Boy, time sure has gotten away from me lately. Harvest season is upon us, and with it comes a LOT of work. I’ve only got a small garden, but I’ve managed to grow tomatoes, zucchini, wax beans, peas, peppers, and more. I try to eat as much of it as possible, but sometimes there’s just so much food that I need to preserve it so it doesn’t rot.
There are different food preservation techniques for different budgets, time constraints, and storage space. I prefer to do the easiest method, which is freezing, but I just don’t have enough room in my freezer. I plan to dehydrate some zucchini to use for zucchini bread later on this year. I’d like to freeze a bit of corn. Lately though, my method of preservation has been canning.
I’ve canned pickles, jelly, dilly beans, salsa, and tomato sauce. Some of the produce was given to me, some of it I grew myself, and some of it I bought. A farm not too far away had “pick your own” tomatoes for 25-cents per pound, so I took my kids, who didn’t trample a single tomato in the whole field, and we picked 29 1/2 pounds for a total of $7.37, hence the tomato sauce.
My dad picked me some apples, and I picked some apples from the trees of other family and friends, and I made and canned some delicious apple jelly without even adding any extra pectin. It’s nice to know where my food is coming from. It’s even nicer to think of how much money I’m saving by making, rather than buying, canned products.
So, here’s a short description of the 3 basic preservation methods I listed:
Aside from the food and cutting boards and utensils, you’ll need a pot to in which blanch your produce, a bowl for ice water in which to cool your produce, zip-top freezer bags, and a freezer. There’s minimal investment necessary, with plastic bags for about $2-3 per box being your main purchase, unless you don’t have a freezer.
Aside from the food and cutting boards and utensils, you’ll need a dehydrator and something in which to store your dehydrated food. Dehydrators can range from around $35 – $300 depending on the quality. (I own an Excalibur brand dehydrator that I absolutely love, especially for making homemade fruit leather and fruit roll ups.) If your oven temperature is low enough, you may be able to use it instead. I’ve used an oven to make jerky before, but have never tried it for dehydrating fruits or vegetables. You could store your dehydrated food in plastic bags, canning jars, kitchen containers, or any other food grade airtight storage containers.
I think canning is by far the most expensive and time consuming if you’re new to preserving. Besides the food and cutting boards and utensils, you’ll need a canner (either a water bath canner or a pressure canner, depending on what you’re canning), canning jars and lids and rings, and possibly a jar lifter and/or other specialty canning gadgets. The initial investment for canning can be quite expensive, especially when buying jars. Canners can cost $40+, with the pressure canners that I’ve seen almost always costing more than $120. A dozen jars with lids and rings usually ranges anywhere from $8-$15, depending on the size and style. Although the initial investment is expensive, the canner, jars, and rings are reusable. After the initial purchase, you should only need to purchase new lids every year. A dozen lids usually costs around $3 in my area. Although a good book on canning would be beneficial, you could always borrow one from your local library.
Those are the 3 basic food preservation methods. Lacto-fermenting is also great (and healthy) method of preservation, and I do make lacto-fermented pickles that my kids love, but I don’t know quite enough about the fermentation process yet to include it in this article.
Article by Randi Millward