It’s autumn and before you know it, fresh produce will be a memory. It you’re anything like me and want it year round, take a little effort and preserve your produce. I do this every year so I can enjoy flavorful local veggies even in the dead of winter. There are a few different ways to go about it – below I’ll talk about some of the pros and cons of my go-to methods.
When I was new to food preservation freezing seemed like the easiest thing for me to start with. All I needed to invest in was freezer bags which I could pick up for about $3.50. After that it came down to blanching my vegetables to lock in the nutrient content and then throw them in the freezer. Here are a few of the things I learned early on about freezing:
- Cut your veggies to the size you’ll want them when you eat them. The first year I froze kale, I blanched the whole leaf and then froze it. I have to tell you, chopping frozen vegetables is not fun. Save some time and effort by chopping it first!
- Most leafy greens only need to boil for 1 minute while thicker veggies like broccoli and peak need 3 minutes.
- A spaghetti scoop works great for getting the veggies out of the boiling water and into a pot of ice water without bringing the boiling water with the veggies.
- Squeeze the water out of your vegetables before you put it in the freezer. If you skip this step you wind up with a large ice cube with bits of vegetables.
Freezing is a great & easy way to save summer produce. The downside is that it requires electricity. A couple years ago I lost a lot of my frozen food when my refrigerator broke.
Because of the fiasco of the malfunctioning fridge, last year I started doing more canning. It takes more time and effort but if I lose power, I don’t lose my food. It was a bigger investment up front. You need a pressure canner and the right type of jars, lids and rims. It is also worth while to buy a canning kit . I have a few stories about trying to remove cans from the pot without one. It wasn’t pretty.
- Always follow the instructions that come with the pressure canner.
- Clean everything!
- Be patient. Canning takes time. Be sure not to rush.
Some vegetables do better canned then others. Tomatoes, beans, squash and beets do really well. I found that bell peppers on the other hand tend to get very mushy.
This is the method I probably use the least. For fresh herbs all you need to do is hang them upside down and wait. Nature does the rest. I’ll also dry fruit like apples and watermelon. (Yes, you heard that right – it makes a great snack when you need something sweet.) There are ways to dry produce in the oven but I feel the easiest way to do it is get a dehydrator. Then you just cut the fruit, set the temperature and wait!