4 Ways to Preserve Your Peak Season Produce
Do you know where your food comes from? Eating local is easy when gardens and farms are overflowing with fresh, seasonal produce. Your food can go from farm to table in the same day.
But what about during the off season?
Food preservation is a basic skill that even a newbie foodie can master. It is a great way to stock up on the bounty of summer’s fruit and vegetables. Whether you grow your own or frequent farm stands, nothing beats produce that is harvested at its peak.
Preserving food at home is a healthy and cost-effective way to enjoy your favorite peak of the season produce all year long. Or at least until next year’s bounty!
This is a great way to support a whole food lifestyle. You are in control of what goes into your jars, freezer and pantry. You can avoid all of the added chemicals, colorings and flavors that go into processed food.
These preservation methods will help you build your food stores up and be well prepared in case of an emergency. Knowing the basics of food preservation also comes in handy to minimize food waste.
Here are a few ways to get the most out of this year’s crop:
Fermentation is the process of converting carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids using yeasts or bacteria under anaerobic conditions (or without oxygen). This process is used to make many of our favorites like sauerkraut, kimchi, beer, wine, yogurt, kombucha, cheese and even sourdough bread.
Once the fermentation is complete, store in the refrigerator. This helps to preserve the beneficial bacteria and halt the fermentation process.
Freezing slows the growth of microorganisms and enzymes that cause food to spoil. This method is quick and easy. And as long as you have ample freezer space, you won’t need any special equipment.
For the best results, freeze room-temperature foods, remove all the air from the freezer bag, and consume within 6 months of freezing. Vacuum-sealed bags prevents ice crystals from forming and can extend the shelf life of food.
Vegetables and greens, like kale, spinach and collards, should be blanched first. Blanching helps the vegetables retain crispness and vibrant color even when frozen.
Fruits do not require blanching. Berries, tomatoes and avocado flesh can be frozen straight away. Peach and apple slices should be dipped in lemon water to prevent discoloring.
Dehydration is an ancient food preservation method. The modern method uses an electric food dehydrator instead of just sun and air.
The process of drying inhibits the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and mold through the removal of moisture content. It also preserves the nutritional value of the food.
Fruit, vegetables and meat (think jerky) dry well. My favorites are mango, nectarine and persimmon. Dehydrated food can be vacuum sealed for a very long shelf life.
The canning process involves placing foods in canning jars and heating them to a high temperature to destroy the microorganisms that cause food to spoil. During the heating process, air is pushed out of the jar, and as the jars cool, a vacuum seal forms.
Canning results in food that is fully cooked and ready to serve. This is great for emergencies and power outages because canned food is non-perishable and doesn’t require refrigeration.
There are two types of home canning: water bath and pressure canning. The water bath method is ideal is for high-acid foods, like jams, jellies, pickles and salsa.
Pressure canning uses high temperatures and requires a pressure cooker to preserve low-acid foods, like vegetables, meat, and fish.
There are many reasons to preserve food at home, including to save money, preserve your garden harvest, avoid processed foods and to be prepared for an emergency. When you preserve at home, your food is untainted. You know where it came from.
A special thanks to Catherine Abegg Photography for beautiful photos of my Bainbridge Island garden.