Last spring you planned and planted. As we made decisions on what to grow, how much space in our gardens to devote to varying fruits and vegetables, often those decisions are guided by our ability to preserve those items in the fall. There are some very basic rules to follow that will allow you to store up for the winter what you grew this summer.
First of all, think of how you buy non-fresh produce in the store. Items such as strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower are typically purchased frozen, therefore your best bet would be to freeze them! Canned foods usually include tomatoes, corn, green beans and applesauce. Dried foods are usually herbs.
First, freezing. What is the best way to freeze? First, thoroughly clean your produce and allow it to dry completely. Put it in a single layer on a mesh wire tray (or, if you don’t have any, try lining shallow cardboard boxes with foil). Stack the boxes in your freezer and allow them to freeze all the way through. Then put them in freezer bags and, TAH-DAH, frozen produce. This works very, very well for broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, chili peppers, strawberries, peaches, apple slices (you want to sprinkle these with lemon juice first, as well as pears), and other small berries.
Other foods freeze well, but they need to be blanched first. Blanching involves putting the produce in boiling water for 1-2 minutes then immersing it into ice water immediately. Dry throroughly and then freeze per method above. This works for green beans, peas, corn on the cob* and carrots*.
Before freezing you want to “trim and slice” the items. Cut the broccoli and cauliflower tops off, peal and slice your carrots, apples and pears. Trim the green beans, hull the corn and strawberries, core and slice your peppers, etc…)
Canning is the method that seems to scare most people off, myself included until I buckled down and tried it. Nothing could be easier, it’s just a little time consuming (but very relaxing, especially if you can get your mom, grandmother, aunts and/or friends to join you)! Foods especially good for canning are tomatoes and tomato sauces, soups (do not add pasta to soups at this time, add those when you reheat it), peaches, applesauce/pearsauce, corn, green beans, peas and peppers. The key with canning is that you usually can cooked food.
Tomatoes and peaches are done in a similar manner. Immerse them in boiling water, then into ice water. The peels will pretty much just slide off. Now, with the peaches you need to slice them up off of the pit. Trim other produce the same way you would for freezing, one exception, thoroughly cook your corn and slice off of the cob.
Boil the cans in your large canning pot (you have one of those, right)? Make sure you use the wire thing that keeps the cans apart, or you’ll end up with glass soup. It is VERY important that you sterilize the cans first, or none of this work will be worth it. I cannot stress enough, do not skip this step! Using tongs to remove your hot jars, pack your food into them. Put in water or syrup to cover food by about a quarter inch. Wipe the top clean, and I mean clean. Place jars into water (fresh water) and boil until contents are boiling. Turn off heat. Place lids on jars and wait for a popping sound… that is the sound of the vacuum pulling in the lids! Place ring around jar and voila, you are done.
Prepping food to be canned is all up to your own preference. You may want to pack your peaches in pineapple juice or syrup (1 part water, 1 part sugar), your tomatoes are best with about a quarter teaspoon salt in the bottom of the jar before you pack it (this works great for corn, carrots, peas and green beans as well). Obviously jams and jellies would be prepared according to your favorite recipe, as would soups and sauces.
Drying, the simplest of home tasks, is quite simple. Wash and allow your herbs to dry. Hang upside down on a line of your choosing, allow to completely dry. They should be to the point of crumbling if you pinch them. Put in an airtight container. If you happen to have a food dehydrater, consider drying some of your fruits and store them the same way.
One final note: make sure you have all the supplies you need before starting, set aside a nice chunk of time for this, and buy a good canning/freezing recipe book. If it’s your first time, consider this an experimental year, and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Is all of this worth it? Absolutely.
1. Freezing Foods | How to Freeze Food – Ball® Canning
2. South Beach Diet Phase 2, A Scam Or Does It Work?
3. Save Your Food: Canning and Freezing 101 – Earth911.com