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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