Food Preservation 101
If you have a garden, (or you can’t control yourself at the farmer’s market,) right about now your countertop is overflowing with tomatoes in various stages of ripeness. Aside from eating as many fresh tomatoes as you can every day, it’s time to figure out how to preserve them for the winter.
Freezing and dehydrating are easier than canning and a great way to preserve your favorite summer foods. Pickling and fermenting are also methods you can use for putting food by. With a little know-how and practice, you can soon have a cupboard and/or freezer full of beautiful, ready-to-go food for the cold months ahead.
Thoughts to Consider for Food Preservation
- For long-term freezing, the temperature of your freezer should be zero degrees.
- Freezing vegetables: Steam or blanch vegetables in boiling water, then dip into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain well before freezing. Here’s a helpful article on freezing veggies. Tip: Did you know you can freeze tomatoes whole? When thawed, use them for sauces and salsa.
- Make the food into its end product before freezing. Make tomato sauce instead of freezing whole tomatoes. Bake zucchini bread instead of freezing shredded zucchini. Thoroughly cool cooked soups, sauces, or baked goods before freezing.
- Make fruit sauce by simmering cut up fruit in a pot until thick. Add a little sweetener if desired and purée or leave chunky. Cool completely before freezing.
- Spread washed/dried berries or sliced fruit in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer, then pour into a container after frozen.
- Commercial dehydrators, solar dehydrators, or your oven can be used for drying. Oven temperature should be 120° F to dry but not cook the food. Here’s how to dehydrate food in the oven.
- Mother Earth News article comparing food dehydrators.
- Dried vegetables should be brittle, fruits should be pliable but not sticky. If they’re not completely dry, store in the refrigerator.
Fermentation is a time-honored method of putting food by. Learn more about fermentation HERE or read this article about how to make fermented sauerkraut.
Pickling is achieved by preserving prepared ingredients in a hot spiced vinegar solution. You should follow a recipe carefully for best results. (See below for resources.) You can pickle a variety of foods besides cucumbers: cantaloupe, apples, pears, beets, beans, peppers, or watermelon rinds.
Quick Pickling – You can make quick pickles with a variety of vegetables by simply marinating and storing your veggies in a vinegar brine. They are not processed with heat so need to be kept refrigerated. Here’s a recipe for quick pickled beets.
Make flavored vinegars. Infuse white wine or balsamic vinegar with fruit or herbs.
- So Easy to Preserve by the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Georgia, a complete resource for canning, pickling, freezing, and drying foods. This is the book we use for our canning classes we do with MSU.
- Wild Fermentation, Sandor Ellix Katz
- Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving