How to Preserve Food

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Photo by Romulo Yanes
Water bath canning is an easy way to preserve your own food.

Below is an apples-to-zucchini guide to show you the amazing array of possibilities when it comes to preserving summer food.

Apples keep very well in cold storage. They also make a great purée (applesauce) to can or dehydrate into leather. Dried apple rings are a tasty snack and useful baking ingredient. Apple juice can be enjoyed fresh or fermented into hard cider. Apple slices can also be canned via the water-bath method.

Beans (green, yellow and wax) can be pressure-canned or pickled and water-bath canned. They can also be dried, or blanched then frozen. Lima beans should be dried or blanched then frozen. All other beans are good dried. 

Berries are easy to freeze whole, with or without sugar. Berries can also be cooked into jams and jellies, canned via the water-bath method, and dried whole or as a spread for fruit leathers.

Broccoli and cauliflower freeze well if blanched first. Cauliflower makes a great pickle, too.

Brussels sprouts store well in cold conditions, especially if kept on the stalk. Brussels sprouts also star in the fermented condiment sauersprouts (similar to sauerkraut).

Cabbage keeps well in cold storage or can be shredded and fermented into sauerkraut.

Celery leaves can be dried for seasoning. The stalks make good pickles.

Cherries with sugar make excellent pie filling for canning. They can also be frozen, dried whole or as a purée for leather, or covered in alcohol.

Corn kernels cut off the cob can be dried; pickled and canned via the water-bath method; or frozen as is or cream-style (with the “milk” scraped off the cob). For corn on the cob, blanch and freeze whole ears. Creamed corn and whole kernel corn also may be pressure-canned.

Cucumbers make classic vinegar or fermented pickles.

Eggplant is excellent smoked and turned into baba ganoush, which freezes well. It also makes good pickles and can be blanched, then frozen.

Figs can be canned, dried or frozen.

Grapes make great canned juice and dried fruit leather.

Greens of the heartier varieties (chard, kale, spinach) freeze well if blanched first, or can be dried into chips.

Jerusalem artichokes make tasty pickles or can be kept in cold storage.

Melons don’t last as long as root vegetables, but most types are good candidates for cold storage.

Okra makes wonderful pickles if picked young. The pickles can be water-bath canned, whereas fresh okra should be pressure-canned. Sliced okra can be blanched and frozen, or even dried.

Peppers freeze well as slices or chunks, no blanching necessary. Hot peppers may also be dried whole and strung together; pickled in relishes; or fermented
into hot sauce. All types of peppers are great roasted and can then be eaten out of the fridge for a month or frozen. Smoked jalape˜nos are called chipotles.

Pumpkins and winter squash are best in cold storage. Purées are easy to make and freeze.

Root vegetables (beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, sweet potatoes, turnips) keep best in cold storage or by being pressure-canned or pickled either through fermentation or vinegar pickling. Potatoes, however, should not be pickled or canned. Root vegetables make delicious chips: slice and dry, bake or fry.

Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower) are easy to dry or roast. For saltiness, brine before drying or roasting.

Spaghetti squash can be cut in half (seeds removed) and baked until tender. Once cool, remove flesh to a freezer container and freeze. Slip it into cooked pasta dishes, stews or casseroles.

Stone fruits (peaches, pears) can be canned in sugar syrup, dried, frozen, pickled or smoked. They also make good juices and leathers.

Tomatoes make great canned salsa, pasta sauce, ketchup or barbecue sauce. You can also can whole or chopped tomatoes or tomato juice. Tomatoes can also be dried into chips or as a purée for savory tomato leather. Tomatoes freeze well whole or stewed.

Zucchini and yellow summer squash should be blanched and frozen, or better yet, pickled.

Learn more about preserving food in our End-of-Summer Food Preservation Guide.

Mother Earth Living
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