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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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