Best Food Preservation Methods for This Season

Canning, drying, freezing, and more!

Updated on August 11, 2017 10:08 am

Fix.com

how to perserve food

Article originally published in Fix.com. Edited and reposted with permission.

Food preservation techniques have been around just about as long as we humans have, and they’re still some of the best ways to make sure that you have food long after your gardening season is over. However, not all food preservation methods are the same. Some are easier than others, some are safer than others, and some plants can only be preserved in certain ways.

No matter which method you choose, properly sanitising and following all safety precautions is a must, as improperly preserved food can cause serious health problems.

drying the herbs, vegetables and food as a preservation method

Drying

While you can use fancy gear such as a food dehydrator or a dehydration cabinet, the simplest and lowest-cost way to get started with drying your food is simply by using your oven or the sun. To dry your harvest, first slice your fruits or veggies to at least ½” to 1” pieces. This helps speed up the process by increasing the available surface area for drying.

Hanging:

To use the hang-drying method (which is best for herbs), tie the herbs in bunches and hang them from an area of your house that is dry and gets a lot of airflow. After a few days, the leaves of your herbs will be brittle, and you can scrape them off the stems and store them in spice containers.

Oven-Drying:

For those of you who don’t have enough sunlight or heat to properly sun-dry your harvest, the oven is your best friend. Turn your oven to 130-140°F and place your trays in for at least an hour. Every plant has a different drying time, so just look for the characteristics of good dehydration: a leathery, wrinkly appearance to the surface of your plants.

Sun-Drying:

Slice your plants just like you would if you were going to oven-dry, lay them on wax paper and a cookie sheet, and place in the sun. Sun-drying can take anywhere from two to four days, so be patient and be sure to turn over your plants every day for even dehydration.

Best Vegetables to Dry:

Herbs are the most popular plants to dry for many home gardeners. By preserving them, you can add their flavour-packed goodness to recipes throughout the entire year. Drying fruits is also quite popular, as they make a great snack.

root cellaring is a method to preserve food

Root-Cellaring

Before the advent of refrigeration, root cellars were a common way to preserve vegetables over the winter. They mimic the properties of a refrigerator: cold, well-ventilated, and spacious.

Best Vegetables to Root-Cellar:

As its name implies, root cellars are designed for root vegetables: beets, potatoes, garlic, onions, and yams are all fantastic veggies to add to your cellar.

canning is a method of preserving food

Canning

When you think of food preservation, canning is probably the method that comes to mind. It’s one of the most popular ways to preserve food and is simpler than most people make it seem.

While there are many different methods for canning your food, water bath canning is the easiest to do at home. It requires you to use acidic veggies—any non-acidic veggies are dangerous to use when water bath canning.

If you decide to preserve your harvest this way, be sure to use a tested recipe that matches the veggies you have. This way you’ll know your food will be canned safely. In addition, sterilisation is absolutely crucial. Everything you use while water bath canning should be sterilised: the jars, lids, cutting boards, knives, and any other tool that comes into contact with your food. Even when using acidic veggies, keeping a sterilised environment is key.

Water bath canning involves placing veggies in jars, sealing them, and placing them in boiling water. After the cans have been submerged for the exact processing time called for by your specific canning recipe, the boiling water will force out air and form a vacuum seal inside the can.

When you pull your cans out of the water, be sure that there is no “pop” on the seal. Just like in the grocery store, if the seal pops, it’s no good. Throw it out or try again!

Best Vegetables to Can:

Again, it is vital that you choose the correct veggies when water bath canning. You must use high-acid foods, like citrus, tomatoes, or any veggies that you have already pickled. If you want to can low-acid foods, you must use the pressure canning method.

freezing is a method to preserve vegetables

Freezing

Freezing is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to preserve your harvest. In fact, it is also the best way to preserve certain veggies. One important thing to remember when freezing is that, unlike other preservation methods, it does not sterilise your food. Freezing temperatures simply slow the growth of any bacteria or microorganisms present.

To freeze, you need durable containers that are resistant to moisture and air. Most gardeners go with plastic freezer bags, but you can also use mason jars and plastic containers, as long as they are airtight.

You’ll get the best results from freezing if you select only the freshest vegetables from your garden. Wash them in water and then sort them by size—this will be important later in the process. Before tossing them in the freezer, your veggies must be blanched. Blanching “freezes” plants where they are, stopping the production of decomposition enzymes that would ruin their flavour. To blanch, bring water to a rolling boil and place your vegetables in the water for a few minutes (the actual time will depend on the specific vegetable you’re blanching).

After time is up, place veggies into a bath of water that is below 60°F. Then let them dry, pack into your freezer containers, and place in the freezer.

Best Vegetables to Freeze:

Broccoli, asparagus, and most leafy greens are fantastic veggies to freeze. They’ll remain as fresh as they were when you harvested them and keep for a long time, provided you used the right technique.


Share with us your food preservation experience at hello@cromly.com.

Cover photo and infographics by Fix.com

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