Nutrition Articles

Simple Ways to Preserve Fruits and Vegetables

Canning, Freezing, Drying and Pickling Your Harvest

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Pressure canning prevents most foods from spoiling altogether, extending their shelf life longer than many other preserving techniques do. However, you will need to invest in a pressure canner. These can be expensive, but when well cared for, they will last for generations. Most are made of aluminum or stainless steel and come with a locking lid that is vented for steam, a jar rack, an automatic vent, a pressure gauge on top and a safety fuse. Make sure you have read the instructions that accompany your pressure canner so that you fully understand how to use it before attempting to do so!

Supplies you will need:
  • Pressure canner
  • Jars, lids, and rings
  • Jar lifters
  • The foods you are canning
How to do it: Follow the directions in your manual to determine how many cups of water to add to your pot before you start. Unlike the hot water bath method, pressure canning does not require jars to be fully submerged in water—usually just 2-3 cups.
  1. Place the jar rack down into the water and, using your jar lifters, place the filled jars down into it.
  2. Fasten the lid securely and vent it according to your manual.
  3. Heat the water to a boil until steam flows out, then leave the weight off the vent port (or petcock depending on your pressure canner). At this point, you will probably hear a hissing noise.
  4. Turn your burner up as high as it will go until steam starts coming out of the vent (or petcock) for 10 straight minutes (or as directed in your manual).
  5. Next, pressurize your canner. Close the petcock or put the weight on and watch the gauge begin to rise to your desired pressure. Once it reaches that pressure, start timing (duration varies by jar size, contents and altitude, but it is often between 5 and 15 minutes). Adjust your burner as needed to maintain the pressure.
  6. Once finished, turn off the burner and allow the pressure to normalize before removing lid. Use extreme caution when removing the jars; the steam can burn and the contents of the jars will be very hot! Place jars onto a towel or cooling rack.
Freezing
Freezing is a good option for fruits you like adding to smoothies or baked goods (bananas, berries, cherries, etc.) and those that aren't suitable for canning. Vegetables such as broccoli, beans, carrots, peas, and corn freeze well, too. Freezing is quick and requires little in the way of equipment or skill, but frozen foods don't last as long as canned foods. Plus, some integrity is lost (foods darken or develop a mushy texture) after freezing.

Supplies you will need:
  • Flat baking sheets (or similar containers) that fit into your freezer
  • Freezer bags or reusable containers that have tight-fitting lids
  • Permanent marker and labeling supplies
  • The foods you are freezing
How to do it: Many vegetables will require a short blanching (a short boil) before freezing. Beyond that, the method of freezing and storing vegetables is the same as that of fruit (below).
  1. Wash, core, and skin (if needed) your fruit. Cut fruit into slices or chunks, if desired.
  2. If you are concerned about browning, you can soak the fruit in water with a bit of lemon juice; commercially made agents are available for this purpose, too.
  3. Lay prepared fruit on several baking sheets in a single layer. Make sure your fruit is patted dry or unnecessary ice crystals will form.
  4. Place baking sheets into the freezer, making sure no fruit is touching, for several hours.
  5. Once frozen, remove the fruit and place it into storage bags or containers that are clearly labeled with the contents and the date.
Dehydrating (Drying)
Dehydrating removes all the water from a food and because it lacks moisture, mold and bacteria can't grow on it. Dehydrated foods will last about four months to a year, but some nutrients will be lost in the process. Commonly dried foods include meats, fruits (either in their original form or pureed to make fruit leathers or bars), herbs and seeds.
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