Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Preserving Summer

It is this time of year when everything seems to ripen all at once! We are bombarded by large quantities of corn, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and anything else you've grown this year. Initially the euphoria is great; we are rejoicing in our blessings and the rewards of our hard work. But as this continues, it's easy to become overwhelmed by produce. Everything begins to pile up, seemingly, no matter how much you eat, and all of the sudden, you begin to fret over becoming wasteful.

Aside from sharing with family, friends, neighbors, & co-workers, there are many ways to prolong our enjoyment of this our summer bounty! These are a few of my favorites!

Canning: This has become my "go-to" for most of my fruit preservation. I've canned jam, chutneys, butters, and simple fruits, fruit in syrup, and even pie fillings. This year I'm canning salsa (and a LOT of it) and have done pasta sauce, tomatoes, & pickled green tomatoes! It's a lot of work, reluctantly, but when you are finished and step back and gaze at your handy work, it's hard not to look at it with some admiration!
My favorite book for canning has been the "Ball Blue-Book of Canning and Preserving". It has a bunch if recipes and step-by-step instructions on safe and proper canning technique! So far, the recipes don't disappoint either!! :-)

Freezing: This is perhaps the easiest and least time consuming of the three projects. When it comes to corn, I cut it from the cob, flash freeze it on a cookie tray, then pack it into a foodsaver bag and freeze. Should I crave confetti corn or chili with corn in the winter months, I will have some to enjoy!
Tomatoes are easy for me. I really enjoy a dish where you simply roast the tomatoes before adding feta cheese, garlic, lemon juice, and a protein. Since roasting enhances the tomato flavor, a simple freezing is sufficient. It works equally well for those recipes calling for tomatoes (I.e. soup, stew, chili, casseroles, grain salads, pastas...) as long as they are not consumed raw. I simply pack the whole tomatoes into freezer bags an freeze until needed! They also make great pasta sauce when you have time to babysit it!!
Green beans, I blanch in boiling water three minutes, drain, cool, and freeze in foodsaver bags.
Most things can be frozen for preservation for future use as long as they are not going to be consumed raw. Freezing tends to alter the texture of fruits & vegetables, so the winter months are phenomenal times to use and experiment with the flavors of your frozen goods.
The same also applies to fresh fruits! They are amazing in pies, cobblers, crisps, cakes, cookies, oatmeal, grilled or baked suppers, or simply eaten frozen (berries, bananas, cherries, & my favorite, grapes!). Freezing produce at the peak of ripeness allows us to enjoy them all year & experiment with their flavors and textures.

Drying: this is the newest of my favorite preservation methods. I don't have a food dehydrator so I have tried using my oven. For most, things need to dry at 95-135 degrees for 8-10 hrs. Unfortunately, my oven's lowest setting is 150 degrees F. so timing is becomes a guessing game. Using my oven, I've made dried peaches, plums, and gooseberries., successfully, but apples, bananas, pears, berries...would all be equally delicious!
To be honest, I am going to try my hand at using a food smoker/dehydrator for my tomatoes first thing in the morning. I'm a little nervous because the last time I attempted to make dried tomatoes, they were no good:-(. I believe I went past dried and simply burned them. The smoker/dehydrator is actually one belonging to my parents that they've had when the were first married...35 yrs. ago! She used it a lot and I'm excited to be able to continue on the tradition!! Since we have used it for smoked meats, I think tomatoes will be safe. Any residual smoke will add to the flavor of my dried heirloom tomatoes!!

This list is not extensive nor is it exclusive. Food preservation has been around since ancient times and has allowed the human race to survive in times of food scarcity & famine. There are many more sub-categories to the food preservation 'name' but the three mentioned above are those I use and believe in.

Whatever you choose to do with your plentiful crops, know that saving them for future use is such an achievable and feasible option. If you grew it or purchased it fresh, don't waste it! Research recipes and uses for your produce...the recipe combinations are limitless!

If you need inspiration, ask! I, and we, can add a few suggestions! If you have any ideas, techniques, or recipes, share them with us!!



  1. that is awesome Jen! you inspire me... i wish i had time to do some of this stuff! It would be so nice not having to buy fruits and veggies at the store all the time. I need to start small.. and try raspberries again :)

  2. Lol... i think i tried typing in the "captcha" code at least 20 times before i got it right.... O_O

  3. Did you say you want to try raspberries again?! I'm all over it!! Come early spring I'll thin mine and make sure I bring them & help you plant them:-) !!!!!!
    I know what you mean about the seems like they're making it almost illegible, which makes it frustrating! Thanks for seeing it through!!