25 September 2010

Weekend Cooking: Preserving the Harvest by Carol W. Costenbader

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It's that time of year when many of us in the Northern Hemisphere are scrambling to get our garden produce under control and preserved for the winter. Those of you in the Southern Hemisphere are just starting to dream of gardening.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to attend a talk given by one of our local Agricultural Extension agents and learned that I was probably not freezing and canning safely. If you are using recipes that are more than about 10 years old, then you too might be tempting fate. The varieties of fruits and vegetables that we buy today, even heirloom varieties, have different acidity levels than those used even thirty years ago. Thus older freezing and canning recipes have to be adjusted to meet current safety standards.

Because I was using canning cookbooks written in the late 1970s, and recipes from my grandmothers, I decided that it was time to update. One of the books the agent suggested was The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest by Carol W. Costenbader, which I immediately went out and bought.

There is much to love about this cookbook, but the parts I turn to again and again are the charts. For example, there is chart that tells you how to prepare produce for freezing, one that tells you proper canning and freezing temperatures, and another that tells you which foods can be processed in a water bath.

The book covers canning, freezing, and drying and includes a description of each method, equipment, safety issues, and step-by-step directions. There are two levels of recipes: those for preserving and those that use the preserved produce. All the recipes I've tried, from soups to pickles to jams, have been successful both in taste and in preservation. We tend to like our food a bit spicier than the recipes in the book, but it's no problem to adjust the seasoning to our taste.

Here is a soup that I have made and frozen successfully. See my notes at the end.

Tomato-Basil Soup

Yield: 20 cups
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 6 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 pounds plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • Zest of 2 small orange
In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the onions, cover,and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer.

Add the tomatoes, stock, lime juice, and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Add the basil and orange zest.

Transfer the soup to a food processor and puree.

Cool. Ladle into two 10-cup freezer containers, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Chill in the refrigerator, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.

To use, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and serve hot or cold.

Beth Fish's notes: I saute the onions in olive oil instead of butter and use less fat. I sometimes use vegetable broth to make it vegetarian. I've added hot chile peppers to boost the flavor. I always add black pepper. I freeze this in 5-cup batches because there are only two of us. I use an immersion blender instead of my food processor. When I serve the soup later, I often add leftover cooked vegetables, rice, or noodles.


Published by Storey Publishing, 2002
ISBN-13: 9781580174589
YTD: 83
Source: bought (see review policy)
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


20 comments:

Rikki 9/25/10, 6:20 AM  

Sounds like a delicious soup. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

Chrisbookarama 9/25/10, 7:52 AM  

Every year I preserve beets. They're so delicious. I should have a look at this book.

Beth 9/25/10, 7:58 AM  

I really like that this cookbook includes both how to preserve and then what to do with your work. I feel like so many canning/preserving books leave you with so much product, you need a way to use it all!

I'm so sorry I'm missing you while you're in my neck of the woods!

Diann @ the Thrifty Groove 9/25/10, 8:20 AM  

Hi Beth!

this sounds like a great book. We do a lot of canning and "putting up" our harvest. We have a small herb and mint business and right now I am staring at the canner and a fresh batch of herbed jellies getting read to head to the Farmer's Market. We try to keep up on the local programs that have classes and seminars regarding preserving food. so, I might just need to look for this book!

that tomato soup recipes looks like one I need to try. especailly since we seemed to have a great basil harvest this year!

Have a great weekend!

Em 9/25/10, 8:23 AM  

Yum! Can't wait to make that soup! thanks for your notes on how to make it veg and spicy!

Just Mom 9/25/10, 9:20 AM  

That sounds great! We have started a garden but haven't had a harvest yet - so far the two squash we have picked average about $60 a piece. We're hoping the pace picks up soon!

Sandy Nawrot 9/25/10, 9:36 AM  

AFter risotto, my favorite thing in the world is tomato soup. Total confort food!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 9/25/10, 10:30 AM  

Thanks for the soup recipe ... 'tis the season to make and freeze for later this fall!

I love the cover illustration -- are the inside illustrations also drawn, or are there photos?

JoAnn 9/25/10, 10:35 AM  

This sounds like a very useful book! My recipes are all from the 80's or my grandmother.... time for me to update, too.

Margot 9/25/10, 10:45 AM  

Two good resources: the book and the soup recipe. I can see so many ways to use the soup.

caite 9/25/10, 11:17 AM  

I love the idea of preserving things, canning and freezing...bu I never do it.
And while I love tomatoes, raw and cooked, in all their many forms, I have something against tomato soup. Perhaps a childhood trauma...

But I am sure it is delicious!

Rural View 9/25/10, 11:52 AM  

Good to know about the acidity being different now. I tend to use my grandmother's cookbooks for things and they begin in the thirties. I need to be careful.

Leslie @ Under My Apple Tree 9/25/10, 5:10 PM  

Today I am preserving my tomatoes this weekend so that I can make sauce later. Excellent timing with this book because I'm sure my 20 year old methods are probably out of date.

I like to freeze fresh herbs too. I posted about that today for my Weekend Cooking.

Vasilly 9/25/10, 9:06 PM  

I don't do any canning but I'm glad you shared the fact that canning and preserving methods have changed over the years. This soup recipe looks so good!

Peaceful Reader 9/25/10, 10:44 PM  

I could really use this cookbook as the last few years I've frozen and canned more and more of my produce. The soup recipe sounds great and the perfect thing to get us through the long winter.

leeswammes 9/26/10, 4:39 AM  

That's quite a easy and handy soup to have in the freezer. Thanks for sharing.

I didn't know acidity levels have changed over the years. I'm thinking of starting canning/preserving (I know I'm a bit late in the year) but I AM worried about preserving in a safe way.

I'm thinking of buying a book on it, but maybe I should buy one that's directed to my local-ish area.

Anonymous,  9/26/10, 10:01 AM  

Condivido pienamente il suo punto di vista. In questo nulla in vi e 'una buona idea. Pronta a sostenere voi.
Assolutamente d'accordo con lei. Ottima idea, sono d'accordo con lei.

Jane in AUSTRALIA 9/26/10, 10:10 PM  

looking forward to DC food posts

Christine 12/5/11, 10:04 AM  

I have been searching for a recipe for dairy-free tomato soup for AGES and this one might be IT! I'm going to give it a try, but might try halving the recipe since I'm the only one in my family who eats tomato soup.

Carole 10/14/12, 5:31 PM  

Tomato and basil - a match made in heaven. Great that you linked in, thanks. have a good one
PS Sorry I missed your weekend cooking - I have been away for a few days and have had wifi issues... sigh

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All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2016. All rights reserved.

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