Each year, millions of people clear an area for a garden, hoping to enjoy the fruits of the harvest throughout the summer. If they’ve had an especially bountiful garden, they may even be able to can or freeze some foods to enjoy long after the summer is over. Choosing to can or freeze your produce doesn’t need to be stressful, but will require a bit of extra time from you.
There are a variety ways you can preserve the goodness of a summer’s harvest. The most common are canning and freezing. Each method of storing requires the fully mature healthy vegetables or fruits to begin. However, if your fruit or vegetables are bruised, you can still enjoy them, you just might not get to store them as you would prefer.
Vegetables, when picked at the peak of freshness, and then frozen, taste almost like fresh from the garden. Begin with freshly picked and cleaned vegetables, making sure to remove all dirt. Blanch the vegetables by submerging no more than one pound of vegetable to one gallon of quickly boiling water. Allow to remain in the water for one minute, and then immediately remove and place in a bowl of ice water. This process helps the vegetables retain nutrients. This process also aides in keeping color, texture, and flavor. Blanched and frozen vegetables will be good for 8 to 12 weeks.
The best choices when choosing to freeze the vegetables from your garden include green beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, corn, and peas. You can also successfully freeze peas peppers, and squash. While you can freeze tomatoes, either cut up or whole, they won’t taste as fresh as if they were canned.
Canning is the preferred method for preserving fruits and vegetables with high water content such as tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, and peaches. If you choose to can, however, you must follow the directions exactly. Failing to follow directions can make the effort wasted because the process won’t work.
When choosing to can your produce, you can either use a pressure canner or a standard canning pot. The pressure canner is quicker since it uses pressure to remove excess air and produce a firm seal; however it is also considered to be more dangerous because of the pressure that is built up. No matter which method you use to can, you will want to use standard canning jars that are sterilized and only new seal lids. Follow the directions exactly as written for the best results.
When the gardening season ends and you have extra produce, you can either share the bounty, or choose to store it in another manner. Canning and freezing the end of season harvest is one way to extend the goodness of summer and help to save money as well. It may be a little bit time consuming, but the results will be well worth it when you’re enjoying the fruits of your labor well into winter.
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