Nutrition Articles

Simple Ways to Preserve Fruits and Vegetables

Canning, Freezing, Drying and Pickling Your Harvest

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Summer is the season for fresh produce—from your garden, the local farmers market, or nearby farms. It can be so tempting to buy in bulk—after all, you've waited all year for the perfect strawberry or tomato—and when you grow your own, you usually end up with a surplus of fruits and vegetables! Luckily, there are several healthful ways to preserve your food so that you can savor the goodness of these fruits and vegetables long after the harvest is over.

Home preservation is a very economical choice, but it has fallen by the wayside in these modern times when foods of all kinds are available in supermarkets year round. However, you can potentially cut hundreds of dollars from your grocery bills by buying (or growing) fresh foods in bulk and then preserving them yourself!

Here's a rundown of the four most common ways to preserve foods: canning, freezing, drying and pickling. This article will provide you with the basic information you need to get started. When doing so, always start with fruits and vegetables picked from your own garden or purchased from nearby producers when the foods are at their peak of freshness—within six to 12 hours after harvest for most varieties.

Canning
There are two primary methods of canning: a hot water bath and pressure canning. Whichever method you use, be sure to use jars with lids made specifically for that technique. Glass canning jars, which are reusable, come in various sizes (most are single pints or quarts), so choose one that best suits your canning needs. Do not use jars larger than specified in the recipe you follow, as an unsafe product may result.

While most people think of canned foods as salty, all that sodium is optional when you do it yourself. Just make sure that you use "canning salt" not table salt if you plan to salt your foods because regular table salt can make your vegetables soggy. Another tip: Wipe down your rims before you apply the lids and rings as a tight fit is vital for a safe seal. For canning recipes, methods, and techniques broken down by fruit and vegetable type, check out "How to Can Anything" at www.PickYourOwn.org.

The hot water bath canning method is for foods that are acidic (pH below 4.6), such fruits, pickles, sauerkraut, jams, jellies, marmalades, and fruit butters. If you are making jams or jellies, it is important that you sterilize the jars, lids, and rings for 10 minutes in boiling hot water before using them. Most fruits and vegetables will last up to 12 months when canned using this method.
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Member Comments

  • I do all these food preservation activities except the pressure canner. Simple? Not hardly. There's a lot of work in all the prep! - 6/20/2014 2:28:54 PM
  • I have a glut of food from my garden this year. so now I have pickles, salsa, tomato sauce, soup, peaches canned and enough frozen zucchini to last until spring. - 9/20/2013 1:14:53 PM
  • BRENDAKAYTOEWS
    If you're new to canning, you might be confused by the sentence stating that if you've done it correctly, the lids will be sealed and concave. They probably won't be that way when you take them out of the canner. They seal as they cool. That's why it's important to leave them undisturbed for a few hours. Each lid makes a "plink" as it seals, a most rewarding sound! - 7/19/2013 9:42:03 PM
  • I'm curious about this "fuse" that pressure canners supposedly have. There's no electrical parts within the canner. My canner has a pressure relief valve and an overpressure plug, but no "fuse." - 5/20/2013 4:17:04 PM
  • I have a smoothie every morning for breakfast. It contains milk, sugar substitute, chocolate protein powder. and frozen fruits and vegetables from my garden. I freeze my fruits and vegetables on a cookie sheet in ice cube size chunks. They are so easy to use that way and most mild flavored vegetables can be use that way as the chocolate powder hides the vegetable flavor. I am running out of the produce from last year's garden now. Just in time for this year's crop! I find this an easy way to use up my garden excess and also the bananas that get too ripe for my taste. - 5/20/2013 1:29:14 PM
  • you still incur costs for the canning, freezing, and drying. If you buy your fruits and veggies, then I find it hard to believe you would save money. It's still a great idea if you can get produce at peak times locally. - 5/20/2013 9:57:14 AM
  • I love canning. Can't wait for my garden get ready now. I can every year. - 5/20/2013 9:39:22 AM
  • Just a thought... I remembered that there is a publication called "Mother Earth News" that was first available back in the 60's or early 70's, if I recall correctly... They are still in business today, I've seen copies at the library a time or two. I know the older issues had a lot of this sort of information--dire
    ctly from people who used these methods regularly. So, if you're looking for more information on DIY preservation of foods, or anything related to sustainable living, you might want to check it out... - 5/20/2013 8:40:39 AM
  • I've never tried canning. I freeze everything. My inlaws canned everything, but my parents only did it once in a while. Maybe I'll try it some day, bu up to now far I like the ease of freezing. - 5/20/2013 6:32:40 AM
  • I am a old lady who learned to can from my mother I passed it on to my kids - 4/13/2013 12:05:30 PM
  • PLEASE use USDA publications, recipes, etc. for all your food processing. This URL has info and links to most everything you'll need. http://nchfp.uga.
    edu/publicati
    ons/publicati
    ons_usda.html

    Also, altitude makes a difference in processing times, and my quick read-through didn't bring up anything about altitude and processing times. - 9/13/2012 3:57:10 PM
  • what a terrific idea, great for diabetics, people watching sodium and anyone trying to lose weight. Have you guys gone nuts? I read the article in hopes you had suggestions for those of us who always canned and preserved the harvest bounty and now are restricted from eating preserved foods because of salt or sugar. Without any mention of this problem you have done your readers a great dis service. - 9/13/2012 12:52:06 PM
  • Would like to see lacto-fermentatio
    n included in this article, or future ones. - 9/13/2012 10:15:22 AM
  • MAGGIEMAE03815
    Does anyone know where I can purchase fancy covers and lids for gift giving? A few years ago Ball came out with some nice plaid lids/covers.
    thanx - 9/13/2012 7:22:27 AM
  • SUESCHAFFER
    This is only cheaper if you can grow your own fruits and vegetables and if you plan on doing this every year to make your investments work out. We live in a climate where it is almost impossible to grow the fruits and vegetables we would use and if you buy those items you will pay much more than if you just buy it at the store. the biggest benefit to doing it yourself in this situation is that you can adjust your sodium and sugar levels (especially jam) - once you get the hang of it. So, I'd plan to freeze the majority of items in our situation, which is what I do with any extras of any sort as it is. - 8/7/2012 12:15:36 AM

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