The hunt is on! Find hidden treasure in the freezer

Posted: Sunday, March 02, 2003

My first winter in Alaska was in 1993. I remember when March arrived I began feeling very restless. No trees or flowers were blooming; there were no signs of spring, yet the calendar said it was supposed to be spring.

Originally from Kansas, I couldn't help but recognize the absence of the early blooming flowers like crocuses and daffodils. And my grandpa always tried to have his potatoes planted by St. Patrick's Day. There's no potato planting in March in Alaska, I quickly learned. I so wanted to dig in the dirt.

Since that first year, I now recognize that March is the month I find myself still feeling restless but usually able to enjoy winter sports; yet a big part of me is looking forward to our Alaska spring and summer.

This is also the month when I realize winter is winding down and I haven't gotten all those "winter projects" done I thought I would.

There must be other people who feel this urgency when the calendar turns to March. It's a feeling of preparing for the upcoming summer, yet, still recovering from the past busy summer.

With the absence of snow right now, it may be the perfect time to dive into your freezer to find the hidden treasures of bountiful harvests from last summer. Go take a tour of your freezer and you may find the fish and game you said you would pressure can when "life slowed down in the winter."

Keep Cooperative Extension in mind when you begin your canning projects. We have the latest USDA research-tested information in our publications. When preparing to can frozen fish or game, be sure to thaw the meat completely in the refrigerator before canning.

To help with these March canning projects, I am offering a free pressure canner dial gauge testing clinic on March 10 from 8:30 a.m. to noon. It will be held in the Cooperative Extension Office at 43961 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Suite A, in Soldotna.

If you're a dedicated clammer, chances are you already have your 2003 tide book and are eagerly anticipating those first great clam tides in mid-April. Check your current clam supply in your freezer. Look for packages that may be hiding in the back from several years ago. Do the same with halibut.

Other treasures you may find in your freezer are rhubarb and berries. This is a good time to begin using up the rhubarb you've stored because the 2003 crop will be arriving in just a few months. People often are cautious about using up berries, just in case it isn't a good berry year. Some berries, depending on how well they've been packaged, will retain good quality for several years.

If you've stored the berries for jam or jelly, check your canned supply in the pantry. If it's running low and you want to make a new batch that uses added pectin, check the expiration date on the pectin box. Discard old pectin.

March also is a good time to make a special effort to start planning meals around the older food in your freezer. As you dig through your freezer, keep track of the hidden treasures you've found. There are many ways to keep track of what's in a freezer. I like to use a small magnetic dry erase board. However, writing what needs to be used up on a piece of paper will work just as well.

If you still have frozen broccoli or cauliflower from last summer's crop, consider using these foods in soups or casseroles. The storage time depending on the quality of the packaging for these items is about 8 to 10 months.

We're so blessed in Alaska to have these wonderful, wild food resources. March is a good time to peruse your freezer, to use up the old supply and to make way for the new.

Linda Tannehill is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension Office. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs. The Kenai Peninsula District Extension Office is at 43961 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Suite A, Soldotna, AK. The phone number is 262-5824 or toll-free at (800) 478-5824.

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