Produce Preservation Tips

How to preserve produce | KaleAndAle.comYou have a lot of produce one way or another. It could be that all the tomatoes in your garden got ripe at once, corn was a crazy good deal and at its peak at the farmer’s market, or zucchini was in season this week in your CSA. No matter the reason, you just can’t eat it all and want to preserve it.

No matter how many times a coworker brings in food from a home garden or tree, or whatever is the “it” food of the week at the CSA, I pride myself on not being wasteful, and extending the produce of the season into the off season.

I know others have these same issues, and I’ve been so crazy busy the past week preserving food and know I will be as we sprint toward the first frost here in the Twin Cities, that I wanted to share my tips with you, and I want to hear your tips on how to preserve food.

My favorite ways to preserve food include:

Canning

I tried this for the first time last week. Not going to lie, it was a lot of work but the early tastes are delicious and it was fun to make and see the science of it. I got a lot of tips and recipes from the Ball jar website.

I will have salsa for a very long time to come. Someone who cans suggested tomato sauce and I love that idea because I will know what’s going in it and it can be canned in one- or two-meal can sizes, as I just don’t go through a jar from the store quickly.

Canning salsa | KaleAndAle.com

Canning salsa verde

Freezing

This has long been my go-to method. Freezing is easy and quick, and you have food stocked in your fridge for the off-season. It’s important to note that food that has been frozen won’t have the same texture or consistency once it’s defrosted, but what you freeze will be great in smoothies, soups, casseroles, things of that nature. And think come a cold winter day how great it will be to have food in your freezer you don’t need to buy that is home-grown!

In the photo below I have a vegan squash soup that I froze because it made a lot. If you aren’t sure how something already made will work in the freezer and through being defrosted, put one serving in the freezer and try it out to know for next time. Also, when freezing some foods need to be blanched, and use the right items to freeze it (freezer bags, tin foil to prevent frostbite, etc.). I like to label and date things so I quickly know what it is and how long it’s been in there.

Read more on the USDA freezing and food safety website.

Freeze produce | KaleAndAle.com

Freezing broth, veggies and soup

Quick pickle

Simply put, prepare what you want to pickle, put it in an airtight jar, and put vinegar and flavors over it. It’s a great way to add flavor and preserve something you can’t eat quick enough but want to enjoy. I especially like to quick pickle cucumbers, green beans and beets. I eat them straight, and on salads and sandwiches. I’ve made this flavorful beet recipe a few times. See the Serious Eats guide to quick pickling to get started.

Dehydrate

A dehydrator is large and can be a big initial investment, but if you have a lot of food to preserve or like the taste of dehydrated foods, it’s worth it. Dehydrated foods have so many uses, from fruit as quick, sweet snacks to raw crackers and granola to veggies so they don’t take up as much space or spoil before they are added to soups later. Read my post here about what I bought when I got a dehydrator.

Make broth

As noted on the left in the freezer picture is cubes of broth. Homemade broth is great because you know what’s (not) in it and you can use all the scraps from carrots, onions, potatoes and other veggies (and meat if you eat it) for the broth. So to me that’s win-win! And I love putting it in ice cube trays because I know how much broth they hold, so when a recipes calls for a certain amount I grab the right number of cubes. Read how I make my own broth here.

Give away

Gain favor of family, friends and coworkers in the easiest way: Give them extras of food you already have! This is a tried and true method, and at my last job it was very common and the best way to make new best friends.

What is your solution when you have too much produce?

Making my own condiments

 

Red and Yellow condiments

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user Morten Rand-Hendriksen

 

This year I have made a commitment to cut down on the processed foods I eat. I feel better, the food tastes better and I have lost some weight, which I’m sure is from cutting down on refined foods.

The final frontier in processed foods to cut remains condiments. I have made my own salad dressings for years, but I have recently wanted to make more of the sauces and seasonings.

I thought about trying ketchup at first, but when I found a recipe it seemed very time-consuming. The next week I found a ketchup without high fructose corn syrup and bought that instead. However, I think it would be fun to make the things I eat a lot. Mustard and hot sauce come to mind. Tomato sauce seems easy and, from reading the ingredients in sauce in a jar, it seems to have a lot of unnecessary ingredients.

A few recipes for condiments have popped into my Google Reader, so I might take a crack at something soon. Do any of my readers make your own condiments? I would love to hear about your adventures to work up courage to make my own.

Other cooking thoughts:

CANNING

I would really like to try canning. I like having my pantry stocked with food staples and think canning would go well with the food I get from my CSA. My hesitation is that canning seems a bit complicated and an investment to get the supplies. I don’t want to buy everything and not like it. Space is also an issue in my apartment kitchen, as there is not a lot of extra storage. Does anyone can food? Is it worth it?

CAST-IRON SKILLET

I don’t know why, but I would like a cast-iron skillet. Other than bread, I’m not really sure what vegetarian foods can be made with one. It seems like a bread and meat type of cookware. Nonetheless, I want to successfully own and use a cast-iron skillet.

Pinterest board

Not sure if I have mentioned Pinterest, but as a visual person, I enjoy it. The website describes itself as “a social catalog service. Think of it as a virtual pinboard — a place where you can post collections of things you love, and ‘follow’ collections created by people with great taste.”

I’m still figuring out how I want to use it, but one pinboard I have is for food I want to make. If you ever want to see what I am now or will soon be making, feel free to take a peek at my Pinterest food board.

If you are interested in an invite, please let me know and I’ll send one your way.