One of things I am obsessed with is learning how folks store their recently preserved goods and other pantry staples, especially when they have to get creative and don’t just have a traditional walk-in pantry. (Pinterest rocks my world, in other words…)
In our city house, we had to get pretty clever with our limited space, and here in our farmhouse, while we don’t have a formal pantry, there was so much leftover built-in shelving after doing our kitchen remodel that I’d been experimenting for the past year in how I wanted it to look. And the breakfast nook (not currently used for eating breakfast) has become my pantry paradise – not just for all the goodies I can / dehydrate / etc., but also for all the appliances.
To give you an idea, BELOW is how the pantry wall looked when we moved in. Bad paint effects, giant galloping horse stickers, and ORANGE glass on the faux ‘country oak’ (a theme throughout the house) cabinet doors and yeah, the two doors with cowboy boots on them. It was horrifying. And what’s not pictured? The icky, grease-covered accordion-style vinyl “door” separating it from the kitchen. Ew ew ew! Luckily everything got donated that I deconstructed – nothing to the landfill – as there’s something for everyone I’ve learned in my years.
And after several layers of paint (we used locally made MetroPaint made completely from recycled paint), shelves I made from scrap wood and old Ikea wood brackets from our last house that I also painted and repurposed, we now have this:
I constantly go back and forth as to if I want to eventually build some basic doors for the lower section, but it’s more for aesthetics than functionality. Because the fact is, can you imagine going into a walk-in pantry and having to open and close doors over and over? So while this is exposed, and therefore requires utter neatness, I love how accessible everything is.
Our pantry (which would double as a breakfast nook if we had another table, haha) is on the north side of the house, which means it is totally out of the afternoon sun and stays nice and cool – perfect for both the canning jars and the prosciutto that hangs from the ceiling on the opposite side of the room (in May 2020 it will be at the 15 month mark when we plan to slice it for our 6th anniversary).
Here’s some more detail on how it’s organized:
We are huge into buying from the bulk aisle, so minus the flour, everything is in quart-size canning jars with these rad dark gray lids I just splurged on. On the shelf we have everything from beans to sugar to rice to polenta to homegrown/dried herbs to rendered lard that we use for everything from pie crusts to cooking on the stovetop, that’s what’s there. Below is my beloved electric canner (I can never imagine going back to the big vat of boiling water on the stove – this is mobile, it’s space-saving, and it can also be used as a monster-sized crock pot. My next project? Using it for the scalding of our chooks that we’ll be processing later this month!), our FoodSaver (something I never thought I’d need but found to be invaluable for when we butchered our first pig last year!), the dehydrator (carrots, apples, tomatoes, jerky…it’s earning its keep!), and the badass blender (which I use for making oat milk, pureeing soups, blending smoothies and making our favorite summertime cooler, the mango lassi). I also took advantage of the walls beyond the shelves, from the ‘food focused’ photos of us (me picking blueberries years ago, Dan in Montmartre with a baguette in ’15) to using cup hooks to hang colanders and my beloved popover pan.
And on the right half, we start out with me back in my Portland days fresh out of the garden, and my husband in his first gig when he moved to America and volunteered in a community garden working with the disabled, tending the garden and looking after their goats. I’ve got our small appliances up here, every one of them valuable – our used-every-week-if-not-twice waffle iron, the immersion blender I’d almost tossed (until I realized it greatly helped with rendering lard in the crockpot), the hand mixer (I will never be fully convinced to crave a stand mixer, this thing is just fine and I knead bread with – gasp! – my own two hands!), the spice grinder (along with making rubs, I had the breakthrough moment of realizing I could buy all my spices cheaper in their whole format -i.e., why have pepper AND peppercorn when one makes the other? I’d been grating my own nutmeg and buying spices from bulk to save $ for years but for some reason it just dawned upon me to stop buying both, ha), husband’s coffee grinder, and the spiralizer (upon being introduced to the magic of zucchini noodles I was suckered into this and while it’s ugly, it’s badass and considering I think I never want to eat zucchini bread ever again, it’s great for the crop of that along with other veggies that spiralize well!). Cake pans line the wall and then below is my sweetheart’s prized meat grinder, our awesome new slow cooker, the truly badass Breville food processor (bought as a housewarming gift to ourselves after debating whether we needed that or a stand mixer – absolutely no regrets, this is SO much more multifunctional!) and all the goodies that go with it to slice and shred and mini-prep and so on and so forth! It’s more than we ever had at our old house in P-town but our farmhouse kitchen seems to beg for cooking and you know what, I’m happy to oblige.
Highlighting the lower area, along with all of the canning (which I’ll list separately what we’ve done), we’re also making a ton of apple cider vinegar from the scraps of the 50lbs-ish of apples I peeled (whew…), and I decided to re-repurpose these plastic bins for the pantry as well. Originally bought years ago for shoes, they then got moved to hold random ‘stuff’ in the garage over the past year or two, and the other day I washed them up and used them to categorize the other things that we need, we love, but turn into piles if not properly organized: 1) all the parts & accessories for the sausage grinder, 2) various ‘meat things’ like our cleaver, sharpening stone, and hooks for charcuterie, 3) cheesemaking supplies, 4) FoodSaver rolls, 5&6) wide and regular sized canning jar lids. BAM! If you love a highly organized kitchen, if you breathe better when things are labeled and not strewn everywhere, you’ll get why this makes me bliss out, hahaha…
And in the laundry room? Our beloved upright freezer (Energy Star of course) for the oodles of things we had to freeze, from berries to veggies to the 40 lbs of Alaskan wild salmon we get every year. Somehow we need room for 48 chickens and half a pig by month-end. Hmm.
So with that, here’s the list of fresh things we preserved in one way or another this year. Not nearly enough on the marinara side, but I’m pretty stoked with our first year’s harvest on the new farmstead, as my expectations were definitely low as we acclimated…
JAM/PRESERVES: blackberry-blueberry-lime, strawberry-blueberry, strawberry-rose-vanilla, ginger-rhubarb, pear-ginger preserves.
PICKLED GOODNESS: sweet, dill, and bread & butter pickles (zucchini & cuke), carrots, onions, sweet relish, rhubarb.
SALSAS: peach-serrano, and a smoky one from the Tasty ‘n’ Sons cookbook
SAUCES: Marinara, Blueberry chipotle hot sauce, applesauce, pear-chai butter.
DRIED: sundried tomatoes, apple chips, ranch carrots,
FROZEN: blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, carrots, peas, pesto…this which joins our existing annual share of Iliamna’s wild salmon, our soon-to-be-processed heirloom chickens, and the half-pig we’re picking up tomorrow in Portland (due to everyone in our area wanting to skin rather than scald/scrape their pigs, we ended up ordering one from our favorite butcher in Portland…more costly but until we have the infrastructure to raise our own, this is what we’re doing for now).
Whew ! So that’s where we are folks! I’m out of canning jars so not sure if I want to buy more to deal with these last dozen or so apples I’d forgotten about, or what. Hmm. Considering fruit leather which I’ve not made in several years, mmm…
How’d your harvests turn out this year?
PS – if you’re curious about any brands, fruit/veg varieties planted, techniques, etc., let me know! Happy to share 🙂