If you're like me, you have been enjoying the "fruits of your labor" for several weeks now and you have probably been giving cucumbers and tomatoes to anyone that will take them! But you know what? Come November, when the temps turn cold and the snow starts to fly, I'm sure you will also be like me. You'll be wishing that you still had some of that fresh garden produce to prepare your Thanksgiving dinner. Well, with a little effort, you can have your carrots and eat them, too!
There are several ways you can save your goodies for consumption at a later date. While there are probably more than this, here are six ways to put up your garden produce to enjoy at a later date.
1. Canning. There are two ways to can your food. The first is a water bath method, which is used for acidic fruits, jams, jellies, syrups, and pickling. Water bath canning is immersing canning jars with food in a bath of boiling water. This is a great way to get your feet wet with canning. Just be sure you follow directions. Botulism is no joke and can happen if you don't be sure your seals are in tact.
The second canning method is a pressure canner and the only safe way to can non-acidic food, vegetables, salsas, meat, soups, and sauces. The pressure canner allows the jars to reach a higher temperature than just boiling water. I love my pressure canner because it allows us to put up the majority of our food. It also takes a lot less energy and time to pressure can food than it does heating up the water bath canner. With this method, it's more the process that you need to be cautious about than the finished product. I've seen canners blow their top off a few times and it can be at scary at the least.
2. Dehydrating. Dehydrated food takes very little storage space. It’s light weight enough to take with you on the go. To prolong its shelf life, it should be stored in a cool, dark, dry area. I dehydrate our herbs the old fashioned way, by hanging them in a warm dark area, but I use an electric dehydrator for our fruits and vegetables. You can dehydrate meat as well. This is the method I choose when I'm getting ready for a backpacking trip because it make the produce much lighter to carry.
3. Cold storage or root cellar. This simply requires a cool, damp, and dark area for root crops, such as potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, cabbage, and apples. Winter squash and pumpkins prefer it a bit warmer and drier. I think this is my favorite way of preserving food because it honestly requires very little work on my part. All I need to do is prepare a place for them in our basement back room.
4. Freezing. Freezing food allows it to keep for many months and sometimes years if packaged properly. I use our deep freezer for beef, chicken, and some fruits and vegetables. Many foods can be frozen that people don't typically think of. You can freeze butter, milk, cheese, and even eggs. Yep, you read that right. In the summer when my hens are laying like crazy, you canI put some of the eggs into the freezer to use later.
5. Salt Curing. Before refrigeration and the invention of the Mason jar in 1858, salt was used to cure meat. Salt draws the moisture out of the food. This is excellent for pork and fish, but can be done with beef as well. You'll need quite a bit of salt, some glass jars, and/or crocks. If you struggle with high blood pressure, this method is probably not the best choice for you.
6. Immersion in Alcohol. Many foods can be immersed in alcohol to preserve them. Herbs and fruits are immersed in alcohol to create extracts. Our daughter maker her own mint, vanilla, and lemon extracts this way. Your summer fruit can also be preserved in alcohol for summer baking.
With just a little effort, you can enjoy your fresh, organic garden produce all year round. You just need to decide which method your are most comfortable and fits the foods your are trying to preserve.
Until Next Time...