Preserving and Preparing Loads of Produce

On Sunday I went to the grocery store and market and got a large amount of produce, much of it free. I had nearly everything I needed (I was a little short on fruit), and my fridge was mostly full. I had plans on going back to the market on Wednesday, since I was teaching a class there on how to shop cheaply, so was planning on filling in whatever was missing.

Then Tuesday night I was gifted with a whole lot of produce. A huge amount of potatoes and carrots, sweet potatoes, eggplant, red and green peppers, hot peppers, cucumbers, radishes, and some citrus fruit. Which was amazing, and I knew it would be enough to last me a while.

Only I got home, and realized that it was too much to fit into my fridge. And it started to stress me out. Because as much as I love a full fridge, too much to fit into my fridge actually stresses me out, because I don't want any of it to be wasted, and I feel an insane amount of pressure to do something with it as soon as physically possible, whether or not I have the time, energy, or inclination, so it doesn't spoil.
And then the next day at the market, though I said I wouldn't bring anything home, I saw them throwing out large amounts of fennel parts and celeriac stems and leaves, and two avocados... so despite my brain shouting "NO!!!" I brought them home.
And then freaked out at all the work ahead of me.

But, over the last few days I took care of the food and cooked and preserved it and did what I could to make sure that the food doesn't spoil before it gets used up. Here's what I did with the food:

First, I took the large amount of potatoes and carrots, both more than our family could use, and divided them each into three, and gave bags of each to two other families. Sharing the bounty is the best way to make sure it all gets used, and then every body benefits.

I boiled a bunch of potatoes and made potato salad with them for the kids for the carbs for their meals, including sending some with Ike instead of sandwiches for two days.

I also made a huge pot of ratatouille with tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and peppers, and had that for a few meals. I also shared some with another family, and froze one portion for a later date.

My kids asked me to make sushi; I made sushi rice, but then didn't have the energy to roll them what with everything I had to do in the kitchen... so I used some of the cucumbers, sweet potatoes, carrots and avocado, plus the cheapo tuna I recently bought, and made giant lazy sushi rolls. Though the ones shown in this picture don't look that different than usual, they are giant- I made each one with a ton of rice and a ton of fillings, and then cut each giant roll into 4 gigantic sushi pieces. Took a fraction of the time to make, and the kids enjoyed them just as much.

I had little room in my fridge but plenty in my freezer, so I peeled and chopped up carrots into three different bags, and added chopped fennel parts and celeriac stems and leaves, to become a soup base, to make a mirepoix of sorts. 

I also chopped up red peppers and green peppers to use in various cooked dishes.

I asked some friends for suggestions of what to do with all my food, and someone suggested ajvar, a Serbian roasted red pepper and eggplant dip, which I then made. It was so extremely delicious, and even my kids who usually shy away from cooked peppers and eggplant loved it. Recipe to come soon.

I kept some to eat now and then froze a few containers of it as well. I also made some cooked salsa with some soft tomatoes, more of the peppers, and some hot peppers. I put some in containers to freeze and kept a small batch in the fridge. For both of these, I considered canning them, but honestly, didn't have the energy to can them...
I roasted eggplant slices with some oil, garlic, and salt, and when cooled, mixed in a little wine vinegar to make a salad. I froze a container of it and kept a container in the fridge.
I made some Moroccan carrot salad and mu sangchae, a delicious Korean radish salad. Both refrigerated, but they have vinegar and hot pepper in it, so they last a while in the fridge.

When I was at the market on Tuesday, I got a very large amount of chicken skin for free, which I then rendered to make chicken fat and cracklings.

I boiled up the hot peppers in a mixture of vinegar, water, and salt, and when soft, blended them up in the food processor with a bit of jaggery syrup and garlic powder, to make a homemade tabasco type hot sauce. One went into the fridge, and the other freezer. One is redder since I mixed it with the last little bits of homemade hot sauce that I'd already had in the fridge.

I made pickled carrot spears and pickled cucumber spears. The carrot spears are Indian style (I put in Bengali style curry powder with the carrots) and the cucumbers are with dill. For both, I made a mix of vinegar, water, and salt, brought it to a boil, and poured it over the vegetables and let them sit. Right now these are on the counter but when there is more room in the fridge, I'll put them inside. You may wonder why I didn't lacto-ferment them... I'm a little skeptical about lacto-fermenting my free produce, since it isn't as fresh, and the last time I tried pickling via lacto-fermentation, it got moldy, and I suspect it is because it wasn't as fresh. So vinegar pickles it is.

I baked a few large sweet potatoes, blended them up after peeling, mixed with jaggery syrup, a little palm oil, potato starch, cinnamon, ground walnuts, and ground flax seeds, and baked it again to make a paleo and vegan sweet potato pie.

I took fennel parts and cauliflower leaves and boiled them up with chicken broth to make a soup. I blended it up, and even though it isn't much to look at, it tastes great.

I also roasted some whole potatoes for supper tonight, so right now, I don't have so much of the potatoes left even.

Last but not least, I made two types of foraged fruit wine. On the left is hawthorn fennel wine, which I made on Tuesday and strained out and bottled today, since it was ready, made with raw fruit. On the right is hawthorn and rosehip wine which I just put up to ferment last night, and I cooked the fruit in it first. I'm curious which will make a tastier wine. Time will tell.

And now... I'm wiped!

When you have really large amounts of produce, what do you do with it? What is your favorite way to preserve? What would you have done with the bounty that I had?
Do you get stressed from having too much food to put in the fridge, or does it make you happy?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Ajvar is a favorite here in Croatia! We preserve it in sterilized glass jars (in oven on 100 degrees Celsius) and keep in fridge once opened. It's a big, big hit with Chevapi (ground meet rolled in "fingers" and grilled, eaten together with fresh onion, ajvar and sometimes kajmak (the best milk product ever!) in a bread bun called lepinja :)

    1. Oooo, and now you're getting me to go off and google all those foods...

  2. Can't wait for the Ajvar recipe. I love that stuff!!!

  3. Did you get moved, Penny? Different counter and tile wall in background.

    1. No, didn't move yet. Same counter and tile.

      Our new counters will be eggshell, and brick like white tiles in the backsplash.

  4. My favorite thing to do, if I have the time is to make and pressure can beef and veggie stew, Asian chicken and veggies or potato soup in pint jars! It's the gf version of fast food and a quick meal for my college student!
    The other thing I do is make a chicken and veggie stir fry, pack it in small corningware dishes and it is the perfect work lunch, midnight snack, etc. My family will eat it up quickly!

    1. What is in your canned asian chicken and veggies?
      You're making me really wish I had a pressure canner!

  5. I would LOVE all these recipes!!

    1. Sharing some of them soon. Any particular ones I should make sure to include?

  6. I have spent many a late night processing produce. I hate to see things go to waste as well. I do a lot of canning but freeze a ton as well. I do also dry some things. We just finished the heavy harvesting preserving season and though I do love that season I am loving how relaxed I feel now that it is over for the year. :-)

    1. I'd love to hear what you froze, what you canned, and what you dehydrated.

  7. If you have a lot of potatoes you can make a Dutch dish called "stamppot", which is basically potatoes with stuff mashed in. Traditionally the stuff is either kale, andives, or a mix of potatoes and onions, but it's my go-to "oh crap we need to use this what do I do" recipe in the winter. I do have to admit that it's hard to make it taste like much; most of the time people eat it with a variety of pickled condiments and sausage and/or bacon.

    But mostly I try not to have a ton of produce sitting in the fridge. I do prefer to go to the market on Mondays to get produce for the week but I make a conscious effort not to get too much. It may be cheap but it's still money wasted if I have to toss it.

  8. Penny, you are too much! I can't get over your energy, creativity and productivity! You're setting a high bar for the rest of us moms out there lol

  9. Interesting to read about your use of palm oil. I read another blog that talked about where it comes from, and thought it might interest you.

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