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How to Preserve Every Type of Summer Fruit and Veggie

How to Preserve Every Type of Summer Fruit and Veggie


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Wouldn’t it be great if summer could last forever? While endless long and lazy days by the pool may not be in the cards, you can extend the season by at least a few months. If you think fresh fruits and veggies are the best part about summer, you’ll appreciate daily reminders of the beach in December—just by opening your fridge or pantry.

Produce picked at peak ripeness in summer is a prime candidate for preserving. But when to pickle, can, freeze, or turn into a sauce? Here’s a guide for the best way to preserve maximum flavor from the most common types of warm weather produce.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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Hardy Greens (Like Kale or Swiss Chard)

These greens, including mature spinach, can be frozen easily. Try this method for easy access later: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop the greens in, working in batches. Simmer for 15 seconds, then use tongs to remove from the hot water and drop in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Once completely cooled, squeeze out as much water as possible, and form into balls, roughly the size of tennis balls. Place on baking sheets, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze. Once frozen solid, transfer the balls of greens into zip-top bags and store in the freezer. Simply remove one ball at a time for cooking in the coming months.

Salad Greens

Spring mix and arugula coming out of your ears? Eat up: These delicate greens don’t maintain their flavor or texture when preserved. Enjoy all the salads you can now, and mix things up with creative vinaigrettes.

Fresh Herbs

Pesto isn’t just for basil. Blitzing any tender herb (just use the leaves; discard the stems or use in stock) with nuts, oil, salt and pepper, and a little (optional) cheese is the ideal way to keep summer’s fresh herbs tasting vibrant. Although you can dry them by hanging them upside-down in bundles in a dry and high spot in your house,, they’ll retain their flavor better in the sauce-like consistency of a pesto.

Peppers (Sweet and Hot)

Sweet peppers don’t respond well to most methods of preserving; they lose a lot of flavor and take a textural hit when frozen and lose their snappy crunch when pickled. But they can be charred, peeled, and stored in seasoned oil in your fridge—think of the jars of “roasted red peppers” available in Italian grocery stores—and used in colder months to make this delicious roasted red pepper sauce.

If you’re a hot pepper fan ready for a project, dehydrating your own is a great way to go. If you don’t have access to a dehydrator, place rinsed and dried hot peppers on a sheet tray in the oven set to the lowest possible temperature it will go. Stir and flip the peppers a few times throughout the process. This will take anywhere from 2-5 hours, depending on your oven, but there are a few cues to watch for: If they begin to turn brown and become fragrant, they’re cooking rather than dehydrating. Move peppers away from any oven “hot spots,” or crack the oven door.

Sweet Corn

Corn *technically* isn’t a vegetable or fruit—it’s a grain—but because it’s often included in summer’s bounty, we’ll tackle it like a veggie. No matter how you preserve it, sweet corn loses a fair amount of flavor from the fresh stuff. If you’re insistent on bringing a batch into fall or winter, your best bet is to freeze raw kernels. Peel the ears and use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the kernels from the cob. Pop the kernels directly into a freezer storage bag with the excess air squeezed out, and use sooner rather than later.

Tomatoes

These are one of summer’s most iconic fruits for a reason! There’s nothing quite like a juicy, sweet, in-season tomato, and for that reason it’s highly recommend you eat all you can while the getting’s good. But tomatoes also keep well when cooked down into a sauce. If you’re turned off by the idea of stirring a huge stockpot of sauce all day, Italian grandmother-style, you can simply simmer them down into an unseasoned tomato stew (peel and seed them first). From there, you can either can or store in zip-top bags in the freezer. If using the freezer method, store the bags flat on their sides until frozen completely. This results in a slim package instead of a bulky bag that takes up prime freezer real estate.

Zucchini/Summer Squash

Delicate summer squashes are best eaten in-season, but they can be preserved to a moderate degree of success by freezing. Wash the skins, then prep them using a box grater or the grating attachment on your food processor. Collect them in a clean tea towel, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Store grated squash in the freezer in zip-top bags with as much air squeezed out. Although the flavor won’t be as concentrated as a fresh veggie, the grated squash makes for excellent additions to frittatas and stir-fries.

Eggplant

These will last for a couple of weeks in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer, but if you want to enjoy them for months to come, cook them down into a saucy caponata (dip) and can them.

Cucumbers

You guessed it—these are prime candidates for pickling. But first, make sure the variety of cucumbers you have is ideal for pickling. Thick-skinned cukes, such as kirby cucumbers, are perfect. Long, thin-skinned varieties aren’t ideal, so eat those now in salads.

Root Veggies (Such as Carrots or Beets)

If you’ve never tried pickled carrots or beets, you’re in for a treat! These hardy veggies can stand up to a flavorful brine, and get better—and more potent—with time. While “refrigerator pickles” can be stored in jars without the full canning process, the pickles will last longer if canned and stored in a dark place away from dramatic temperature swings.

While most modern homes no longer contain root cellars, these veggies also last for a couple of months if stored in the coolest, driest spot in your house. A bushel box or basket covered with burlap and kept in the cellar is the ideal “next best thing” to a traditional root cellar.

Potatoes

Here’s another candidate for your makeshift root cellar. The larger the potato the longer it lasts, so eat the small ones now and save the big guys for the coming months.

Berries

Jams and jellies are the classic choice here, whether you can them or store them in the fridge. But if you’re looking for a lower-sugar option, you can freeze your berries! To avoid a big clump of berries that must be thawed at once, freeze them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Once firm, transfer to zip-top bags and keep the the freezer. Use later in baked goods, smoothies, or oatmeal.

Melon/Watermelon

You should eat as much melon as you can while it’s fresh, but if you have the freezer space, you can also cut peeled melon into cubes and store in the freezer for smoothie additions later. You can also process it in a blender and store in freezer-safe jars or bags (frozen on their sides; see “tomatoes” section for details) and use the purée from frozen. Working with watermelon? One of our favorite things to do is pickle it (seriously, it's delicious!).


How to Preserve Vegetables

If you love fresh fruits and vegetables, summer is probably your favorite time of year. The problem is that summer always ends, as does the abundance of fresh produce. Learning how to preserve vegetables gives you the ability to enjoy the flavor of your favorite vegetables year-round.

The excellent news is preserving vegetables isn’t hard some methods are easier than others, but all provide amazing results. Discovering the various ways to preserve vegetables from summer harvests is essential as they don’t keep as long as other vegetables.

For example, winter squash, when stored in a root cellar, keeps for months at a time. Zucchini, on the other hand, is a summer squash and only keeps well for a few days inside the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

Even though some vegetables store well in the root cellar, learning how to preserve vegetables ensures your food storage features all the vegetables you enjoy, not just the hardier ones.


The Food Preserver’s Garden – Organic Gardening – Heirloom Gardner

Our vegetable gardens offer us beautiful, fresh bounty during the growing season &mdash and they also have the potential to increase our food security the rest of the year. When you craft a plan to put up some of the crops you grow, you&rsquore preparing for the future, simplifying winter meals, reducing waste, and saving money, too.

As you plan your garden with preservation in mind, consider what your family loves to eat versus what they merely tolerate. Talk with your household members about what you want your meals to look like for the following year. If you&rsquore aiming for year-round veggie self-sufficiency, calculate how many times per week on average your family eats a particular crop, and multiply that figure by 52 (number of weeks in a year). Then, use a chart of crop yields to arrive at a rough calculation of how much of that crop to plant. Or, to start smaller, jump in with any of the following ideas, organized from the easiest to grow and preserve to the crops and storage methods that require more expertise or a longer-term commitment.

Easy Crops and Projects

From a preservation perspective, some vegetables are much more flexible to work with than others. I suggest starting with tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumbers, green beans, summer squash, leafy greens, and carrots. With proper variety selection, they&rsquore all easy to grow in most regions, and they lend themselves to a plethora of simple preservation projects, such as freezing, pickling, and water bath canning. Note that water bath canning and pressure canning each require a distinct type of canner and have unique safety guidelines, and most beginners start with water bath canning.

One of my favorite methods is to peel and chop tomatoes and put them in 1-quart freezer bags with several chopped hot peppers and onions. When I want to make a pot of chili in winter, all I have to do is brown some ground meat and add spices and a bag of these frozen veggies. I use tomatoes, sweet peppers, and onions in canned pizza and pasta sauces, and I freeze bags of tomatoes and onions for later use in soups, too.

When deciding what to plant for future preservation projects, you&rsquoll also want to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each crop variety. If you use a large slicing tomato to make pasta or pizza sauce, for example, you&rsquoll have to start with twice as many pounds of tomatoes as you would use if you&rsquod chosen a paste variety, which has denser, meatier flesh and less water content. You&rsquoll have to cook slicing tomatoes a lot longer to get the thicker consistency you&rsquoll want in a sauce. Although you can use any type of tomato to make a sauce, the paste cultivars, such as &lsquoRoma,&rsquo &lsquoAmish Paste,&rsquo and &lsquoStriped Roman,&rsquo will make the task much quicker. Also, remember that preservation projects needn&rsquot be solo pursuits in a hot kitchen. Plan a canning party (even outdoors!) to share harvests and the labor.

So how many tomatoes should you grow? Depending on the cultivar and your growing conditions, you can expect to harvest about 15 to 25 pounds of fruit per plant, so make calculations based on how many pounds you think your family will go through in a year. Many years ago, when we lived in the suburbs, we found that just eight tomato plants could produce enough tomatoes for freezing whole and canning as pasta sauce to fulfill our five-person family&rsquos annual needs.

Tomato soup is a dish in which lots of different tomato cultivars can really shine, and you can make big batches for the freezer. &lsquoGreen Zebra&rsquo tomatoes make a citrusy tasting soup, while &lsquoGreat White&rsquo imparts a smokier flavor. Try dehydrating some tomatoes, too. Paste types and cherry types typically dry best, although &lsquoGreen Zebra&rsquo is one of my favorites for drying in slices and then layering in a quiche or casserole.

Cucumbers are a classic crop to pickle. Don&rsquot be swayed by those called &ldquopickling cucumbers,&rdquo as you can pickle any cultivar &mdash and you can eat any cultivar fresh, too. The pickling types are ideal if you&rsquoll be canning whole dill pickles, though, because they stay small enough to fit well in your canning jars. You can pickle or ferment hot peppers, such as jalapeños, serranos, and habaneros, as well.

Although my children were never fans of plain canned green beans, which require pressure canning, they loved crisp, pickled dilly beans. Because dilly beans are pickled in vinegar, the acid level makes them safe to water bath can. This keeps the beans crunchy. You can also ferment green beans for a healthful probiotic boost.

Hot peppers, summer squash, and thick-leaved greens, such as kale or collards, are excellent crops for drying. Use your dried hot peppers in spicy Mexican and Italian recipes, and grind some into homemade spice blends. Stash dried greens and slices of dried summer squash for use in soups, veggie lasagna, quiche, or snacks. You likely won&rsquot have to plant extra squash to make this possible, as summer squash harvests come on strong, and gardeners often end up searching for a way to use them up.

Carrots are freezer superstars. Slice, blanch, and then freeze them in gallon freezer bags to add to stews and other dishes all winter. Try growing a smaller spring planting of carrots for fresh eating through summer and fall, and then a large fall planting to harvest for the freezer.

More Advanced Crops and Projects

Have more time and want to venture into crops and preservation projects that may present a few more challenges? Eggplants and corn are long-season crops that need plenty of warmth. They may pose a few pest and disease issues, but when you get a good harvest, you&rsquoll be able to roast and freeze them in super-flavorful packs that will enliven a wide diversity of dishes &mdash think roasted eggplant dip or chili with roasted corn.

You may also be ready to try fermenting and pressure canning, which will provide you with even more storage options. I&rsquove heard many people say they&rsquore afraid to attempt fermenting because they might make someone sick. But according to Sandor Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation , that&rsquos highly unlikely to happen. Fermentation is an ancient method of food preservation, and Katz says you can ferment virtually any vegetable. Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) is a classic favorite, and Katz also recommends fermenting celery and radishes.

Almost any low-acid canned vegetable you can buy at the store, such as corn, you can also preserve at home using a pressure canner. Don&rsquot have enough of any one crop to pressure can it? Try a pressure canning recipe for mixed vegetable soup.

Although winter squash will keep well in a cool room, you can also cook, purée, and then freeze it. Use the purée later for soups, pies, breads, or other desserts, such as pumpkin ice cream. Try &lsquoWaltham&rsquo butternut or &lsquoBurgess&rsquo buttercup squash for fruits on the sweeter side that make a perfect purée.

I recommend successively sowing your crops whenever possible to make way for more food preservation projects. Your spring plantings can yield a fresh harvest for summer, and, in many regions, your fall garden can offer another substantial harvest period. If you eat up all of your spring-planted cabbage in fresh slaws, for example, you can plant more cabbage in summer to furnish a fall crop for fermenting into sauerkraut and kimchi.

Growing For the Long Haul

Most perennial crops take a few years to produce a harvest, but they&rsquore worth the wait, as you&rsquoll get many years of fruits and vegetables from one planting. Consider planting asparagus and rhubarb, which are simple to freeze or can. Although most people think of rhubarb as a fruit, thanks to the popularity of rhubarb pie, it&rsquos actually a versatile vegetable that can add interest to soups, casseroles, and main dishes.

All types of berries are great candidates for freezing or dehydrating, and, of course, they make wonderful jams and preserves. Most are also easy to grow, and they tend to multiply every year. If you lack space in your garden, establish berry bushes and vines as elements of edible landscaping throughout your property.

If you want fresh strawberries as well as some to preserve, you should plant both June-bearers and ever-bearers. Over a two- to three-week period, the June-bearers will produce a heavy crop perfect for freezing or making jam, while the ever-bearers will ripen gradually over a couple of months, making them ideal for fresh eating through summer.

When choosing stone fruits to plant, such as peach and plum trees, select freestone, rather than clingstone, cultivars. Flesh clinging to the pit isn&rsquot a big deal when you&rsquore eating a fresh fruit, but if you use freestone fruits for preserving, you&rsquoll save a lot of time and ultimately get more fruit for canning, freezing, or drying.

When planting apple trees, note that some cultivars are firmer, which dry well, while some are softer and make better applesauce. Apple cultivars also ripen at different times, which may affect your preservation game plan. For example, &lsquoLodi&rsquo apples ripen early and are a great sauce apple. You could make your sauce from that cultivar, and choose a firmer, late-season apple for drying and storing.

Year-To-Year Garden Planning

As you brainstorm your preserver&rsquos garden, record your plans in a garden journal. This can be as simple as a spiral notebook, or as detailed as a digital journal. Had I started keeping a journal earlier in my gardening life, the learning curve would&rsquove been much smoother. In your records, include a list of the varieties you&rsquove planted, and keep notes throughout the season about what&rsquos working and what&rsquos not. Ideally, you&rsquoll weigh your harvests throughout the season, or at least make rough notes on yields, so you&rsquoll know how much each cultivar produced and whether you grew enough of any one crop. Also, jot down how much of each crop you&rsquore able to stow &mdash what you canned, froze, dried, and fermented &mdash so you can refer to this information when planning future gardens. Add kitchen observations about what&rsquos sitting on your pantry shelves too long and what you&rsquore using up faster than you anticipated.

Even if you create the best plan imaginable, odds are good that you&rsquoll wind up with too much or too little of one food or another every year. If you fall short, barter with friends or visit your local farmers market to supplement what you&rsquove grown. There are no rules against purchasing produce to preserve. And one thing is certain: Next winter, you&rsquoll be grateful for all the food you were able to put by.

Resources for Your Food Preservation Projects

The Art of Preserving by R. Field, R. Courchesne, and L. Atwood

BIO: Deborah Niemann writes about self-reliance, growing food, cooking from scratch, and living a cheaper, happier, and healthier life. She runs Antiquity Oaks Farm in Illinois, and is the author of Homegrown and Handmade.


Food Preservation Methods

1. Drying

If you are new to the world of food preservation, this might be a great place to start. You’ll need a food dehydrator and that is about it.

As you can tell, this method is pretty basic. You just lay the food in the dehydrator and wait until it is completely dried.

If you are interested in drying your own food try these recipes:

– Dehydrated Blueberries

If you like blueberry pie, then you’ll be interested in dehydrating blueberries. It is a super simple way to store them so they don’t go bad.

Plus, you can store them easier too. All you have to do is follow this recipe to get the berries thoroughly dehydrated, then store them in a mason jar with a screwtop lid. It is that simple.

– Sundried Tomatoes

Would you love to have fresh made sundried tomatoes? If so, then you need to give this recipe a glance. It shows you how to take fresh tomatoes and turn them into sundried all with the help of a dehydrator.

Imagine all of the delicious recipes you can easily create with these tomatoes you sundried fresh at home. The savings will add up quickly with this one.

– Dehydrated Marshmallows

At first glance, you might be thinking, “What?” However, hear me out before you scroll right on by this recipe.

If you enjoy marshmallows in your cereal, then you can dehydrate marshmallows and add them to your own homemade cereal anytime you like.

2. Jugging

Jugging is an older method of food preservation. It lost popularity during the 20 th century. However, just for knowledge’s sake, jugging is when a person hunts for game.

Then they bring that animal or fish home and place it in an earthenware pot or casserole dish. Then they cover the meat in gravy, broth, or even the animal’s own blood. Finally, the dish is sealed.

Now, it doesn’t seem that this would be a long-term way of keeping your food, but it would buy you some time if you couldn’t eat the whole animal in one sitting.

I apologize that there are no recipes to share with this type of food preservation. It is one that is outdated and rarely (if ever) in use anymore.

3. Jellying

Making jelly may not seem like a way of preserving anything, but from a woman that makes jellies practically every year, I assure you it is definitely a method of food preservation.

The next time you are overrun in fruits or veggies, don’t panic. Instead, make a delicious jelly out of it that you and your family will enjoy for months to come.

Here are some recipes to help you get started with making jellies:

– Watermelon Jelly

The biggest difference between jams and jellies is that jam leaves seeds in the mixture while jelly works very diligently to remove the seeds.

You can leave this recipe as a jam or make it into more of a jelly. Either way, if you are overrun with watermelon this summer, you can make this creation.

– Blackberry Jelly

Blackberry jelly is a recipe I love to make. My mother-in-law and I made it together for a lot of years.

Now I make it out of tradition if nothing else. Keep this recipe in mind this summer when the blackberries are ready to come off of the vine, and you’ve made all of the pie fillings you can stand.

4. Sugar

You might be wondering how sugar can help preserve food as one of the food preservation methods. It actually can and does a great job at it. If you have foods like fruit rinds that you’d like to save as a sweet treat for later, you can preserve them by dipping them in large amounts of sugar and cooking them to the point of crystallization.

Then the foods can be stored dry. Other cultures will actually dip fruit in honey and store it that way to get a longer shelf life out of it. You use these methods at your own risk, though. Keep that in mind.

5. Root Cellar

Some foods are very easy to preserve with no recipes or fancy equipment needed. This method would be one of those methods.

You can use vegetables such as carrots, onions, potatoes, and other root veggies to be stored in a dark location underground that is cooler to keep the food fresh.

You can also use this method with apples and tomatoes as long as they are wrapped or stored where they can’t touch one another to cause bruising or rot.

6. Potting

Potting is one of the British food preservation methods. They will pack meat inside a container with a small amount of liquid and seal it tightly.

And this method has been copied by larger industries because stores now sell items such as Spam which is considered potted meat.

7. Freezing

Freezing is a super simple method to preserve practically anything. When you go to the grocery store and see discounted milk or meats because they are about to go bad, don’t pass them up.

Instead, bring them home and pop them in your freezer to prolong their spoil date. You can also blanch fruits and veggies, then freeze them in freezer bags to give them a longer life span.

Here are some recipes to help you with freezing foods:

– Freezing Zucchini

Are you overrun with zucchini or squash every summer? Don’t toss them just because you have grown tired of their fresh summer taste.

Instead, follow our tutorial on how to freeze them. Then you can enjoy them when the temps grow milder. Their freshness will be great again then.

– Freezing Meatloaf

Did you know that you can freeze meats too? Absolutely you can! We spend our winters hunting and processing meat so our freezer is full for the year.

This recipe will show you how to freeze meat that is made into a meatloaf. That way it will save you some time on a busy night.

8. Pickling

I love to pickle foods. It is when you add sugar and vinegar to a pot of boiling water and simmer it all together.

Then you pack whatever you are pickling into a jar and cover it with the liquid. The liquid mixture helps prolong the life of the food that you are pickling.

However, my personal favorites to pickle are jalapenos, banana peppers, cucumbers, and radishes. You’ll have to try a few recipes to find your favorites too.

Here are some recipes to help you pickle foods:

– The Best Dill Pickles

Pickles are an obvious thing to make when you are trying the pickling method. Dill pickles are a delicious option for this because of how tangy they are.

If you like a good pickle to snack on or to put with your hamburger, then you’ll want to try this recipe.

– Fridge Pickled Jalapeno Peppers

I love pickled jalapenos because they allow me to enjoy the spiciness of the jalapeno pepper without being burnt to a crisp.

This method allows the peppers to pickle in the fridge so you don’t have to worry about pulling out a canner.

9. Salting

The first time I heard about salting foods was in Laura Ingle’s Wilder book. This is how they preserved their meat.

Then I heard my mother-in-law talk about when she was a little girl how they would cover their meats in lots of salt and then hang them in the barn to cure. This method could still work today if you live in an area where the temperatures stay cold enough that meat can hang without rotting.

– Salt Cured Ham

This recipe shares how you can salt cure a ham the way they did in the old days. It is a good skill to know how to do because you never know when you could need it.

Plus, it could also produce a quality type of ham you may have never experienced before. You’ll have to try it to see what you think of it.

– Salt Cured Egg Yolks

The first time I saw this recipe I couldn’t help but wonder who would want to preserve egg yolks. Then I read about what they taste like after they’ve been preserved.

If you like cheese, then you may want to try preserving your own egg yolks in salt. The salt makes them turn into an easy to grate cheese type substance.

10. Smoking

Smoking is another older way of preserving food. However, it works and works well because we still use it in our modern times.

So if/when you decide to raise your own meat, this would be a good skill to have so you could create your own smoke flavored meats.

Try these recipes to help you smoke your foods:

– The Smoked Turkey

If you’d like to change things up a little this Thanksgiving, then you might want to consider preparing your turkey a little differently.

In this instance, that means that you smoke your turkey. It looks delicious, and I’m sure it smells wonderful too.

11. Vacuum Sealing

Vacuum sealing your food is a great way to preserve it. It is super easy as well. You’ll need a vacuum sealer, then you just place the food in the bags and seal.

Now, unless you dehydrated the food first, you’ll need to pop it in the freezer so it won’t spoil. However, the vacuum sealer does help to avoid freezer burn.

12. Canning

Canning is my all-time favorite food preservation method. The reason is that it is so simple, and I can recreate anything I purchase from the store in a can.

The next time you have excess food, don’t toss it or let it spoil, think of your favorite food that involves that ingredient, make it, and then can it for later.

You are cooking your favorite foods, then storing them in a sterilized jar and sealing them so that it will last for months to come.

Try these recipes to help you with your canning:

– Homemade Applesauce

I love fresh applesauce, but I’m busy and don’t always have time to make it. So when apple season comes in I make applesauce galore.

Then we can enjoy fresh applesauce any time we feel like it. It only takes the twist of a lid.

Well, now you know of 12 different food preservation methods. Plus, you have multiple recipes to help you along whichever food preservation path you choose.


Extra Fruits

Late summer offers plentiful berry and stone-fruit harvests, and these delectable treats can last long beyond their ripeness window when converted into freezer-friendly jams, compotes and sauces.

Smoothie Kits: Farmers market favorites can be enjoyed for months to come in the form of superfood smoothies, and you can make each blend that much easier by filling individual containers with pre-portioned ingredients. To each container, add a cup of bite-size or chopped fresh fruit, such as blackberries, grapes or watermelon, and add 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped smoothie-friendly vegetables such as spinach or kale. You can even add in a scoop of your favorite protein powder or superfood boost. When ready to make a smoothie, simply pour the container contents into a blender, and add nut milk or coconut water to blend.

Fresh Fruit Compote & Homemade Toaster Waffles

Freeze bags of berries or peaches to make a quick, fresh, fruit syrup. Simply sauté frozen fruit with a little bit of coconut oil and maple syrup to make a fast summery sauce. For easy homemade breakfasts, double down on the quantity next time you make waffles, and freeze extras in a sealable bag. Now on a winter morning, you can warm your heart and soul with homemade waffles, re-crisped in the toaster, accompanied by a delectable fruit compote.

Fruity Granitas: Granitas make an incredible light dessert and palate-cleanser at the end of a hearty meal. While sophisticated in flavor, they are simple to prepare, and are ideal to make with end-of-summer fruit. Try melons, grapes and strawberries. In a blender, combine the fruit with a little liquid sweetener of choice, such as maple syrup, and add in a complementary herb such as basil, plus some lemon zest to brighten everything. Transfer to a sealable container, and freeze. About once every two hours, scrape the mixture with a fork to create a snowy texture, until fully frozen. Granitas will keep for several months.

Freezer Jam: Savor every last morsel of summer fruit by making a big batch of freezer jam. The benefits to this kind of jam are many: Adaptable to any type of berry or stone fruit, this jam can be made without adding refined sugar and instead relying on cooked mashed fruit, apple juice and pectin. To make, bring half of a package of pectin and 1-3/4 cup juice to a boil for one minute, then pour over the chopped fruit and stir constantly for one minute longer. Transfer to jars, let cool and then freeze. Store it in small sealable containers, each of which will last up to three weeks once defrosted. To find recipes for several quick and easy fruit-and-herb jams (no canning required) visit Jams in a Jiffy.


Pickling

Pickling, which uses salt and/or vinegar to inhibit the growth of bacteria, is one of the oldest methods of food preservation. While most of us think of sweet pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut, relishes and fruits can also be pickled. Pickled foods will last anywhere from three months to a year. There are many recipes and methods for pickling, but most include brining (soaking food in a salt solution, similar to marinating) for several hours or even days.

Trust the instructions given in pickling recipes, as altering the ratios can be harmful. Do not use table salt use "canning salt" or "pickling salt" instead. White distilled and cider vinegars of 5 percent acidity (50 grain) are recommended. Another tip: If using cucumbers to make your own pickles, you must remove and discard a 1/16-inch slice from the blossom ends of each cuke. (Blossoms may contain an enzyme that causes excessive softening of pickles.)


Freezing

Many vegetables keep well in the freezer. When blanched and frozen soon after harvesting, this can be the best method for retaining nutrients, as well as color, texture, and flavor. Most vegetables can last 8 to 12 weeks in the freezer.

Basic Freezing Tips:

  • Freeze food immediately after packaging.
  • Keep freezer temperature at 0 degrees F. Or lower. You can set your freezer control to -10 degrees F. the day before freezing, to speed the process.
  • Don’t try to pack your freezer with unfrozen produce. This will only lower the temperature in the freezer and lengthen the time needed for the produce to chill.

Best food preservation methods for fresh vegetables

The best food preservation methods for fresh vegetables depends on their degree of ripeness. To preserve the best quality vegetables, it helps to understand the difference between maturity and ripeness. Maturity means the produce will ripen and become ready to eat after you pick it. Ripeness occurs when the color, flavor, and texture is fully developed. Once it is fully ripe, fresh produce begins the inevitable and declining spoilage process. Here’s a guideline:

  • Mature, slightly underripe produce is optimal for canning and pickling.
  • Ripe produce is best for fresh eating, drying, and freezing.
  • Overripe produce is suitable for cooking and freezing cook vegetables into soup or stew.
  • Moldy or decaying produce belongs in the composter or worm bin!

To prepare fresh vegetables for preserving, always wash in plenty of running water, remove non-edible parts such as stems and seeds, peel or trim as desired, and cut into slices or cubes. Here are several vegetable preserving methods, from the easiest (and least expensive) to the most complicated.

Refrigerator pickles are the simplest way you can preserve fresh vegetables and extend their shelf life for a few days. Think of them as a type of salad, or simply crunchy, mouthwatering fast food. These easy refrigerator pickle recipes use several types of vegetables and even some fruits.

Salting is an easy and old-fashioned method for preserving vegetables such as salted cauliflower. Salting was promoted in the early twentieth century as an alternative to canning. Many people familiar with the technique consider salted vegetables to be far superior in taste and texture than canned or frozen ones. You must store salted vegetables in a refrigerator (<40°F) or cold cellar where temperatures never go above 50°F. Before using salted vegetables, you usually remove excess salt by soaking in cold water for 2 to 8 hours. You can prepare and serve salted vegetables in the same ways you would as if they were fresh, cold in salads, simmered in soups, or prepared as a hot vegetable side dish.

Fermenting with salt uses low salt concentration (2½% to 5% weight of the salt per weight of the food), to promote fermentation. Sauerkraut and kimchi are perhaps the most well-known examples. But the technique can be applied to almost any vegetable. This recipe for sour turnips is well known in eastern Europe as kisla repa or sauer ruben.

Drying vegetables is easy to do in your conventional gas or electric oven. Electric food dehydrator appliances offer more control than your oven. You can purchase a basic model for as little as $50. One of the best ways to use dried vegetables is this versatile recipe for bean and pasta soup.

Freezing vegetables for long term storage requires adequate packaging and a dedicated freezer appliance (known as a deep freeze) to chill foods to at least 0°F. True freezing is not possible in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator where the temperature typically hovers near 32°F. Treat your refrigerator-freezer like a checking account. Use it for short term freezing of food that you plan to use within one month. To use freezing as an effective food preservation method, routinely clean out your freezer by consuming the food.

Canning requires a modest investment in equipment and skills that are easy to learn and practice. The fundamental tasks include choosing the right canning method, taking precautions to prevent botulism poisoning, and preparing and processing canned foods correctly. There are two canning methods: boiling water–bath (BWB) canning and steam-pressure canning. Which method you use depends on whether the food you plan to can is high acid or low acid. High-acid foods include most fruits and fruit products. In addition, low acid vegetables can be canned using tested recipes for pickles, relish, and tomato products, which contain added acid, usually vinegar.

Pressure canning low-acid foods such as plain vegetables requires a pressure canner. A pressure canner reaches 240°F, which destroys heat-resistant organisms that can cause food poisoning, primarily botulism. Contrary to what some cooks believe, you cannot safely put any food in a jar and process in a canner. To make foods safely, such as canned soups and spaghetti sauce (with or without meat), be sure to use a tested recipe and prepare and process canned foods correctly. Free, tested canning recipes are found online at the National Center for Home Food Preservation, or by downloading the free booklet USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, 2009 revision.

For detailed information about these food preservation methods, including over 300 delicious recipes, get the book The Home Preserving Bible by Carole Cancler.


Canned Fruit, Dried Fruit and More

  • A bunch of canned peaches are great, and once you’ve canned one fruit you’ve got the system down. Pears are quite good canned. You can also play with seasonings. Last summer I made the bourbon canned peaches from Food In Jars. Fantastic. Maybe not so good for the kids, but great for a special treat for grown ups.
  • Around here the kids eat a ton of dried fruit. I am moving more and more to drying fruit instead of canning it. I like that there is less sugar used, and less heat in the house in summer and the preserved product is portable. (“Here, here’s some dried peaches for the car.”)
  • Dried fruit is also used in our baking, on hot cereal, and is added to pilafs and salads. Think dried apricots with couscous – that kind of thing.
  • You can also do fruit roll-ups naturally in a dehydrator – this is good if you see a screaming deal on stuff like mangoes or peaches that are a bit over-ripe. Peel, puree, dry and viola! Fruit roll-up! Kids love these. This is a good tutorial for mango fruit roll-ups.

What are your must-preserve items? Do you think about how you eat and planning what to preserve around that, or do you just jump in when the produce looks good?

PS: Do you have a question you’d like me to tackle as a blog post? Please drop me a line with your questions, stories, challenges and more. I get a lot of emails so I can’t address everyone’s question but I will do my best!

P.S.S: Do you have money burning a hole in your pocket, or do you just need to make some sensible investments for your productive home? Here are the items I use and recommend for food preservation, etc. All links are affiliate links, which means if you buy through them a small percentage of your purchase goes directly to support this site – but your cost stays the same. More info on all that stuff here. Thanks for your support, guys!

    . I have the 30 quart model, which is a beast. B-e-a-s-t. What I like: no gasket to wear out, weighted gauge so no need to check your dial gauge for accuracy every year. I had a bit of a saga when I initially bought this thing, but it has really proven itself.
    . What I like: it does the job, has even heat, a good fan, simple controls, is decently easy to clean and it’s moderately priced. But my dream dehydrator is the Excalibur with stainless components. Maybe one day, when I find $500 on the sidewalk or something.
  • My favorite canning and food preservation books: Food In Jars, Canning For New Generation, America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook and Wild Fermentation. Of course, every canner should have The Ball Blue Book and Putting Food By.

About Erica

Hi! I'm Erica, the founder of NWEdible and the author of The Hands-On Home. I garden, keep chickens and ducks, homeschool my two kids and generally run around making messes on my one-third of an acre in suburban Seattle. Thanks for reading!


'Ambrosia' Cantaloupe Melon

With cantaloupes, the issues echo those with celery: timing and water. Melons need warm soil and air to thrive. Many northern gardeners rely on black plastic to warm soil in early spring. Consistent water is the secret to sweet cantaloupes. Soil needs to have plenty of organic matter to help retain moisture, and you need to water regularly. It’s best to water the root zone directly using drip irrigation. Overhead watering can help leaf diseases take hold.

Photo by: Ball Horticultural Company

Ball Horticultural Company

Preserve the vibrant, juicy character of this summer melon by freezing it in chunks, slices or balls. Then, eat it as an afternoon snack once thawed or puree to use as sorbet.



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