Preserving Extra Produce
When you're drowning in fruit and veg, persevere and preserve!
Have you ever ended up with a plum tree full of plums, but all of your neighbors have plum trees, so you're stuck with pounds and pounds of plums?
Or did you end up with three bunches of chard in your CSA box and you don't know what to do?
Or your carefully planned garden decided to mess with you and all of the summer squash and tomatoes ripened at the same time?
Fear not. You can learn to embrace the world of preserving your bounty with dehydrating, canning, and freezing.
Types of Preserving
There is something about going to your pantry and getting a jar of canned vegetables that you personally grew and
preserved before winter set in. I've opened up a jar of green beans in December and it smelled like summer. I made relish out of zucchini and used that on hot dogs and bratwursts in January. This may sound cheesy but it had the taste of a warm summer day.
Canning and preserving everything you grow is not only safe but it can be very enjoyable and save you money in the long run. There is water bath canning, steam canning, and pressure canning.
Additionally you may want to consider freezing or dehydrating. When you freeze your food, some vegetables needs to be blanched before you can freeze it. It's also called "shocking." You quickly dip the vegetable, like green beans, into boiling water for a short time, and then immediately immerse them into an ice bath to halt the cooking process.
You can store the food in special freezer bags or freezer containers to minimize freezer burn.
Dehydrating is another method that is being used to preserve food. This process stops the progress of the food where it is at and dries it at a steady temperature until most or all of the moisture is gone.
You can dehydrate in a regular oven. In fact, my friend makes dehydrated sweet potatoes in her oven for her two dogs. But they prefer the ones I make in my Snackmaster.
Dehydrating - Learn how to make your own dried fruits and vegetables.
One of the easiest ways is to dehydrate. You prep the food, place it on trays, and turn it on. Ok, it can take six to eighteen hours. And it can be a bit noisy. But how cool is it to make your own raisins in the fall? Or beef jerky any time!
I'm going to list a number of dehydrators, and I'll mention which one I have. Funny story...I bought one and the same day, my stepmom bought one...and they were the same make and model. We laughed about that.
Nice, simple unit that works well and has a low price point, so you can get your feet wet. (couldn't resist)
This is the Audi of dehydrators and coveted by many.
This is the one I personally use. It works great and is easy to clean. I like the control I have over the temperature and the time.
They're not kidding...it has a lot of information.
This is an amazing book. She tells you how to cook with your dehydrated food. This was my first dehydrator cookbook.
Things to do with your dehydrator
Here's some unusual things to do with your dehydrator that you may not have thought of.
- Make sweet potato chips for the dogs in your life
- Dry out a phone or USB stick that got dropped in water or run through the washing machine
- Make fruit leather (they have special inserts that go into your tray)
- Make kale chips
- Dry off your pumpkin seeds a bit when you're trying to clean them up before roasting them
Freeze it up - Use your freezer to preserve your produce
I'd bought a stovetop smoker because I'd read it makes your beef jerky tastier, and it does!
I used ground beef and spices, and then dehydrated for about an hour, moved to the smoker for an hour, and then back to the dehydrator until it was done. I tried with cherry and hickory, and felt the hickory had a better flavor.
But I need to practice more with other meat. I tried smoking chicken breasts and I used too much of the wood chips, and the chicken tasted really bitter.
Next up, I'll try smoking a turkey breast and finishing it up in the oven.
Unusual Preservation Techniques - Salt, Brine, Smoke and More
Water bath and pressure canning only for me. I know there are those who love steam canning but it's not approved by the governmental powers that be, so I hesitate to recommend anything that they don't.
The blue book is considered the gold standard for the latest in preserving. You can find it at your local hardware store. This is an expansion of that with more recipes and ideas.
This book is specifically for setting aside the food you grow. However, you can also use find a lot of ideas for fruit and veg that you get at your local farmer's market or food stand.
This is for water bath canning. You can water bath can pickles and tomatoes.
This should get you started with canning quickly. My Fagor can hold 6 quart sized jars with turkey stock that I made after Thanksgiving. And it's fun for cooking stews and chili too.
Do you dehydrate? Can? Freeze?
What's your best tip for preserving food? And what's your favorite thing to preserve?
I'll go first: I prefer dehydrating because I haven't figure out a good method for canning yet, although I have a good pressure cooker and a water bath canner. And I never have enough room in my freezer to store that much.
I love making relish out of my abundance of summer squash (ok, that's canning) and beef jerky. And dog treats for my friend's fur-babies.
I want to learn to make horseradish beet pickles.