How to Preserve Your Garden’s Produce by Drying, Freezing, Canning, or Pickling – Flagpole – Flagpole Magazine | Directory Mayhem

Late summer means enjoying the fruits of your gardening: homemade salsas, grilled veggies and fresh herbs that spice up meals. August also reminds me to put away more groceries for the coming winter. On a scale of one to professional doomsday prepper, I’m a solid two. That being said, there’s nothing more homey or comforting than using my own summer tomatoes to make pasta sauce in January. Whether you have an herb garden on your porch or dozens of tomato plants in your yard, here are a few ways to add a touch of summer to your winter dishes.

Drying Herbs: The easiest herbs to dry are thin, leafy ones like thyme, basil, and dill. Some people cut and bundle their herbs with string and dry the leaves by leaving them in a dry, sunny spot, like a window, for several weeks. I live in an old farmhouse where spiders spin webs around anything that doesn’t move overnight. As picturesque as bunched herbs hanging over windows can be, drying herbs in an oven may be your best bet. Leave the oven on the lowest setting and check the progress every 10-15 minutes. The herbs are dry enough to store if they crumble easily. I store mine in clear containers so I can check for moisture damage over the next few weeks.

Freezing: Not all products freeze, but with a little prep work, many products can be frozen. I prefer reusable plastic containers and sturdy freezer bags because they stack better. If you use mason jars, be sure to only use wide-mouth mason jars. The necked jars may break if the contents expand. Before freezing, I prep my veggies and fruit as if I’m going to cook with them. For example, I core and dice my peppers. When I use them in the winter, I open a bag and toss a handful into the curry, stir-fry, or chili I’m cooking on the stove. The best way to preserve flavor and texture is to blanch the produce before freezing. One farmer I know blanched and frozen her extra zucchini rather than fret about making another summer squash dinner. Clever!

Can it: Canning requires special equipment, time and attention. Compromising on a prescription can poison you with botulism, a bacterium that grows without oxygen and causes serious illness by attacking the body’s nerves. i use this Better houses and gardens‘Complete Canning Guide’ for instructions, but you can also find free information booklets from the UGA Extension Service in person or online at fcs.uga.edu/extension/food-preservation. For canning beginners, I would avoid relying entirely on the occasional online guide or video. You could inadvertently omit important security information. Heck, I exploded tomato jars in my kitchen because I forgot to put a hot jar on a cooling rack.

Pickle It: You can pickle products without canning or pickle and can. I think pickling is easier than regular canning since the extra acid only allows lactobacilli to multiply. This bacterium makes cucumbers acidic and also protects against toxic germs like botulism. When pickling, basic recipes call for a certain amount of vegetables, spices, and four cups of vinegar. Be warned, pickling can be a bit addicting. I regularly pickle jalapeños, okra, and beans. While canning preserves results for months, you don’t need a special setup to enjoy pickling produce and munching on tasty pickles for a few weeks. I still suggest sticking to recipes from verified sources. Not all vinegars are interchangeable and can have different levels of acidity.

Other Ideas: There are many other fun and interesting ways to preserve your crops than I can list here. I haven’t even touched on jams or jellies – mostly because I’m bad at them. Fermentation, like the process behind kimchi, is another technique I’ve experimented with but haven’t yet mastered. Grandmothers (yours or someone else’s) are a great resource, as is the ACC Library’s collection of cookbooks. Whichever you choose, I hope you enjoy some new food preservation adventures.

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