It’s summer, and the bounty of fresh fruit in the garden and local farmer’s markets is overwhelming. Obviously, we can’t eat all that luscious produce as soon as we buy it; but we can set aside a day to preserve some of it for a future pleasurable experience.
Preserving is not as difficult as some folks might think. Perhaps we have visions of our moms slaving away in a humid summer kitchen, hefting heavy, steaming pots full of water and filled jars. Yes, water-bath canning does have a place in the modern kitchen; but it’s not the only way to ensure that you have the tastes of the summer season all year long. Fortunately, there are several healthful ways to preserve your food so that you can savor its goodness long after the harvest is over.
In addition, by preserving your own fresh produce, think of the money you save on pre-processed supermarket offerings. And there’s a health benefit to doing it yourself, too: you control the ingredients added to your efforts, so if you’re on a low-salt or low-calorie eating program, cut the salt, cut the sugar, etc.
The four most common ways to preserve foods are by freezing, canning, drying, and pickling. First, let’s discuss freezing, which is a good option for saving fruits you might want to add to smoothies or baked goods (cherries, berries, bananas) and fruits which aren’t necessarily suitable for canning. Some vegetables such as peas, carrots, corn, beans, and broccoli freeze well, too; and think of the added benefit of supplying your family with healthy salt-free vegetables all winter long.
Freezing is quick and doesn’t require much equipment, but on the other hand, frozen foods don’t keep as long as do canned ones, nor are they preserved in their original pristine state, i.e. they tend to become a bit mushy. Keeping in mind those few drawbacks, freezing is still a great option requiring minimal effort for the home chef to provide taste and variety all year long.
You will need the following supplies:
- flat baking sheets or shallow containers that fit into your freezer
- freezer bags or reusable containers that have tight-fitting lids (we prefer square ones as these stack well
- a permanent marker and labels (try office supply stores for utilitarian ones, or kitchen supply stores for pretty labels)
- the foods you are freezing
Always start with fruits and vegetables picked from your own garden or purchased from nearby producers when the foods are at their peak of freshness—within six to twelve hours after harvest for most varieties. Many vegetables will require a short blanching (see below) before freezing. Beyond that, the method of freezing and storing vegetables is the same as that of fruit.
To blanch vegetables, bring to a boil enough water to cover the vegetables you are going to process. Immerse the vegetables in the boiling water; bring the water back to a boil and cook for anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes, until the vegetables are a bit tender. Remove the vegetables from the water and immediately place them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
Directions to freeze fruits and vegetables:
1. Wash and core fruit. Skin fruit with tough outer coverings (such as peaches, plums, nectarines, etc.). Cut fruit into slices or chunks, if desired.
2. If browning is a concern, the fruit can be put in water with a bit of lemon juice or a product such as Fruit Fresh.
3. Pat the fruit dry and lay it in single layers (pieces should not touch one another) on one or more baking sheets.
4. Place baking sheets into the freezer for several hours.
5. When the fruit is frozen, place it into storage bags or containers that are clearly labeled with the contents and the date.
We enjoy using a Food Saver Vacuum Appliance for freezing fruit, vegetables, and many other foods, as the foods stay fresher longer and freezer burn is kept to a minimum. If you’re hungry right now for more information about food preservation, supplies, techniques, and recipes, check out the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine.
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Preserving food, seasonal produce, freezing food, fruits and vegetables