When you grow your own fruits and vegetables, the next step is preserving the bounty. Many people fear that canning or drying foods is scary and difficult, but just the opposite: it is healthy and easy. When you can, dry, and freeze the produce you have grown, you know absolutely everything that has gone into those vegetables and fruits.
Oh yes, you can do this. For successful preserving, all you have to do is be prepared, have the right tools available, and have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Almost anything can be preserved, whether by canning, freezing or drying.
Preserving the Bounty
As the warm rays of the sun grace our days and nature presents us with an abundance of fresh produce, there’s no better time than summer to embrace the timeless art of canning. Preserving the vibrant flavors and nutrients of fruits and vegetables through canning allows us to enjoy their goodness throughout the year. It also provides great gifts for the holidays!
When you start preserving, you are taking charge of your own health and food. Not only are you taking charge of your family’s health and the food that they eat, you are working together as a family for a common good and enjoying relationships that will last for a lifetime, not to mention extra money for any surplus that you may sell.
Every year my family sells canned figs, mint jellies, and other preserves at an upscale arts and crafts show in our community. We sell a lot of different items, but the canned preserves are always the first to go and at a high price, too!
General Preserving Tips
Be organized and prepared before beginning. Always, always read your recipe carefully and thoroughly, and gather all of your equipment and ingredients. Make sure all equipment is in good condition: no broken or cracked jars or rusted bands. Always use new lids.
Canning Your Produce
There are two main approaches to canning: the boiling water canning method and the pressure canning method. Fruits and tomatoes may be processed using the boiling water method found below, but the United States Department of Agriculture recommends that the pressure canner method is the only safe method for canning low acid foods such as vegetables, poultry and meats.
If using the pressure canner method, always be sure to follow instructions in your manual. The steps will be the same as the boiling method of canning up until you place the jars into the canner.
Ready to get started canning?
You can find step-by-step instructions for both canning methods here.
Do not forget to label and date. Personalize your creations with labels, pieces of cloth and ribbons. You will love these as you begin to use them – they might even be given for gifts, or taken to parties. ENJOY!!!!
Preserving by Freezing
Freezing is a great way to preserve your harvest. This is my favorite way to preserve meat as well as many vegetables and fruits.
Freezing meat is a “must” for those of you buying whole cows or those that hunt large game. Meat can be canned and dried, but freezing saves room and allows for more options in cooking. After allowing freshly harvested meat such as poultry, wild game, or recently butchered beef to age, wrap in airtight, moisture proof containers. Of course, there are vacuum sealers that are an excellent way to freeze meats. If you are freezing a lot, I recommend this vacuum sealer.
There are freezer jars and plastic containers, but my favorite is freezer paper. It saves room and is easy to label. There are great instructions that come with the freezer paper. I like to double wrap the meat to insure freshness. Always thaw your meat in the refrigerator when ready to use the meat.
Preserving by Drying
Drying is perhaps the oldest method of preserving. It dates back to the days of our ancient ancestors and Native Americans. They preserved their harvests long before canners, pressure cookers, and freezers were invented. They sun-dried their fruits and vegetables, but I prefer using the oven, or a dehydrator if you prefer. I do not have to deal with insects that way! It is easy to dry fruits, vegetables, herbs, and even chili peppers. You more than likely already have all that is needed to pursue preservation by this method.
Drying Beans and Peppers
1. Wash your harvest and string your beans, peppers, and herbs together with a needle and heavy-duty thread or fishing line, making a knot around each bean.
2. Repeat until the thread is full and then simply hang these beans for several months in a dry place.
Drying Fruits and Vegetables
One of my favorite methods of drying is that of using the oven or a dehydrator. My children especially love preserving their harvest by this method. They love making dried fruits such as peaches, apples, figs, and berries. I love them preserving using the drying method as they eat these delicious fruits and berries as snacks rather than all of the snacks chocked full of sugars and artificial ingredients that seem to have made their way into our diets at the grocery stores. Preserving really offers us a much healthier way of living our lives. If using a dehydrator, follow the instructions in your manual.
Drying Using the Oven
You don’t need any special equipment for preserving your produce by drying it. You can simply use your oven.
- Set the oven to the lowest possible setting.
- Slice your fruits and vegetables into thin pieces and place on a cookie sheet.
- Cook overnight or until all moisture is removed.
- Store your dried goods, pack them in freezer bags or in food-saver packets. Freeze them for up to a year.
MAKING JERKY….LOVE IT!!
And, let’s not forget jerky. My men love their jerky. After they have prepared the finer venison for the freezer, they use the less desired meat for jerky. The result is another wonderfully healthy snack loaded with protein.
- Heat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Thinly slice meat and season as you desire.
- Place meat about 1/2 inch apart on a cookie sheet.
- Bake for six hours.