have eggs when the chickens wind down on the laying.

Full jar of honey on top shelf

Full jar of honey on top shelf

At this point, our (pitifully small) honey harvest is done for the year. That product is stored in glass jars in the regular cupboard, or in the pantry. We also have some dehydrated fruits and vegetables from the summer, also stored in glass jars with screw on plastic lids. Those land wherever we have room for them. Some are in the pantry with the fermenting foods, and others are in the main pantry in the kitchen.  Our main pantry is quite small (years ago when Ben was a bachelor he gave up under counter cabinet space to install a dishwasher), so we try to keep the shelves organized and fully stocked.

Last but not least are our jams, jellies, and juices. Our jams and jellies are either in the fridge (if they’re open) or in the pantry. This year I canned several mini-jelly jars, a new twist for us. Ben and I eat very little sugar (providing you don’t count the dark chocolate I snarf on a regular basis), so the smaller jars make more sense for us.

Kombucha, elderberry juice, verjuice, and apricot jam

Homemade and homegrown kombucha, elderberry juice, verjuice, and apricot jam

Often we would open a jar of jam or jelly and it would go bad before we could finish it. Our juices are in jars in our refrigerator, and some of those will be transferred the freezer shortly. We make “dry sodas” using unsweetened fruit juice and seltzer water – a refreshing and healthier alternative than sodas or straight fruit juice.

So there you have it – fruits, vegetables, eggs, honey, dried food, frozen food, fermenting food, jams, jellies, and juice—all different ways to store the bounty from the year. I know there are still some harvests coming in from the farms, and the prices are rock bottom, so this would be the time to pick it up!

I also wanted to recommend a great book called Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel. It’s fantastic and shows all sorts of small-scale storage items, including ways to store fruits and vegetables for long-term storage in five-gallon buckets or containers you can slide under your bed. There are all kinds of ways to store fruits and veggies for use later in the year.

If you have any questions or comments please leave a comment down below the post. Here’s to a bountiful season!

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9 Responses to Keep Your Homegrown And Local Food Through The Winter

  1. Elaine Doudna November 6, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    I am wondering about how to find some CO2 packets to keep the grain and flour fresh. Do you know of anyone in town who is selling them in smaller quantities? I have looked on line and the cheapest and smallest quantities I have found are several hundred for $76. Sammy’s Organics used to sell them.

    • Christine November 8, 2015 at 7:30 pm #

      Hope you find some – sorry Ben and I were no help.

    • Sidney Patin November 11, 2015 at 9:57 pm #

      I don’t know about CO2 packets, but if you want to store your flour or other grain with CO2, it is fairly easy to buy some CO2 gas in a gas cylinder and just pour it into your container of flour (or whatever) just before you seal it. CO2 is heavier than air and will sink to the bottom of the container – think of it as pouring water into the container – and the flour will have no oxygen and not pesky bugs in it, at least no live bugs. I haven’t tried it but it makes sense to me. I am a beer brewer so I have some knowledge of CO2 gas from kegging my beer. Just be careful with the stuff and don’t let it displace all of the oxygen in the room or you might become of the problem. Cheers! – Sidney

      • Christine November 19, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

        Cool Sidney – thanks for the tip.

  2. Miranda November 6, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

    Great post Christine! Thanks!!

    • Christine November 8, 2015 at 7:30 pm #

      You’re most welcome. I hope it inspires you and others – we can all store food over the winter.

  3. Sidney Patin November 11, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

    You didn’t mention dehydration. We have dehydrated a lot of garlic, onions, cabbage, and various herbs from the garden. Those should last for a long time. I like having the garlic dried in little chunks so I can just throw some into a stew or use the mortar and pestle to grind some up to use on omelets. Yummy.

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