Garden surplus becomes winter's bounty when canned, frozen, or dried
For the home gardener, fall means a surplus of produce. Beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes seem to take turns setting production records every year. Squash, including zucchini, is a subject some gardeners are unwilling to discuss. One gardener's exasperated son suggested that one-half of a squash seed be planted next year to keep the crop realistically restricted.
Giving surplus vegetables to friends and neighbors is the obvious solution to the challenge of not allowing anything to go to waste.
But putting by, putting up, canning, preserving, filling the root cellar, freezing, and drying is the best solution - and learning a few new methods each year helps relieve the monotony of using the same recipes each winter.
Pickling is one method that should be used to full advantage - and not just for cucumbers.
Many other vegetables lend themselves comfortably to pickling spices and solutions. Try pickled carrots, okra, sliced peppers, green and red beets, squash sticks, and dilled beans.
Jar after jar of colorful, flavorful vegetables suitable for winter salads are good to have on the pantry shelves and will also make nice Christmas gifts for friends and relatives.
If you have ample freezer space, it will mean less time over a steaming canner on the hot stove. Big batches of tomatoes can be handled with great expediency by simply washing them and tossing them whole into a plastic bag.
Later, retrieved from icy storage, they are easily skinned and used in soups and sauces, served as delicious tomatoes, or even made into juice.
This is a much quicker solution to the problem of too many tomatoes than trying to scald, peel, and can them quart by quart.
The final processing can be postponed until both time and energy are in greater supply, long after demanding garden-harvesting activities are over.
Cucumbers can be ground up, drained, and frozen for a cucumber soup seasoned with dill and enriched with cream or yogurt. Mixed with sour cream, grated frozen cucumber becomes an excellent sauce for fish or topping for baked potatoes.
Grated squash frozen in plastic bags can be used in wintertime breadmaking enterprises or added to soups, casseroles, and even pancakes.
Putting zucchini slices through a blender or processor can result in zucchini ''milk,'' which may be used to replace regular milk in bread and cake baking.
An overabundance of fresh herbs, such as basil, may be either frozen or dried. Pack herbs in labeled plastic bags and simply file them for future sauce needs. Or if time permits, make a sauce, such as pesto, and freeze in a convenient eight-ounce plastic dairy container.
Surplus cabbage can always be shredded, brined, and converted into kraut. Cabbage wedges (both red and white) cut, blanched, and frozen at the peak of perfection, can come to winter dining tables in many variations of cabbage recipes.
Freezer slaw comes in handy, too - and it seems especially tasty and crispy long after a gardener's supply of fresh vegetables has been cut off by Jack Frost. Freezer Slaw 1 medium head cabbage, shredded 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup vinegar 1/2 cup water 2 cups sugar 1 teaspoon celery seed 1 teaspoon whole mustard seed 1 carrot, grated 1 green pepper, finely chopped
Add salt to cabbage and let stand 1 hour. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, celery seed and mustard seed, in saucepan and boil 1 minute. Drain cabbage, add carrot and pepper. Pour syrup over vegetables.
Store covered in refrigerator at least 3 weeks, or freeze for later use. Thaws quickly and may be refrozen if not all used at once. Green Bean Puree
If pole beans and bush beans combine forces to overwhelm freezing-canning enthusiasts, green bean puree may be the only way out.
Prepare beans by snapping off ends. Cover with boiling water and simmer 10 minutes. Put through a food mill or processor. The result should be a fine puree.
For every 1 1/4 pounds of fresh beans, add 3 tablespoons butter, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.
Heat mixture thoroughly until it is piping hot. A pound and a half of beans will yield 4 servings.
Made in large quantities, this puree can be poured into appropriate containers and frozen. Dried Green Beans
If beans are coming in from the garden by the bushel, this may be the logical way to deal with them. You can use the old-fashioned method of stringing fresh, mature beans with a needle and thread and hanging them up to dry into what used to be called ''leather breeches,'' a preserving trick used in many pioneer homes.