4 Ways to Preserve Your Bounty Of Home Grown Fruits and Vegetables
Are you overwhelmed with tomatoes from your successful backyard gardening? Don’t know what to do with the abundance of zucchini you’ve produced? And what will you do with the bushel baskets of pears from your tree? Even the most ardent pear lovers probably will tire of pear pancakes, pear compote, pear tarts, pear salads, pear chutney, and the list goes on.
Don’t despair. Your wonderful, fresh produce does not have to go to waste. Home grown fruits and vegetables can all be preserved by employing a number of tried-and-true methods (Think thousands of years for some). Among the most common are canning, freezing, drying and even pickling. While they require some time and effort, with modern methodology and the help of new kitchen tools, you can become pretty adept at preserving your own backyard bounty, enjoying the “fruits and vegetables” of your labor for months to come after the growing season.
Here are the most popular preservation methods for home-grown produce:
Canning: Of all the food preservation methods, canning is the more time consuming and requires the most equipment; yet it’s somewhat of an art form that many find gratifying as well as fun. Some people even make it a social event. The key to canning is to create an environment in which bacteria cannot grow so that you can enjoy your canned goods safely for months.
There are two canning methods: pressure canning and water-bath canning. Both use Mason jars and lids and bands, but you’ll use one or the other depending on the type of food you are preserving.
Water-bath canning: A water-bath canner, also called a boiling water canner, is basically an aluminum or porcelain-covered large pot with a jar rack. The jars should not touch the bottom of the pot, allowing the water – maintained at an active flow during the processing – to flow around them. Water-bath canning is used to preserve whole fruits as well as jams and jellies.
Pressure canning: Pressure canning involves sealing foods in jars and then placing the jars a large pressurizing canner, which is a steel kettle with a lockable lid that regulates pressure inside. Pressure canners are able to raise the temperature of the food in the jars above boiling (at least 240 degrees F), which is necessary in order to prevent botulism when you are canning low-acid foods, such as vegetables.
Freezing: Freezing is one of the easiest ways to preserve home grown vegetables and berries. You can freeze produce in small batches, which means you don’t have to throw out anything left over from your garden. Before freezing produce in freezer bags, make sure it is clean and in good condition. You’ll want to blanch vegetables before freezing to stop enzyme action that degrades flavor, color and texture, recommends the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Blanching involves briefly exposing the vegetables to boiling water or steam then placing them in ice water immediately.
Drying: Dried fruits and vegetables are easy to store and are easy to consume wherever you go – on a hike or day outing. Herbs also are very easy to dry and use in recipes when you need them. There are a number of ways remove the moisture without actually cooking your garden produce. You can buy a commercial food dehydrator, use a conventional or convection oven and you even can rely on Mother Nature by drying your fruits and vegetables in the sun. Here in North Texas, there are plenty of sunny, hot days for doing just that.
Pickling: When it comes to pickling, don’t just think cucumbers. Radishes, onions, snap beans, carrots, and more and even some fruits are good candidates for this food preservation method. HowStuffWorks Science explainsthat pickling combines the preservative qualities of salt with the preservative qualities of acid to inhibit bacterial growth.
Ready to try your hand at preserving your garden produce harvest? There are hundreds of recipes online to help you with any of these methods for a variety of fruits and vegetables. Here’s one we love to share:
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