Choose a fruit and vegetable preservation method that best meets your needs using guide to canning, dehydrating, and freezing.
Whether you’re brand new or a veteran farmsteader, you’re probably at least somewhat acquainted with different preservation methods. Most everyone has frozen produce and many have dabbled in dehydrating or water bath canning. But are you aware of all the different preservation methods out there and each one’s pluses and minuses?
Let’s start off with a short rundown of the most popular methods of preserving food. You have water bath canning, pressure canning, freezing, drying, pickling and lacto-fermentation (I cover pickling and lacto-fermentation in my next post). There are also many lesser-known ways such as salt curing, fat preservation and smoking but for this article we’ll concentrate on the somewhat “easier” ones to learn and do.
In Part 1, we’ll be focusing on canning, freezing and drying foods.
Fruit and Vegetable Preservation Methods
Canning is one of my all-around favorite ways to preserve our harvest. I love making jams, jellies, relishes, sauces and salsa. I also love to can venison and soups or beans. The upside is they’re so handy and storage stable. You don’t have to worry about a power outage or lack of freezer space. They’re super easy to make a quick meal with or take along on a camping trip.
The downside is they’re a bit labor-intensive to prepare (the canning process), the jars do need to be kept in dry, dark storage and you must have new lids each time you can. Still, this is a wonderful way to keep your harvest delicious all year at a low cost since a canner will last a lifetime and the jars and rings are reusable unless damaged.
Remember there are two different types of canning and you must use the safest one for your food. I personally use my pressure canner to water bath can which saves me storage space. Just don’t put on the weight when you can. Never can low-acid foods with a water bath canner though! You must pressure can (not pressure cook) those. If you don’t have a pressure canner your next best option may be to freeze your food.
For freezing you will obviously need a freezer. Both upright freezers and chest freezers are available. Uprights can help reduce how much floor space you use. You will need freezer bags or bowls (or even canning jars for freezer jams).
Most vegetables will require blanching to preserve the taste and texture. Fruits can be frozen without blanching generally but can benefit from a soak in a solution of lemon juice and water to preserve color. Meat should be well wrapped and all foods should have as much air removed as possible to prevent deterioration.
Freezing is convenient at the moment and offers high quality produce but can be more expensive and definitely becomes a problem if your electric or freezer goes out! Have a backup plan in place for all your frozen foods and check your freezer often. I personally freeze many berries, small amounts of meat and vegetables like corn and green beans.
Drying foods can be an excellent option to reduce space used and still maintain a good quality food. We dehydrate fruit “chips”, herbs, seeds, and jerky. Many people also dry vegetables, sauces and more. All you need is a dehydrator or an oven that goes low enough (mine doesn’t). I have a dehydrator with six large rectangular trays that are easy to clean.
Many vegetables benefit from a quick blanch before dehydrating and fruits are often helped by the lemon juice bath. Dried foods take up a tiny amount of room compared to all other methods. It’s quite inexpensive and easy to learn and do! While I certainly wouldn’t want to dry all my food it makes an excellent addition to my preserving toolbox.
I hope this has given you some ideas to consider and perhaps helped you decide how you want to preserve your harvest. This article is Part 1 in a two-part series on different preservation methods. Next, we’ll cover quick pickling and lacto-fermentation.
Jenny Underwood is a homeschooling mom of four who lives on a fifth-generation farmstead in the Missouri Ozarks, where she gardens, forages, hunts and preserves food for her family. Connect with Jenny at Our Inconvenient Family.
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