You have picked your vegetables and now what do you do with the mounds of great vegetables and fruits?
Canning and freezing are the most popular ways to keep food for the winter months but some people also dry food. I prefer to can most of my produce but freezing is faster.
You can use a water bath or pressure canner to can your produce. The water bath method works well for produce high in acid like tomatoes or pickles. Other vegetables must have the pressure cooker to make sure the temperature is high enough to kill any bacteria. Beans are a perfect example of a crop that should be processed in a pressure cooker.
Pressure cookers must be used with care and need to have the pressure gauge checked to make sure it is accurate. Most local Extension offices will check your pressure cooker gauge for free. They also have wonderful canning pamphlets and can answer any of your canning questions on the phone. I have had them check my pressure cooker and have called them often times when I am in the middle of canning if I have a question.
You can also check online for more information. My favorite site is the Ball canning site. They have made jars and canning equipment for years and are thought of as one of the most reliable companies for canning information. They also have a toll free telephone number.
Canning takes a little more time and can heat up a kitchen on a hot day. It takes a little knowledge but for me I prefer the taste of canned food and for some reason the family uses it faster than frozen food.
Note: always use clean jars that have been properly sterilized and jars that are in excellent shape. Check the jars carefully for cracks or chips on the rim.
Freezing is fast and easy. There are several steps to keep in mind.
- Use produce that is ripe but not overripe. Check the produce for blemishes or bad spots.
- Make sure it is clean and rinsed well.
- Most produce freezes better and has a better taste if it is blanched first (this is a fast dip into hot water to stop ripening and to kill bacteria).
- You can use plastic containers, cardboard containers or freezer bags
I use the new freezer bags with the lock tops. For the first time this year I am using the process that removes all extra air from the bags. This helps to prevent any freezer burn to the produce.
I find I freeze more fruit than vegetables. Applesause and blueberreis are the items I freeze the most.
Storing your harvest for later use is easy if you follow a few rules and ask questions. You will have fresh organic vegetables with better taste and the knowledge they came from your garden.