You can begin to preserve and store produce using one of these six time-tested methods. Our ancestors knew how to preserve food and never wasted anything. You can learn too.
Preserving and storing food is becoming a bit of a lost art and it’s a shame. Our ancestors knew how to preserve food and never wasted anything. Now, we are often overwhelmed with daily tasks and have put aside preserving. All is not lost, you can pick up preserving, using small batches and time management. Then you can answer these questions with confidence.
- What can you do when you come across a great deal at the grocery store or the farmers market?
- What do you do when you’re offered a deal on a box or bushel of produce that you can’t pass up?
- How should you preserve a bumper crop of green beans, squash or tomatoes?
There’s only so much of any one food you can eat before you get sick and tired of it. If you know how to preserve it, you can put it up and use it throughout the year.
A great place to start is by freezing food. You can cook up your harvest in some of your favorite freezer friendly foods, or clean and precook them and toss them in the freezer. This is also a great way to store fruits like berries, bananas, and peaches that don’t last long once they are ripe.
The only disadvantage to freezing food is that you’re limited by the amount of storage room you have in your freezer, so it is not practical to put a full box with 40 pounds of produce in the freezer. Decide how much will be frozen and read further for other ideas.
Be sure to get in the habit of labeling frozen food before it goes into the freezer. That way you will know what it is before you pull it out to thaw and how long it’s been sitting in the freezer. Things look surprisingly alike when they are frozen.
Canning is one of the most versatile ways to preserve food. You can make and can anything from jelly and pie filling to chili and green beans. Canning has the added advantage of not taking up any space in your fridge and freezer. You can store your canned goods in the pantry, on a shelf in the kitchen, or anywhere in the basement. I’ve even been known to keep canned goods stuck under the spare bed if I’m running out of storage room.
There are two kinds of canning – water bath and pressure. Water bath canning is the easiest to start with and all fruit and jam can be preserved with this method. See this recipe for Cardamom Ginger Spiced Nectarines. Even some tomatoes can be processed in a water bath canner.
Pressure canning can be intimidating to those who believe the old stories. It is a fact that modern canners have excellent safety feature and do not blow up. Watch a video online or take a local canning class from a master preserver. These are often inexpensive and will give you the confidence you need to preserve meat and vegetables with a pressure canner.
If you don’t have a lot of space, dehydrating food gives you the most options. You can start by using your oven on the lowest setting, but be the most efficient with your time and invest in a dehydrator. You can purchase a reliable model for less than $100.
Begin by dehydrating apple slices, peaches, or any type of food to use in baking and cereal throughout the year. Then explore further and come up with fun snacks like zucchini chips and banana chips.
Having a pantry of dried veggies that you can use in soup, and turn into powder, will expand your capability to cook quick, healthy meals. Properly dehydrated and packaged food also stores a lot longer than any other method.
For more dehydrating ideas see the Dehydrating Page on Rockin W Homestead
Another favorite old-fashioned way to preserve food is to pickle it. Pickling involves submerging the produce in a brine made of salt, sugar, water, and various pickling spices.
The most common pickled item is, of course, pickles and it’s a great place to start. But don’t stop there. You can pickle peppers, okra, cauliflower and a wide variety of other veggies and even fruits. Play with it and see what you like. Try this post at Joybilee Farm to get started – How to make Pickles: The Secret to Kosher Dills
Pickled veggies make a great addition to sandwiches and salads throughout the year. You can even pickle eggs for short-term storage.
Cold Store It
Cold storage, also called root cellaring, is perhaps the simplest way to store food, they require no energy to use and require very little maintenance. You must have the right conditions to pull it off, and is perhaps best suited for those living in northern climates. A root cellar needs four specific elements to be able to keep food
Things that store best in the cool, dry, and dark root cellar include root vegetables (carrots, beets, potatoes), apples, and cabbages. Older houses often had a root cellar built in, but today this is not a part of home planning. If you have always wanted to have cold storage you can build a root cellar with these plans from Teri Page at Homestead-Honey.
Your pantry might be a good place to store this type of food. If you have a basement and can partition off a section for storage, you can set up shelves to keep a lot of produce for months to come.
Last but not least comes fermenting. It produces an amazing, gut healthy end product that also doubles as a very effective preservation method. It is perhaps the easiest way to take ordinary vegetables and create tasty snacks.
Sauerkraut is the beginner’s introduction to the method and is almost foolproof. I took a mini-course from Kirsten Shockey, the author of Fermented Vegetables, and she said that once you understand the process, it is virtually impossible to ferment food incorrectly.
Fermenting also lends itself to small-batch preserving, so as you have leftovers from salad preparations, or find a deal at the store on a small bag of vegetables, you can process it in no time.
You can learn to preserve and store produce with these six preservation methods. Choose the one that seems the easiest for you and begin. You’ll have advanced in technique and will begin using the other methods are your confidence increases.
Other preserving articles from Rockin W Homestead
6 Ways to Preserve and Store Produce (this post)