Preserved Blessings

A few days ago, a friend of mine commented that gardening season would soon be here.  It is true.  Traditionally, here in the mountains peas are planted on February 14; although we do not usually start planting until mid-March.

Although this time of year there is not much gardening or preserving going on, I have done a few things this month.  My seed order has been placed with Fedco.  I am looking forward to trying a few new things including turnips, snap peas, and chard.  My garden plan for around our house is drawn up.  Each year, it is sort of a puzzle to figure out how to rotate crops when you are dealing with small spaces.

The children have been busy cracking black walnuts in the vise and picking out the nut meats.  There was not much of a harvest in the fall, but there are enough nuts to keep them occupied from time to time.

Last week,  it was fun to try something new: rendering beef fat.  We were blessed with some grass-fed beef including about a gallon bag of beef fat.  An internet search found instructions for rendering the fat.  The task was really quite easy and fast, and now I have three small jars of good quality fat to be used when I fry potatoes.  A good sized bowl of cracklin’s was also produced.  I know some people enjoy them as a treat.  I cannot say I liked them very much, but our dog will enjoy a tablespoon each day!

This week, I finally finished cooking off the pumpkins we had been given in the fall.  I froze the pulp in pint containers and should have enough for at least a year, maybe longer.  We enjoy muffins, cookies, and bars made from the pumpkin.  I recently tried a pumpkin baked-oatmeal recipe which was delicious.  The roasted pumpkin seeds make a great snack.  I have tried seasoning them with a bit of salt, Italian seasoning, or cinnamon.  The roasted seeds are good in a trail mix made with Wheat chex, raisins, almonds, and a few chocolate chips.

This is the season to enjoy the fruits of your preserving.  It is a blessing to be able to go to the freezer and pull out vegetables such as green beans, onions, peas, tomatoes, corn, and cabbage to make soup or a casserole or to heat for a vegetable.  In making soup, I crumble in dried parsley and plantain.  A cup of tea with dried mint warms me on a cold day.  The children bring up from the cellar potatoes we harvested from our garden.  We are enjoying canned peaches, pears, and applesauce and jam and pickles that were preserved in the summer and fall.  To make muffins, I pull out a container of frozen zucchini or pumpkin.  Frozen strawberries are great in smoothies, and blackberries make delicious fruit crumbles.

I am looking forward to gardening again, but for now I will enjoy being in a warm house and cooking and baking with that which God has blessed us.

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