Thursday, September 20, 2012

Preservation Highway

Yesterday's veggie soup
Gardens, farmers’ markets, and road side stands have beautiful produce this year.  While some gardens floundered, others had bumper crops.  If you’re the gardener with nothing to show for your efforts, never fear, others are offering everything you need to preserve enough to sustain your family through the winter.

I typically hot water bath can all my produce.  Others may pressurize, freeze, ferment or dehydrate.  It’s about your favorite method and what works well with specific ingredients.

Here are a few simple suggestions for canning:

Pack as many different vitamins and minerals into everything you preserve by adding extra ingredients.  Example:  Most any vegetable can be added to tomato sauces. 

Making a basic tomato sauce allows you to use it for more recipes than specific ones such as those with hot peppers or anything in the cabbage family.

Basket of peaches
Most fruit preservation recipes call for heavy sweet syrup.  It’s not necessary to use that much sweetener.  Less is healthier and works better in most recipes.

Some herb flavors don’t hold up to preservation.  A rule of thumb, if the leaves are tender/soft the flavor won’t stand up to heat.  Basil, parsley, celery herb and chives are a few.  If the leaves are tough, they tend to hold the flavor.  A few are rosemary, thyme, and sage.  Add a larger quantity of the tender and go easy on the tougher varieties.

Squashes can be preserved alone.  Winter squash can be baked, pureed and added to tomato sauce.  Summer squash can be chopped, without peeling, and added to most any soup mixture.  Pumpkin is another squash that can be preserved or combined into other mixtures.

Onions are rich in antioxidants and can be added to most vegetable mixtures.  If your family doesn’t like onions, cook, puree and no one will be the wiser.

Garlic is a bit tricky when preserving.  With the exception of pickling, I don’t usually put it in preserved foods.  It can pretty much ruin the taste of the recipe if it becomes so strong it becomes bitter.

There are choices for making vegetable stock.  Step one is use every vegetable you have in your garden or find at markets and stores; cook until tender.   (A)  Can or freeze it this way.   (B)  Puree then preserve.  (C) Or, you can take the extra step of straining out the vegetable chunks after cooking and preserve only the broth.  Each has its benefits and uses.
Old photo of my set up for canning tomatoes
Adding meat to vegetable preservation requires pressurizing to kill bacteria. 

I mentioned the cabbage family of vegetables earlier.  I caution you to preserve these by themselves instead of adding to other soups or mixes.  In tomato soup or juice, it tends to become the dominate flavor – not bad if that’s what you want.  Some of these are cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.  They all freeze, can, and pickle well.

I’ve never dehydrated vegetables but if you have a dehydrating unit (homemade or bought) or a convection oven, you can accomplish some pretty interesting recipes. 

The point is to use fresh produce to insure the best flavor, the most nutrients, and the least exposure to harmful pathogens.  Plus, have it all winter.  Water bath and pressurized preserved produce will still be good even if you lose your power for an extended period. 

For the inexperienced, I recommend Ball’s Blue Book of canning or offer to help an experienced cook for a few sessions of hands on training.  Supplies may be bought new and most every estate sale will feature a good supply of jars, rims, and cookers.  Caution, every cooker and jar must be in perfect shape or preservation won’t be accomplished.  Nothing is sadder than to go to all that work and have it fail.  Worse yet is the possibility of food poisoning.

Want to have some real fun?  Do like they did in grandma’s era – get a group of family and friends together for a day of preserving your garden produce.  Everyone brings their food, bags, jars, etc. and each person does a task.  Stay to clean up the mess if you ever want to be invited back!!!  At the end of the day, everyone takes home a share and it was a great time to catch up with the lives and events of those close to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment