Preserving Your Produce

It’s that time of year when fruits and vegetables are abundant. Whether you’re growing your own or shopping at the grocery store, it’s easy to have a surplus of produce. There are a few different ways to preserve your produce to get the longest life out of them saving you hundreds of dollars in shopping expenses!

These economical methods of preserving produce can be simple and easy once you get the hang of it. There are primarily four ways of preserving which we will introduce: canning, freezing, drying, and pickling. You’ll want to be sure your produce is at its peak of freshness when starting any of these processes.

Canning

There are two methods of canning: hot water bath and pressure canning. You will need canning jars specific for this process that can be purchased at most grocery stores. They are called glass canning jars that mostly come in quarts or pints and have a separate lid and ring for each jar.

The hot water bath canning method is best for highly acidic foods such as fruits, pickles, jams, and jellies. The jars, lids and rings need to be sterilized in boiling water for this method.

You will need some additional supplies for your canning process:

  • One large pot

  • Sterilized jars, lids, and rings

  • Thermometer

  • Jar rack/ jar lifter

Pressure canning is best for low acidic foods such as all fresh vegetables except for tomatoes. This process prevents food from spoiling and increases the shelf life considerably, however, you will need to invest in a pressure canner. You will not need to sterilize the jars, lids, and rings for this method as the process will do that on its own.

Here are supplies you will need:

  • Pressure canner

  • Jars, lids, rings

  • Jar lifters

These foods will last up to 12 months using this process!

Freezing

Freezing is a great method for fruits such as bananas, berries, and cherries as well as vegetables such as broccoli, beans, carrots, peas, and corn. Your produce will last longer with the canning method, but you will still extend the life of your produce considerably.

You will only need a few basic supplies that you may already have in your kitchen:

  • Cookie or baking sheet that will fit in the freezer

  • Freezer bags or containers with secure lids

  • A permanent marker for labeling

It’s a good idea to blanche (30-secong boil) your veggies before freezing. You may want to soak your fruit in water with some lemon juice to avoid browning. Make sure your produce is dry, sliced and separated on the baking sheet before freezing. You may remove and place in bags or containers after a couple hours in the freezer.

Drying (Dehydrating)

Drying your produce will eliminate the water from the food. Bacteria and mold cannot grow without moisture. Fruits, herbs, and seeds are best for this method. Sun drying can be done when it is over 100 degrees for at least 3 days.

The most effective way for drying your produce is with a dehydrator. It could take several hours to a couple of days depending on your produce. It is possible to use a conventional oven set on a low temperature with the door cracked.

When the drying process is complete, be sure to place your dried produce in a sealed container and stored in a cool, dark place like your pantry.

These foods should last up to 4 months!

Pickling

Pickling uses salt and vinegar to eliminate the growth of bacteria. Pickled foods include cucumbers, sauerkraut, relishes, and fruits.

There are many recipes for pickling which usually takes several hours to a couple days. Be sure to use canning salt instead of table salt.

Here are some supplies you will need:

  • One large pot

  • Sterilized jars, lids, and rings

  • Jar lifters

  • Canning salt

  • Vinegar

  • Spices

These foods will last from 3 months up to 12 months!

These methods have been around for generations and have proven to be the most beneficial in food preservation. Be sure to follow all the directions that accompany the particular equipment for each process or the specific recipes related to each method.