Pioneer Potluck: Ready for winter — Canning, freezing garden’s bounty

Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg

Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg

This is the time of year in Alaska that we put things away that we drug out of their winter hiding place. They go back into hiding in the old greenhouse that turns into a storage shed for a lawn mower, shovels and a lot of garden pots and things we NEED to make our house look nice in the summer.

Bob has a woodshed full of wood. We have all the vehicles in good repair, including the old snowplow. I have new struts and tires on my car. We even located the snow shovel BEFORE it snows!

For those who have gardens I would assume you have dug potatoes, gathered in the cabbage and root vegetables. This year we had an overload of wonderful Porter tomatoes.

I wrapped some green ones in newspaper, and pickled the small green tomatoes in pint jars to have on hand for a treat during the winter. I also pickled salmon, which this year was the very best. I have been doing this for several years and this year again I used white vinegar and white wine. YUP they are good! Recipes follows in recipe section.

One year Betty and Gene Coulter had an abundance of Red McClure potatoes from a plot he dug on the homestead. I had heard you could freeze potatoes, so I froze about 25 pounds.

I cannot remember if I blanched them first or just scrubbed and froze them. Betty and Gene are gone now, so I cannot ask them.

Betty shared the secret of freezing potatoes. She swore me to secrecy. Well, it is well-kept, because I cannot remember. The potatoes were great in soups and stews. But they took up a lot of room in the big freezer that we needed for moose and fish. Does anyone freeze potatoes? If so let me know!

In the early 1940s on the farm in Colorado, Dad fed potatoes to his cattle. There was an excess of potatoes all over northern Colorado and the government paid the potato farmers to get rid of the surplus.

They were sprayed purple and everyone was told they were not for human consumption. That was not a deterrent for our Mom. She just scrubbed them in warm water, peeled them and we had potato everything all that winter.

The purple potatoes had to be ground up for the cows because a half or whole potato would get caught in the throats of cattle and they would choke to death. So grinding purple potatoes was the job of my brother, John, and I.

We would throw the potatoes in the hopper and grind them. They then fell out into a wheelbarrow. Dad would take the wheelbarrow and dump it into the feed trough. The cattle slurped and slobbered – they loved potatoes.

Susan and Porter dehydrate sliced tomatoes – oh they are scrumptious! I will do this in about a week as my wrapped-in-newspaper tomatoes are getting ripe all at once!

Our Mom used to can tomatoes. I find it so much easier to buy a can at the store. They are not that expensive and not as much work as canning tomatoes.

Mom’s expertise was making dill and bread butter pickles from Pickle Bill’s pickle patch. He grew them for his pickle “factory,” as we called it.

They were great-tasting pickles in a jar, but did not hold a candle to Mom’s pickles. Our meal always included pickles that sat in a special pickle dish in the middle of the dinner and supper table. (Dinner meaning lunch and supper meaning dinner, nowadays!)

Mom made chili from the pinto beans grown in Dad’s field. She always served dill pickles with her delicious chili, homemade bread and crackers. I never make chili these days without thinking I should have a dill pickle with it!

Another thing Mom was so good at was canning peaches, pears and plumbs. When the new addition to the house was built, she had Dad build her a big pantry in the basement that held all her goodies that she canned during the summer.

My two brothers had bedrooms in the basement. For some strange reason, every week or so, there would be an empty quart jar either in their bedroom or in the laundry room sink.

I don’t know if they owned up to the thievery or not. Now, I must confess that I tried to eat a whole quart of cherries one time. I will never do that again!

Dad would send one of us to the basement to get a quart of plums. He loved plums with thick cream and sugar poured over the top. That was his bedtime dessert. I liked it when he shared!

Along with the peaches, pears, plums, apples and cherries were the wonderful jelly and jam that Mom made. My very favorite was cherry jelly or jam. Oh my goodness how good that was on homemade bread toast! YUMM.

We also stored apples from Grandpa’s 80-acre apple orchard in the basement coal room along with potatoes, carrots and cabbage. It was my job sometimes to sort out the rotting apples in the apple baskets and the potatoes in the potato sacks. They kept well all winter.

Before winter sets in, I have a few more things to do from the nice plants I have been so fortunate to receive from Fireweed Greenhouse. Thank you Susan and Porter!

I must dehydrate some tomatoes and dry the parsley that grew in leaps and bounds this summer. Chives and parsley are one thing that Bob takes an interest in and we have had an ongoing chive plant since we moved to this house 30 years ago.

I would be amiss if I did not mention the rhubarb, raspberries, strawberries and currents I froze or used in pies, cakes, cupcakes and cookies this summer. We are so lucky to have this wonderful bounty of edible delights on our little plot of land in the middle of this vast area of Alaska.

I also should mention those who make sauerkraut! I mentioned it and NO I do not make sauerkraut any longer.

I also have salmon and halibut in the freezer, thanks to many wonderful friends. We are well-stocked for the winter. Lots of work but OH so proud to say we are ready for winter!

PICKLED FISH

This is Vicki Lott’s recipe I have used for years. Thanks!

Make a brine of:

1 cup canning salt

4 cups water

Pour over prepared fish. I cut mine in 1 x 1 inch pieces. I use a large glass bowl.

Let set in the fridge for 48 hours. Drain and rinse.

Pour white vinegar to cover fish and let sit for 24 hours. Drain. Cut up several lemons and onions in thin slices. Layer in pint jars lemon and onion slices with the fish making a layer of lemon and onion half way up the jar. This is where you can get creative. I also put in some jars, sliced jalapeno, or habanero, red pepper flakes for some of us.

Make a brine of:

6 cups white vinegar, (see note below*)

5 ¼ cups white sugar

12 bay leaves

15 whole cloves

3 teaspoons whole allspice

6teaspoon mustard seeds

2 teaspoons whole peppercorns

Boil and turn off and let cool until cold. Pour over fish in jar and let cure for at least three weeks, the longer the better!

*I revised this recipe and use 4 cups of white vinegar, bring to boil with the rest of the ingredients. Let it cool and add 2 cups of white wine. White Port is good also but hard to find. Pour over fish in jars.

PICKLED GREEN TOMATOES

I pickled the small green unripe tomatoes. I also pickled sliced green tomatoes in separate jars.

Prepare your jars – I use pint jars.

Wash tomatoes and drain.

Slice larger tomatoes in about ½ inch slices – use the smaller ones whole

Slice two onions into thin slices

1 red bell pepper sliced thin for color

2 or 3 seeded fresh jalapenos sliced OR jarred jalapenos — use two to four slices

In a porcelain or glass sauce pan, add the following:

3 cups sugar

2 ½ tablespoons mustard seed

4 tablespoons peppercorns

2 teaspoons celery seed

4 ½ cups white or cider vinegar (I have used both).

Bring to boil until sugar is dissolved – take off heat.

While you are waiting for brine to boil:

Pack sterilized pint jars with a slice of onion, two or three jalapenos if using, and small amount of red pepper. And fill with tomato slices or small tomatoes.

Pour over the hot vinegar mixture. Wipe rim of glass and adjust lids.

Process filled jars in boiling water canner – (read directions) for 15 minutes.

Let set for at least four weeks to have the flavor develop. This makes 5 to 6 pints. ENJOY!

KOSHER DILL PICKLES

This is not my Mom’s recipe but still good.

21 (5-inch) cucumbers or gherkins

1/3 cup pickling salt, NOT table salt

10 cups water

1 cup vinegar – I use cider vinegar

2 tablespoons pickling salt

1 tablespoon pickling spices

Fresh dill

6 or more garlic cloves

Wash and drain cucumbers.

Place in 4 quart glass bowl.

Cover with brine made of:

½ cup pickling salt and 6 cups water

Cover and let stand 24 hours.

Drain and wipe cucumbers dry.

Combine:

The 1 cup vinegar

4 cups water

The 2 tablespoons pickling salt and the pickling spices in saucepan.

Boil 5 minutes.

Place a bunch of dill and a clove of garlic or more in each sterilized jar.

Pack cucumbers tightly in jars.

Place another bunch of dill and a clove of garlic on top. Cover with the boiling pickling brine. Seal. Make 3 quarts. This is the old fashion method of making pickles. If you are not comfortable with this – hot-water bath for the amount of time your manual says in water bath canner. Makes just three quarts. Let stand for about 4 weeks before using.

CHOCOLATE SAUERKRAUT CAKE

This is just like a big brownie. Shh … don’t tell anyone that it has sauerkraut in it! That is what keeps it so moist and delicious.

FIRST: Prepare: 2/3 cups of well-rinsed, drained and squeezed dry, finely chopped sauerkraut. Set aside.

In a small saucepan melt:

½ cup butter.

3 1 ounce squares unsweetened chocolate

Stir until smooth and remove from heat, place in large mixer bowl.

Add:

1 ½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs – making sure the butter, chocolate is not to hot

Beat well and add the dry ingredients:

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Mix until very well blended:

Add:

2/3 cups of well rinsed, drained and squeezed dry, finely chopped sauerkraut

1/2 cup walnuts

Spread in 9 x 9 inch oiled baking dish or pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until cake is tested done. Cool and make glaze of:

CHOCOLATE GLAZE

Boil:

½ cup butter

3 tablespoons milk

½ cup brown sugar

1 1 ounce square chocolate

Boil for 3 minutes, WITHOUT stirring. Watch carefully! Remove from heat and add:

½ cup powdered sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ cup walnuts

Stir in immediately and pour hot over center of cake and spread to the edges.

Cool before cutting. This is so good the second day if there is any left.

I think I got this recipe from Marie Bean. She is always missed.

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