It’s that time of year again when all our hard earned produce becomes ripe and ready to eat.
But after a week or two of Tomatoes, or squash, or (fill in the Blanks) you start to wonder if there is a way you can save some of that great homegrown food for later in the year, or better yet, winter time
The good news is there are ways to do this. Many of us know of Canning but may not know just how to start.
But there are actually three ways you can preserve your food both safe and reliable.
Each of these methods could have a post or book of their own, so I wlll simply hit the highpoints and provide you with a link to a site where you can find much more information should you choose. I personally use all three methods, after finding somethings see to taste better to me frozen than canned, and dehydrated food has such a long shelf life.
I will be discussing these types of processing in more detail on the next podcast, but I wanted to get this information out to you as soon as I could.
Canning is the oldest method and involves either a Hot water bath for vegetables with a high acid content like tomatoes, but for vegetables like beans and peas with low acid content, you need to use a pressure Cooker style canning.
The first thing you should get as it will become your “Bible” is the Ball “Blue Book of Canning”. It not only describes the types of canning, but also provides many recipes for safe canning But unlike normal recipes, you shouldn’t vary these recipes much ( at first at least) as they have been closely tested for safety and health issues. Otherwise, you may have problems with issues like botulism, which is nothing to mess with.
With Canning, you sterilize glass jars and place your recpe solution in the jar. It is then sealed with a 2 piece lid, and placed into the Water Filled “Canner” to cook for a set amount of time, based on the recipe. At the conclusion of cooking, the hot jars are removed and allowed to sit overnight and col. As they col, the lid will seal and sometimes even “pop” audibly when the seal happens. After the jars are cool, they can be labeled, given as gits, or placed in the pantry.
Freezing has become my favorite for some foods like green beans or peas. Now when I say freezing, I don’t mean something as simple as throwing food into a zip-loc food bag and tossing it into the freezer. Freezer Burn will quickly ruined food left in there that way.
I use and recommend a device like the Food-Saver” which is a vacum sealer that removes all the air from the package. You can then label the item with description and the date . Only after that will I freeze an item.
As I mentioned earlier, beans, peas, carrots can all be frozen with great success. They will lose the “crunchiness”, but when I cook them as a side dish or a element of a stew that happens anyway so all is well.
I usually blanch the item to get it’s color showing, then chill it in an ice bath before freezng. This way not only do you save the bright colors, they are partially coked when you are ready to use them.
The downside is you need to buy the vacuum saver device, generally running from $60-$200 US. Some of the devices will even work with a spool of bagging material and let you create bags of any size you wish. Handy for fish and larger cuts of meats.
Then there is the supply of freezer bags. I have found these can be found online in quantity at good discounts.
Dehydrating is simply the process of drying them out to remove all moisture from the vegetable. Then when you want to use it you only need to add them to water and they literally come back to life.
I really like this method, and there are two basic styles of dehydrators. Both rely on several shelves with mesh screens to rest the vegetables on while drying them.
The frst is a circular style with a fan on the bottom blowing upward. Although these are generally the least expensive, I don;t care for them as it is difficult to dry different items at the same time. This is because the dehydrating fan is blowing moisture from one type of veggies onto the next shelf which may have a different vegetable. Sometimes the cross contamination leads to strange tastes and smells
The other style has a fan on the side or rear and blows across the food. This allows you work on as many types of food as you want including making beef jerky or Yogurt.
My recommended dehydrator is the Excaliber brand. It has a thermostat, many shelves, and is the side fan model.
To dehydrate, slice the vegetable up in thin sections, place on the screen shelves, and start your dehydrator, following instructions for your model.
When done they can be easily stored in mason jars or vacum sealed for the pantry and will last a long time.
When needed for meals, just pop into some cooking liquid and you will never know they were ever dehydrated.
If you want to find out more information on these techniques, visit the link below where you will find many links to other sites with more details on Canning and preserving.
The web site Housekeeping.Org at the link below has a long list of links to Food Preservation Sites with lots more in depth information.
Housekeeping.org - Source for lots of links to sites with more information