It's funny how one day of cool weather can start making me feel like the warm summer is coming to an end and I have to start stocking up. Of course, like everyone else, I buy groceries as needed, but it's so much fun to see how much I can get stashed away for those winter nights when I don't feel like making a trip to the store in the snow. This is not a story about how you should can and preserve your hearts out for the next few weeks (although I would love it if you did!). This is more about finding what works for your particular family and putting up some of the things that make sense. So, think about food as if everything is just an ingredient and worry about what you are going to exactly make with it later.
Tomatoes - my family loves tomatoes. We actually have a weird love of them, and in my adult life have never canned enough tomatoes to make it through the entire winter. This year, I am canning 100 quart jars of just plain tomatoes. They make wonderful soup base, pour over a less-tender cut of meat in the crock pot, are fabulous in a simple noodles-tomatoes-and butter dinner in front of the woodstove, and many more things. Since we are a relatively large family, I often use 2 quarts at a time. That cuts into the tomato stash pretty quickly. If your family uses tomatoes regularly, now is the time to start shopping around for some. The farmer's markets are being overrun with tomatoes and you know they don't keep well at all. Go early to the market and ask the farmer if he or she can set aside so many pounds for you. Even if you don't can, remember that it is roughly 1 lb of tomatoes to 1 quart canned.
Zucchini - Don't mock me! zucchini has a whole new life when you preserve it. Shred some for the freezer. It makes excellent, nutritional filler for soups and stews, and baked goods. Make zucchini relish by the ton (well, by the jarful) and enjoy a sweet/spicy treat for your sandwiches, add a pop of color and flavor to your winter sausages and hot dogs, etc. It's so good and much loved when we get sick of eating the same thing all winter.
Here is my recipe for Zucchini relish from the Foodista archives.
Winter Squash - Look, winter squash has gotten such a bad rap and it's too bad. Winter squash is packed with flavor and nutrition! It's hard to eat fresh veggies in the off season, so imagine how tasty it will be to have fresh squash stored in a cool, dry spot for much of the winter. Don't get roped into the old sweet, sugar filled squash idea either. It's tasty in savory cooking and even bread. Here is my favorite bread of all time that features sweet squash: