Putting it up: easy ways to preserve produce
This article was originally published in August 2012
It’s the time of year when local, organic fruits and vegetables are at the peak of their season — luscious peaches and blueberries, juicy tomatoes, the freshest green beans.
It’s tempting to feast on these summer favorites all day knowing they’ll soon be gone, but they don’t have to disappear from your tables come fall. With a little planning, it’s easy to preserve the bounty. Canning and pickling produce is simpler than you think, and freezing is even easier.
Canning and pickling
If you have a few hours but not a lot of freezer space, canning is a great way to put up food. You can make jams, fruit preserves, tomato sauce, salsas and more.
Packing fruit into jars with alcohol and “steeping” it is another easy preserving method that makes a sweet treat to use as a dessert topping. Or, make flavored vinegars or liquors — infuse balsamic with strawberries or make raspberry schnapps.
Pickling is an especially popular form of canning, and for more than just cucumbers — you also can pickle figs, apples, cherries, beets, beans, peppers, even watermelon rinds! Add whole spices, herbs and aromatics to customize your own signature flavors.
Be sure to follow trusted canning recipes; the balance of sugar, acidity, salt or alcohol is important and differs depending on the type of fruit or vegetable.
Freezing is the easiest, quickest way to preserve summer fruits. Spread washed berries or sliced fruit in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer, then pack after frozen.
Or, make fruit sauce (or tomato sauce) by simmering pitted/cored fruit in a pot until saucy, adding a bit of water to prevent burning. Sweeten if desired and purée or leave chunky. After cooling, store in freezer bags or airtight containers.
Learn more about freezing and another easy preserving method, dehydrating.