Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Easy ways to preserve vegetables and fruits

Whether to can, freeze or dry produce, depends on what it is and how much effort and time a person wants to devote. Freezing is the fastest in prep time. Canning takes longer, but is better for maintaining vegetable or fruit texture. Canning is definitely best for salsa and pickles. Drying might be the easiest, but it has limited use, such as for herbs, mushrooms and fruit.

Easy freezing
It’s easy to freeze vegetables and fruits. Some don't require cooking or blanching. For celery and rhubarb, just wash, chop, bag in serving sizes and freeze. To freeze zucchini for making bread: shred or grate and freeze without blanching. For peppers, just cut out the seeds, wash and let dry, then freeze in bags. The quality and texture is reduced after freezing, but they still have that garden fresh taste when used in cooking.

Apples
To prepare apples, wash, peel and core. Then slice or cut into chunks or quarters. As you prepare apples, dip the cut pieces in a solution of 1 tablespoon each salt and vineqar to 2 quarts of water, to prevent darkening. Drain well, rinse and drain again. Then you can either pack plain, with sugar or with syrup. Leave a ½ inch head space for pint containers and 1 inch for quarts. When using liquid, place a piece of crumpled paper or plastic wrap on top to keep fruit under the liquid. For syrup, mix 1-1/4 cup sugar and 5-1/2 cup water to yield 6 cups of syrup.
When ready to use, thaw fruit in refrigerator or bowl of cool water. If cooking, thaw just enough to separate.

Blueberries
Blueberries can be put in the freezer with very little preparation. Remove stems and bad berries, wash in cold water, drain, pack in freezer bags. Label and freeze.

Blanching 
Most other vegetables and fruits require blanching, which is pretty easy. To blanch vegetables, you need:
* a large porcelain or stainless steel pan with basket strainer and lid, 2/3 full of water
* large bowl in the sink filled with ice water
* colander
* bags or plastic containers and a permanent marker
Bring the water in the saucepan to boiling. Meanwhile, wash and trim the veggies. Place the veggies in boiling water, close lid and time. See chart below for time. Then remove from the pan and drain quickly. Next, place in ice water for the same amount of time as boiled. When the time is up, remove and drain well in a colander. To remove more moisture, place clean towels on the counter and lay the veggies out for a few minutes before bagging in labeled freezer bags and placing in the freezer. Here are blanching and cooling times for vegetables:

Vegetable blanching times - equal time in boiling water, then ice water, (Except for corn on the cob, most vegetables should be blanched 2 to 3 minutes).

Broccoli, 3 minutes
Cabbage, 3 minutes (cut into wedges)
Corn on the cob, 6 to 10 minutes
Green beans, 3 minutes
Peas, 1 to 2 minutes
Swiss chard and other tender greens, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes (avoid matting leaves)
Zucchini slice, blanch 3 minutes

Tomatoes
Tomatoes taste better when sliced in half, and baked or roasted on a cookie sheet, (350 degrees for 30 minutes for large tomatoes). Or you can blanch them for 30 seconds.

Do not freeze too much at one time in your freezer. It could raise the interior temperature. Leave space between packages so air can circulate freely until frozen.

Can if you can
Canning takes some time. It’s more fun when you undergo the canning process with good friends or family, plus it’s less work. You will have the sweet, or sour rewards all winter long, so much better than store-bought. You will thank yourself and your canning buddies. Hot water bath canning (boiling in jars without a pressure cooker) is good for high acid foods, like tomatoes, pickles and relishes. It’s also good for sugary spreads, jams and jellies. You need to buy jars, lids and a big stockpot with wire canning rack. The pan needs to be 3-5 inches deeper than your canning jars. For other foods, like green beans, a pressure canner is needed. For further information, find the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing & Dehydration. It is a very good, easy-to-follow reference guide, and costs approximately $10. It is available at freshpreserving.com

For an easy salsa recipe, see my recipe page on the right or visit gardentogarden.blogspot.com/p/recipes.html

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