Summer brings an abundance of fresh produce, sometimes so much that you don’t know what to do with all of it! You probably enjoy the fresh garden tomatoes, but you can only use so many before they spoil. What better way to extend the amount of time you’re able to enjoy your fresh foods than with food preservation. There are many methods that you can use to preserve food, but they all have one thing in common, and that is, they inhibit undesired bacterial growth or chemical changes. Food begins to spoil the moment it is harvested, so food preservation is crucial if you want to enjoy your tasty produce year round. We will briefly discuss each method to give you a better idea of what might work for you and your family.
If freezer space is available, this is a great option to preserve your food as it is easy and convenient. Almost all vegetables will need to be blanched before freezing to stop enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture. Fruit on the other hand does not need to be blanched before freezing. Whether its fruit or vegetables choose firm, ripe produce and always wash and drain before freezing.
The faster you can freeze the better when it comes to food quality, so set your freezer to the coldest setting, and do not overload it. For the best freezing results use packaging that is moisture vapor resistant, durable and leak proof, that cannot become brittle and crack at low temperatures, resistant to oil, grease or water, protects foods from absorption of off flavors and odors, easy to seal and mark. Some items do not freeze well, such as potatoes, milk sauces, and others.
There are multiple ways to dry foods, such as in the oven, dehydrator, air drying, or even the microwave. There are three requirements in order to properly dry food: low humidity, a source of heat, and air circulation. Dried foods are susceptible to moisture reabsorption and must be properly packaged and stored. Store dried foods in clean, dry home canning jars, vacuum packaging, and plastic freezer containers with tight-fitting lids or in plastic freezer bags.
There are two ways to process canned foods and the method used will depend on what the product is that you’re canning. The boiling water canners are used for high acid foods such as fruits. The pressure canner is used for low acid foods such as vegetables and meats. Processing times will need to be adjusted as we live at higher altitudes in Wyoming. Canning can be intimidating at first, but don’t let that prevent you from using this method of preservation.
Pickling is the process of curing foods so that colors and flavors change as acidity increases. When pickling use fresh, firm fruits and vegetables. Processing the pickles in a boiling-water canner will prevent spoilage from microorganisms and help maintain flavor, color and texture.
Curing can include the use of salt, sugar, nitrate and/or nitrite to preserve food and add flavor and color. The two cure methods include dry curing, which is when the rub in mixed onto or into food, or dissolved in water such as a brine, wet, or pickle curing.
Written By: Shelley Balls, University of Wyoming Extension- Nutrition and Food Safety Educator
- National Center for Home Food Preservation, nchfp.uga.edu