It’s summer, and the bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables in the garden and farmer’s markets is overwhelming. Obviously, we can’t eat all that luscious produce as soon as we buy it; but we can set aside a day to preserve some of it for a future pleasurable experience.
Preserving is not as difficult as some folks might think. Perhaps we have visions of our moms slaving away in a humid summer kitchen, hefting heavy, steaming pots full of water and filled jars. Yes, water-bath canning does have a place in the modern kitchen; but it’s not the only way to ensure that you have the tastes of the summer season all year long. Fortunately, there are several healthful ways to preserve your food so that you can savor its goodness long after the harvest is over.
In addition, by preserving your own fresh produce, think of the money you save on pre-processed supermarket offerings. And there’s a health benefit to doing it yourself, too: you control the ingredients added to your efforts, so if you’re on a low-salt or low-calorie eating program change the amount of salt and/or sugar you add (except in the case of water-bath canning, when particular recipes might require specific amounts of ingredients for proper preservation).
The four most common ways to preserve foods are by freezing, canning, drying, and pickling. First, let’s discuss freezing. Always start with fruits and vegetables picked from your own garden or purchased from nearby producers when the foods are at their peak of freshness—within six to twelve hours after harvest for most varieties.
Freezing is a good option for fruits you will want to add smoothies or baked goods (bananas, berries, cherries, etc.) and those that don’t can well. Vegetables such as broccoli, beans, carrots, peas, and corn freeze well. Freezing is quick and requires little in the way of equipment or skill, but frozen foods don't last as long as canned foods. Also, frozen foods may darken or develop a mushy texture: don’t plan on using them as garnish!
- flat baking sheets (or similar containers) that fit into your freezer
- freezer bags or reusable containers that have tight-fitting lids
- permanent marker and labeling supplies
- the foods to freeze
Many vegetables will require a short blanching (a short boil) before freezing. Aside from that, the freeze and store vegetables the same as fruit (below).
- Wash, core, and skin (if needed) the fruit. Cut fruit into slices or chunks, if desired.
- If you are concerned about browning, soak the fruit in water with a bit of lemon juice; commercially made agents such as Fruit Fresh are another option.
- Pat the fruit dry or unnecessary ice crystals will form.
- Lay prepared fruit on several baking sheets in a single layer, making sure pieces don’t touch.
- Place baking sheets into the freezer for several hours.
- Once frozen, remove the fruit and place it into storage bags or containers that are clearly labeled with the contents and the date.
For more information about food preservation supplies, techniques and recipes, refer to the following books:
BALL Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine
Canning and Preserving for Dummies by Karen Ward
Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
Want to learn about drying, canning, and pickling fruits and vegetables? Watch this site for more information.
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