Nutrition Articles

Simple Ways to Preserve Fruits and Vegetables

Canning, Freezing, Drying and Pickling Your Harvest

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In hot, arid regions, sun drying is an option, but it demands at least 3-4 sunny days of 100-degree heat in a row. The easiest and most effective way of drying your foods is to use a commercially made dehydrator. These have several levels of stacking trays that allow air to circulate in and around the foods at just the right temperature—high enough to dehydrate the food but low enough not cook it. Generally, the foods are laid out on the trays and, according to the manufacturer's instructions, you'll set the time, temperature and position of the trays. Dehydrators can take several hours or days to dry foods completely. Once dried, keep all foods tightly sealed in a container in a cool, dark place to ensure its longevity.

Some food preservation books and "raw" food cookbooks also include detailed instructions for using a conventional oven, set at a low temperature with the door cracked, as a food dehydrator, which is a great option if you're not ready to invest in your own dehydrator.

Pickling
Pickling, which uses salt and/or vinegar to inhibit the growth of bacteria, is one of the oldest methods of food preservation. While most of us think of sweet pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut, relishes and fruits can also be pickled. Pickled foods will last anywhere from 3 months to a year. There are many recipes and methods for pickling, but most include brining (soaking a food in a salt solution, similar to marinating) for several hours or even days.

Trust the instructions given in pickling recipes, as altering the ratios can be harmful. Do not use table salt; use “canning salt” or “pickling salt” instead. White distilled and cider vinegars of 5 percent acidity (50 grain) are recommended. Another tip: If using cucumbers to make your own pickles, you must remove and discard a 1/16-inch slice from the blossom ends of each cuke. (Blossoms may contain an enzyme that causes excessive softening of pickles.)

Supplies you will need:
  • A large pot or pressure canner
  • Sterilized jars, lids, rings
  • Jar lifters
  • Vinegar
  • Canning or pickling salt
  • Spices (according to recipe)
  • The foods you are pickling
For more information about food preservation supplies, techniques and recipes, refer to the following books:

BALL Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine
Canning and Preserving for Dummies by Karen Ward
Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
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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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