Food preservation is not something new, although methods may vary.
Today we are teaching you four easy and effective ways to preserve fruits and vegetables you grow during the gardening season.
The method you choose depends on what you want to do with the food when it comes the time to eat it.
METHOD 1: FREEZING
Freezing is a simple method and one of the easiest ways to preserve a variety of fruits and vegetables, but it does involve a little bit more than just stashing food in the freezer.
Before you freeze your produce, you should cook it briefly in boiling water (this process is called blanching) and the sooner you freeze it after you harvest it, the better.
According to theNCHFP(National Center for Home Food Preservation) blanching before freezing has several benefits: it cleans the vegetables, preserves its color and reduces vitamin loss. Keep in mind that if you’re freezing most fruits, you can skip the blanching process though.
You must also prepare produce before you freeze it. You must remove shelling peas from the pods and chop larger vegetables, such as broccoli, into smaller pieces. Corn, on the other hand, is easier to blanch while it’s still on the cob, but you can always slice it off of the cob after blanching. You can skip the blanching step for fruits, including vegetable-like fruits such as peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
Once you’ve blanched the vegetables, cool them by pouring them into a bowlful of ice water, keep them in the ice water for the same amount of time as you cooked them, and finally strain and spread them out on a towel to dry. If you’re freezing fruits though, just give them a quick rinse and let them dry.
Keep in mind that some vegetables such as cucumbers, celery, and cabbage just don’t freeze well and are likely to turn into waterlogged messes. If you want to know what foods you shouldn't freeze, just checkthis list. Vegetables that freeze well can last for up to a year.
Food can be frozen in Mason jars easily by following a few simple steps. First, find a Mason or canning jar with straight sides. Then allow the food to completely cool and leave 2 inches of headspace when moving to the jar. Once the jars are prepped, add a lid and store them in the fridge for a day before moving to the freezer as an added precaution against cracking. Anairtight Masontops lid is perfect for storing leftovers in the freezer.
METHOD 2: DRYING
When you dry the produce, the removal of water concentrates its flavor and also changes its texture, but if stored at room temperature, dried fruits, herbs and vegetables can be preserved for up to a year.
The best method to dry your harvest will depend on the type of food. Hot peppers and hardy herbs like sage or rosemary can be dried by hanging them up in a cool, dry, dark place like a closet. Other herbs and vegetables may need a bit of heat when drying them out.
Before drying the vegetables, herbs, or fruits, make sure to clean them thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris, then pat them dry using a towel. After all excess moisture is gone, cut away the parts you don’t want to preserve, such as winter squash rinds, the stems of herbs or bean pods.
Next step is cutting produce such as sweet peppers, squash, and tomatoes into slices, and then blanch them the same way you would if you were freezing them. Remember to cool them with ice water, strain them and let them dry.
If you are using an oven, turn it at the lowest temperature setting, arrange the vegetables, fruit, or herbs in a single layer on a baking sheet and slide the sheet inside while leaving the door slightly ajar. Drying herbs takes a few hours, but it might take a whole day for certain types of fruits and vegetables.
If you are using a food dehydrator, the process is very similar so you can prepare your harvest the same way you would for the oven.
METHOD 3. PICKLING AND FERMENTING
Pickling isn’t just for cucumbers. In fact, you can preserve beans, carrots, radishes, cabbage and snap peas as well. You can even pickle sweet produce like berries and peaches.
Here you have two options: quick-pickling or lacto-fermentation. Quick pickles are also known as refrigerator pickles and they are soaked in water, vinegar, and salt. Fermented pickles are cured, so they produce a type of acid-producing good bacteria that also gives them their distinctive flavor. Some examples of fermented produce are cabbage (sauerkraut), fermented cucumbers and preserved lemons.
Fermentation is a longer process, but creates healthy bacteria and probiotics so it’s the preferred method for anyone interested in healthy eating.
As the name implies, you can enjoy quick pickles sooner than fermented ones, usually within a few hours, and they last for up to two months. Quick pickles can be made with a Masontops jar, lid andPickle Pebble weight. Opting for fermented foods is easy withMasontops fermentation tools. Fermented foods will last up to a few months and can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to make, depending on your taste preference.
METHOD 4: CANNING
A lot of things can be canned, from tomato sauce to berry jam made from homegrown blueberries. Canning preserves foods by creating an environment inhospitable for bacteria. Of all these four food preservation methods, canning it’s definitely the most complicated. Unlike fermentation, this process doesn’t add any additional health benefits to the food because the heat-processing kills all good and bad bacteria (including probiotics), even if the dish was originally fermented.
There are some important factors to remember when canning. First of all, you should use fruits and vegetables at their peak ripeness, use glass canning jars that are in good shape (not chipped or cracked) and always follow the recipe instructions carefully or you can create a bacteria-friendly environment.
If you want to get into canning but aren’t sure what to start with, some of the most commonly used options include tomato or pasta sauce, cooked diced tomatoes, fruit jelly or jam, pickles, pie fillings, hot or chili sauces and chutneys.
Before storing, remember to test the jar to make sure it’s fully sealed by tapping on the lid with a teaspoon. A sealed can makes a sharp ringing sound, not a dull one. Now it's time to label your jars with the date and name of the food.
However, regardless of the preservation method of your choice, good hygiene is essential. Remember to wash your hands before handling any fruits or vegetables and making sure the tools you’re using are completely clean too and jars and lids sterilized.
What food preservation method is your favorite?