As we near the end of the growing season, this is a time of great abundance. If you have more produce than you can consume, there are plenty of ways to preserve it so you can savor it later.
To help you choose the best method, here is a quick overview of the many options available.
Remember to preserve produce safely by using reliable recipes and closely following each step.
The information box contains two excellent resources to guide you through the specifics of each process.
Store it: This is the easiest method and applies to onions, shallots, garlic, winter squash and pumpkins. Place onions, shallots or garlic on a tarp in a sheltered, dry area until the stalks are completely dry. Store them in a dark, cool area such as a basement.
The skins of winter squash and pumpkins should be tough before you cut them off the vines. Leave 2 inches of stem attached to each and move them to a bright area that is protected from the weather for two weeks. This hardens them off so they’ll keep in storage for a long time in a basement or dark closet.
Refrigerate it: You don’t need special equipment to make refrigerator pickles. Find a recipe that suits you, keep the pickles in the fridge and use them up within the time frame listed on the recipe.
Freeze it: I use a few methods for freezing produce. The first involves placing whole berries or tomatoes on a cookie sheet, letting them freeze until they’re solid and putting them in a freezer bag. I also chop onions, celery, spinach or Swiss chard leaves and freeze them to add to soups and stews later.
For all other vegetables, I use the blanching method before freezing them. This involves bringing a large kettle of water to a boil, adding vegetables such as beans or broccoli for a few minutes, draining them and cooling them in a sink of ice-cold water. Drain them again, dry them off and place in freezer bags. The first website in the information box contains a chart listing how long to boil types of vegetables.
Can it: Because fruits and pickled foods are acidic, you can follow the water-bath canning method to preserve them. You must use canning jars and two-piece canning lids for this process. Look for a specialized kettle with a wire rack in the bottom. Follow canning recipes to the letter.
Pressure-can it: Vegetables, meats and fish are low in acid, so they must be pressure-canned. Otherwise, you risk exposing yourself and your family to the deadly botulism toxin. Pressure canners are similar to pressure cookers but more precise. You also will need canning jars and lids for pressure-canning.
Dry it: This method allows you to dehydrate fruits, vegetables and herbs; dry sunflower and pumpkin seeds; and make fruit leathers. It requires drying them for several hours at a steady temperature of about 140 degrees. Commercial food dehydrators are your best option since most ovens don’t go that low.
If you’re short on time, consider donating your excess produce to a local food pantry so others also can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Learn more about preservation techniques in this week’s video on youtube.com/susansinthegarden.
Susan Mulvihill is author of “The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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