Avoiding Another Lean Winter: Planning out Your Schedule for Preserves

Eating corn free generally requires eating seasonally and at least semi-locally. Things that have been transported a long distance, or grown by a large corporate-style farm, generally have corny things done to them. But of course most foods aren’t available locally for the entire year, so you’ve really got to plan ahead to preserve, or you’ll end up with very little to eat.

Folks who are able to eat grocery store produce are in a somewhat better position, but even if you can eat grocery store food right now, I encourage you to at least store a little bit away in case of emergency. Allergic sensitivity can change rapidly.

Last winter I moved into a larger rental house with a big kitchen and lots of storage space in order to accommodate my increased sensitivity to corn, and during the winter a leak in the basement caused mold to run rampant in it. I am allergic to mold, and the exposure brought my histamine levels up so high (we call this a “full bucket” in the allergy world) that I became hypersensitive to the tiniest traces of corn in foods, meaning that I could no longer tolerate a number of foods that I had previously been okay with. Additionally, I developed (or discovered) new allergies to basically most of the winter vegetables. So the foods that I had available to me locally and totally corn-free were all poison for me anyway.

For about 8 weeks I ate literally two foods, without spices or cooking oils. There was actually few days where I started reacting to my two safe foods, too, and just ate small amounts at a time and waited for the throat constricting to pass before eating some more.

After I figured out about the mold and shut it away from the rest of the house, I was able to add a couple more foods back: Organic lettuce from the grocery store, local unwaxed apples, even some big-box organic berries. Not all brands of course, just a specific one.

But now that summer is here, there are all *kinds* of foods I can eat, and I intend to make sure that I have *plenty* put away to get me through the barren months of winter. And being the Type A personality that I am, I made a spreadsheet with fancy formulas to help me calculate how much I need to preserve each week.

I’ve made this sheet available as a google doc, so you can take advantage of my formulas. Hope it’s useful!

Food Preservation Planning Worksheet

I almost exclusively freeze items because I don’t seem to tolerate any canning jar lids ever since Ball and Kerr’s canning jars became BPA-free. I have four 20+ cubic food freezers, two chest and two upright, and these hold as much as I need to eat in a year + some backstock to get me through multiple years so that I can slow down on preserving literally EVERYTHING I’ll eat for six solid months. (People who do not have dozens of veggie allergies should be able to put up less, but being allergic to every winter vegetable really limits my options most of the year.)

My tolerated foods can be something of a moving target: I have discovered  a few new food allergies over time, and  also I will sometimes notice build-up reactions to foods that are ever-so-slightly corny and have to cut them. So rather than cooking entire recipes to preserve, I tend to try to store single ingredients without spices as much as possible. This helps cut down on the possibility of having to feed 20 pints of chicken stock to my non-allergic spouse just because I’m no longer tolerating a spice in it. Instead I cook the chicken down without even salt and add spices later.

Don’t know what’s in season in your area when? Here’s one way to find out. There may be better charts out there for your area, but that has all the states in the US pretty well covered.

New to the idea of eating locally/seasonally? Here’s a great intro article to get you acclimatized, with links to more resources.

Don’t know how to preserve the food you got? PickYourOwn has an instruction page for just about every kind of food and every type of preservation you can think of.

4 thoughts on “Avoiding Another Lean Winter: Planning out Your Schedule for Preserves

    1. Hi Kate,

      I use a few different things, and yes, all of them have a chance to contaminate with corn, so brands matter.

      For things like berries, I flash freeze on a tray and transfer to Ziploc brand plastic bags. I have reacted to other off-brand plastic ziptop bags, but Ziploc brand has been great for me.

      For liquids like soup or sauce, I put them in glass pint jars with about 1/4-1/2 inch of headspace and freeze. If you have a vacuum sealer system like a foodsaver you can use the mason jar attachment to suck any air out to prevent freezerburn, but I haven’t had an issue without that.

      For greens and veggies that I am fine with being frozen all in a big chunk, I put into a FoodSaver brand vacuum seal bag and vacuum seal. I have not tried any other brands of bags and suspect it would be similar to ziptop bags, where some brands are corny (dusting or actual corn plastic) and some are not.

      For questions like this, the best resource for keeping up to date is the Corn Allergy and Intolerance Facebook group. You can join it here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/cornallergy/

      If you don’t use Facebook, it is worth creating an account just for this group.

  1. You might find “Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning” by Chelsea Green Publishing interesting. It has traditional methods and recipes for using salt, oil, sugar, alcohol, vinegar, drying, cold storage and lactic fermentation to preserve food and although I’ll admit I wasn’t interested in trying all (or even most) of the methods it opened up quite a few possibilities that I hadn’t known about.

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