I never started preserving in a major way before last year believe it or not (right? I talk like I've been doing it from the cradle).
I have always preserved the food I grow--I made and froze tomato paste, I dabbled a bit in heat canning, I've put away dried beans, and made jam from my raspberries. But pretty much I used to only grow what we could consume fresh.
Then I started realizing that even this basic approach was taking us well into the fall, so I started tweaking the garden to see if I could make it to November. Last year, after joining in on Eat Real Food at Not Dabbling Normal (where I am now also a contributor), I decided to see if I could make it all the way to January on food preserved from my garden. We bought an 8 cf chest freezer and resurrected my son's little dorm fridge. I increased the number of shell beans I was planting, and learned a lot of pickling recipes.
I cheated a little by purchasing farmers market in-season fruit and veggies to preserve (notably eggplants and peppers, since mine did not produce very well last year), but everything in my larder was preserved in-season and guaranteed local and organic, which is important to me.
I'm still somewhat dependent on the grid, inasmuch as most of what I preserved I did by freezing, but there's really nothing like "shopping" in your own basement. What I found was that there was hardly anything you need to buy to eat a varied diet all winter, including all the main vegetable types--tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, heavy greens like kale and chard, legumes, beans, corn--are all easy to grow and to preserve. I didn't grow potatoes or onions so I bought those (I never seem to be able to grow onions), but I made it into December on leeks, and I still have some parsnips.
Yesterday, yes well into April, I made the following Xanish rice (can't call it Spanish rice, since I did not actually refer to any references to find out what that really is). The stock, tomatoes, peppers, corn, and carrots where from my garden.
1 cup white, brown or basmati rice
cups broth or stock per package directions, less 1/4 cup
1 quart bag whole peeled tomatoes (about 3 medium tomatoes, equivalent to a can)
3 chopped shishito or other hot pepper (to taste)
handful of frozen peas
handful of frozen corn
1 cup dry beans
Tomatoes should be room temperature, or even hot. Boil the beans in a small sauce pan for about 30 minutes, or until tender. Cook the rice in the stock according to package instructions, cutting the water by about a quarter cup (the tomatoes will add the additional water). When the rice is about half-way cooked, add the tomatoes and peppers and continue cooking. Before serving mix in the beans, corn, and peas. If the corn and peas are frozen, no need to cook them, just throw them in. The hot rice will warm them sufficiently.
3 hours ago