For those of us who have yet to try it, there is nothing like eating your own preserved food mid-winter. I remember making a raspberry/blackberry crisp in January from berries that I had frozen the previous summer. It was more than just delicious – it was comforting.
In this fast-paced world, preserving and storing food is something that few of us have the time or inclination to do. Fresh produce is available in more quantity and variety year-round than ever before. So why bother? Because it is a way of saving some of that home-grown goodness, and bringing it out whenever we need it. It can save us money and help us to take responsibility for ourselves and our families in a world that is rapidly being depleted of its natural resources.
Methods of Preserving
Freezing – Be sure to research appropriate prep for each fruit or vegetable. Most vegetables, for instance, need to be blanched before freezing so as to de-activate the enzymes that otherwise would continue to mature vegetables beyond their optimal colour and flavour. Some fruits are best frozen on open trays before bagging for easy winter access. Ask around or look it up before you begin in order to have the best end product
Canning – This includes jams and jellies, pickling and just plain canning. Be prepared with all of the necessary utensils, ingredients and information. Many items can be processed in a boiling-water-bath and do not need a fancy ‘pressure canner’. (Note – vegetables are too low in acid for this method unless pickled). Canning is always more fun if done with a friend!
Curing with Brine – Salting is an ancient method of preserving and includes things like sauerkraut and brine-cured pickles. The fermentation that occurs means that the end result has many well-recognized health-giving properties.
Dehydrating – This is one of the oldest forms of preserving, and after being generally neglected in the last few generations has seen a resurgence with the ‘Raw Food’ movement. Decent dehydrators are now relatively affordable (you can even make your own!) and this is an excellent way of preserving the nutrients in your food.
The ‘Root Cellar’ – If stored correctly, some fruits, root vegetables and grains can be kept in a dry, cool place for most of the winter with no additional preserving. There is a lot of information out there to help you do this well.
The biggest key to having a successful preserving season is to plan ahead. If you plant things too early, for instance, you will be trapped in the heat of summer beside the hot stove, blanching and canning. There are many resources available to gardeners to help with planning so that your harvest makes the preservation at the end of the season easy. For those of us who do not plant a full garden, small markets will usually order you cases of local product at a cost savings if you plan with them ahead of time. Happy Harvest!