Your hard work has paid off and the fruits of your labor are ready for harvest. But don’t rush to eat everything now.
Canning and freezing are the most common ways of preserving summer’s harvest. There are many other ways, however — some easier and less time-consuming. Fill your pantry with preserved foods to get you through winter.
Here are six ways to savor summer flavor.
1. Canning. In order to can, you need heat to kill bacteria and seal lids tight. Canning requires sterilized materials, such as jars, rings and lids, and some practice to learn the necessary and detailed steps. This method can be used with most fruits and vegetables but is the best way to preserve your tomato bounty.
2. Pickling. The main difference between pickling and canning is that you add salt and acid. Pickling requires a soak in brine with salt, vinegar and herbs of your choosing. After the desired time (anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months) pickles can be eaten, or the canning method can be used to produce a vacuum seal. The most famous pickle, the cucumber, is easy make at home. Try adding onions, peppers, garlic and your favorite herbs for homegrown flavor.
3. Freezing. Freezing is a quick way to prevent food from spoiling before it is ready to eat. Many foods freeze well, such as berries and corn, but a few — such as lettuce and cucumbers — don’t. Dry food completely before freezing and store in freezer-proof containers. To save space and smaller portions, fill ice cube trays with herbs, sauces and purees.
4. Drying. Drying is the easiest way to preserve food. Since mold and bacteria grow in a moist environment, and drying removes the moisture, food can be safely stored for a long time. Use a food dehydrator or a low-temperature oven, although the latter can take many hours. Removing the water also concentrates flavors in a tasty way, and it’s a trick for getting kids to eat all kinds of fruits and veggies. Make your own raisins, fruit leathers and veggie chips.
5. Fermenting. Similar to canning, without sealing the food, fermentation allows entry of good bacteria while using acid to kill bad bacteria. Make a wide range of products such as wine, sauerkraut and kimchee without any special equipment.
6. Root cellaring. This old-fashioned method simply refers to storing produce for long periods of time in a cool, dark spot. A corner of your garage or basement will do. It’s the easiest option for root vegetables with thick skins such as squash, carrots, beets and potatoes. Just don’t forget where you left them!