I have been busily cleaning out my root cellar. Okay, I don't really have a root cellar. I have a garage where I store vegetables for the winter. My garage keeps things cool all winter, and if I package things properly, they don't freeze. The problem is, I store as much as I can for the winter so we have plenty. Then when spring comes, I nearly always have food that hasn't been used yet. I don't want to waste that food, so I have to find a way to either use it right away, or preserve it for longer term storage. So here is an overview of what I stored for the winter, and what I have done with it this spring.
Pumpkins--I had 4 pumpkins I just stored on a shelf for the winter. They would have stored better if I had wiped the shells with clorox water (1 Tbsp. clorox to a quart of water), but I fully intended to can the pumpkins last fall, so I didn't wipe them off. And then I didn't get them canned, either. They were starting to show a little mold on the bottom, so I cut that part off, and canned pumpkin chunks. (Pumpkin puree is considered not safe for home canning, due to inefficient heat penetration. You can freeze pumpkin puree.) I use the pumpkin as an oil substitute in baking. I dump the chunks in the blender and puree them, adding only enough of the liquid to make the blender puree the chunks well. This is especially nice in cake mixes in place of the oil called for.
Garlic--When I harvested my garlic last fall, I braided it, and humg it in the garage. But my garlic was starting to sprout, so I knew it wouldn't last much longer. So I sliced it and dehydrated it. I will grind it in a coffee grinder I keep for grinding spices and herbs, and make my own garlic powder.
Potatoes--I store my potatoes in a clean garbage can lined with crumpled newspaper, with the top ajar to let moisture out. I way overbought potatoes last fall. I canned 7 quarts of plain potatoes, and 7 quarts of potato soup starter. The soup starter was just potatoes with some onion and celery and chicken bouillon added. I still have more to preserve, but I am low on jars, so I intend to dehydrate the rest. I will stem them until nearlly cooked, then dehydrate. I haven't dried potatoes before, but have read hints on how to keep the potatoes from turning dark. I will report on how they turn out.
Onions--I usually buy a 25 lb. bag of onions in the fall, and store them hanging in pantyhose. I cut the legs of the pantyhose off, and drop an onion into the toe, and tie a knot, then drop in the next onion, and so on. This year I used nearly the whole 25 lbs. of onions, using almost the last ones for the potato soup starter. Other years, I have dried extra onions, but they also freeze well.
Carrots--I stored carrots 2 ways for the winter. The best results came from the ones I picked and put in a bucket, then covered them with clean, damp sand. This is the first year I have tried this, and I was very happy with the quality of the carrots. The rest of the carrots I overwintered right in the garden. My daughter dug them up for me last week, which was maybe a little late in the spring, but we kept hving rain and snow storms, so I hadn't gotten it done earlier. I am not much of a fan of canned carrots, so I decided to dehydrate them. I washed and sorted all the carrots I had left, and saved out the very best, un-blemished ones, and put them in the refrigerator crisper. I peeled the rest, and half I cubed and then blanched, then dehydrated. The other half I blanched whole, then shredded and dehydrated. The cubed carrots will work nicely in soups and stews, and the grated ones will be good for carrot cakes and in certain salads. They won't be as crisp as fresh, but rehydrated, they will be nice in pasta salads, etc.
By preserving these foods, I have eliminated waste, and thus saved money. I decided a long time ago, that even if I had to throw away half the potatoes I stored, I would come out ahead moneywise, over buying higher priced potatoes in the winter season. By preserving the potatoes I otherwise would have had to throw away, I have saved their cost. And it is so convenient to have canned potatoes to use in making quick meals. The dehydrated veggies will store for years when packed properly. I love salvaging foods that would have otherwise been wasted. That, my friends, is called provident living. And my goal is to live providently.