Voula shares three easy methods for preserving, with suggestions and recommendations for best results.
These techniques will help you preserve the bright flavours of your fresh seasonal produce, prevent food spoilage and waste, and reward you for your efforts by providing access to flavourful food at any time.
About this guide:
During harvest season, home gardens, farmers’ markets, community cooperatives, farm stands, and local seasonal produce sections at the grocery store all burst with abundance. If you tend to load up at the market with an extra-large selection of fresh and ripe fruits and vegetables or if you are looking for ways to enjoy your garden harvest all year long, safe methods of food preservation are something to consider.
Extending the shelf life of locally grown food doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. This guide will help you understand what options are available to store and enjoy nature’s bounty in the months that extend beyond peak season.
Canning techniques can prevent bacteria growth when preserving fruits and vegetables, or meat and dairy. Water bath canning is the most common and is used when preparing foods with high acid levels (4.6 pH or below) such as jams, chutneys, and condiments.
Pressure canning is a specialized technique that requires a very specific piece of equipment. A pressure canner maintains consistent high temperatures and pressure at the same time. This method will kill any risky pathogens and safely preserve low-acid foods such as meat, fish, dairy. It is very important to note that this is not a pressure cooker so do not be tempted to use your Instantpot.
The basic steps of canning include gathering your equipment, preparing your ingredients, sanitizing and filling jars, adding seals, processing in a water bath or pressure canner, and ensuring jars are properly sealed before storing.
If you are a first-time canner, we recommend following the exact instructions and recipes provided by Bernardin. Once you become comfortable with the process you’ll find that canning is not difficult and a wonderful way to store, enjoy and share the best of the season all year long.
Bacteria, mould, and yeast grow in a moist environment. Dehydrating or drying will make fruits, vegetables and herbs shelf-stable by removing moisture. This type of preservation is something you can easily do at home.
The two most basic methods for dehydrating at home are air drying (great for herbs) and oven drying. Additionally, you can use a microwave to dry small amounts of herbs and vegetables or invest in an electric dehydrator, which is the most efficient method. A dehydrator provides a consistent source of heat and venting at the same time.
For anyone passionate about dehydrating food naturally by using the power of the sun, Eben Fodor, a professional community planning consultant and environmentalist, has written a comprehensive book, The Solar Food Dryer. It includes step-by-step instructions for how to make a solar food dryer, plenty of resources, and useful information.
There are many sources of information on how to dry fruits, vegetables and herbs, but you can also make flavourful beef jerky, dog treats, crackers, or use a dehydrator to preserve an entire meal that can be later rehydrated with the addition of water. Entrepreneur Julie Mosier, is the author of The Dehydrator Cookbook for Outdoor Adventurers: Healthy, Delicious Recipes for Backpacking and Beyond. It’s loaded with recipes for making great dehydrated small-batch meals, a convenient way to pack food for hiking and camping enthusiasts.
To learn more about drying or dehydrating check out this guide from The University of Georgia.
Freezing is an easy and quick way to safely store fresh fruits and vegetables. The amount of time you can store something in a freezer varies anywhere from 1 month, up to 12 months.
- Wash fruits and vegetables before storing them
- Generally, root vegetables should not be frozen
- Blanche green vegetables in boiling water for 2-4 minutes (for correct timing, use this guide here), then drain the hot water and plunge veggies into ice water to cool them quickly. Once cooled, drain, removing as much water as possible. Place in freezer bags, label them and store in the freezer
- Fruits such as peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, and berries all freeze well. Consider how you will use the fruit before you freeze it and prepare it accordingly before measuring it into a bag. For example, when freezing peaches for making smoothies, prepare the fruit first by washing and then cut into pieces. Or if preparing peaches with a plan to make jam later in the season, blanche them, remove and discard the skins, and cut them into pieces. Measure and record the amount in each bag before storing
- Do your best to remove the air from the bag before freezing. This will prevent ice crystals from forming and ensure the produce stays fresh until ready to use
Voula Halliday, Stifado