Don’t let your summertime harvest go to waste – it can be preserved and enjoyed year-round.
If you have a garden, you may find yourself with an abundance of berries, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes and other fruits and veggies after the growing season reaches its peak. By preserving them, not only can you save money on your grocery bills and cut down on waste, but you’ll also have food harvested at its peak right at your fingertips – even in December!
Here are five ways in which you can savor the flavor of your homegrown fruits and veggies all year round.
This is one of the easier, and perhaps most obvious, methods of preserving fruits and vegetables. But it requires a little more effort than tossing your excess goods in the ice box.
First, know that certain vegetables – like broccoli, spinach and cauliflower – will need a quick blanch in boiling water before they can be frozen. After your veggies are cleaned, cut and blanched, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer. Once everything’s frozen, you can transfer the veggies to a storage container or a sturdy sealable bag – don’t forget to label your packages with the date.
Fruits can be stored in a similar manner. Pineapple, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, sliced peaches and blueberries freeze especially well. (Fresh Blueberry Muffins in January, anyone?) If you’re storing something that may turn brown, like bananas, then you can give your cut fruit a quick bath in lemon juice to preserve its color.
There are two basic methods of canning: a hot water bath and pressure canning. The former is appropriate for foods with higher acidity – think fruits and tomatoes – while the latter needs to be used for all fresh vegetables to prevent the development of dangerous bacteria.
When canning foods, you should always follow a recipe exactly, as it usually contains specific proportions of salt, sugar, vinegar or other natural preservatives that are required to keep your fruits and veggies safe for consumption. Additionally, pay attention to the size and type of container the recipe calls for, because storing your food in a jar that’s too large may result in harmful bacterial growth.
Also keep in mind that neatness and safety are key to ending up with a tasty, pathogen-free canned good, as well as preventing burns or injury in the kitchen. Remember to read your recipe and instructions thoroughly, and have all of your needed supplies and information accessible before beginning the process – the last thing you want is to have to leave a room that contains a large pot of boiling jars.
One more tip: Don’t use table salt in these recipes, as you may end up with soggy goods. Instead, look for special canning salt.
This process of preservation isn’t just for cucumbers. Onions, cabbage, asparagus, green beans, okra and even certain fruits taste awesome when they’ve been infused with the sharp flavor of vinegar.
Similar to canning, you’ll want to find a good recipe and follow it precisely in order to ensure a safe pickle. The ‘no table salt’ rule also applies here, as no one likes a soggy cuke!
The equipment you’ll need for this method includes a large pot, sterilized jars with sealable lids and tongs to lift the jars from the hot water. Obviously, you’ll also need the food you’re pickling. Check out this article for more deets.
It’s pretty simple to make your own dried fruits and herbs at home. However, you may need to make an investment in a food dehydrator, which can also be used to make jerky. The handy kitchen tool makes the process pretty simple, though it may also be possible to dehydrate certain foods in your oven on a low temperature.
5. Jams and jellies
Just like pickling, you may want to think outside the box here. Sure, you can make awesome Strawberry Jam, but you could also whip up a savory spread with tomatoes and onions.
Again, strict recipe adherence can ensure a jam or jelly with the right consistency and shelf life. Generally, you’ll need sugar, fruit (or vegetables!), water, a large pot and sterile jars with lids. Bonus: If you make enough, you can give your homemade jam or jelly as gifts through the fall and winter holidays.