By Georgie Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org
Canning is great, shelf-stable way to preserve the height of locally-grown, summer fruit and vegetable bounty. But let’s be realistic, who has time for it?
The pioneers spent weeks on end preserving food because they weren’t going to work every day, running the kids to soccer games and sitting for three hours in traffic. And their ability to survive the winter depending on it.
Things are a bit different these days! Plus, we have refrigerators (and electricity!)
So let’s be smart about it.
Here’s our five favorite ways to quickly preserve the amazing summer harvest of sweet and tender perishable fruits and veggies without spending hours slaving over your stove and boiling canning jars!
#1 – Freeze it!
Freezing is hand’s down, the easiest way to preserve many fruits and berries. And we simply LOVE doing this with tomatoes (also a fruit, remember!).
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries can all be frozen whole, as is. Cherries, pit and freeze. Stone fruit like peaches, apricots nectarines and plums, simply slice up and freeze. Tomatoes, especially those ‘almost overripe’ ones, simply pop into a bag and freeze. They are amazing for easy stewed tomato dishes all winter long.
Many recommend freezing fruit on a single layer cookie tray and once frozen putting them in freezer bags. This allows you to have individually frozen strawberries or peach slices, rather than one frozen-to-itself mass of fruit and will be better for recipes like pie in later the months.
But consider your end use.
Do you use frozen fruit mainly for morning smoothies? Well, freeze into smaller, ‘smoothie-size’ packages. Sealable, sandwich-size bags work just fine for a ‘one-smoothie’ frozen fruit serving.
Or, perhaps your end-game plan is to pull out of flat of strawberries you didn’t have time to jam in the summer and make up your favorite strawberry jam recipe come December. Well in that case, who cares if the strawberries are all frozen together if they are in the amount you would use anyways?
#2 – Blanch and Then Freeze
Enzymes in most vegetables will continue to break-down the nutrients and quality of frozen vegetables, unless you ‘blanch’ them first.
Blanching, which is simply a ‘quick cook,’ stops that enzymatic action and seals in the vegetable’s color and nutrients. You blanch by putting your vegetables BRIEFLY (typically no more than a few minutes) into hot water then removing immediately into an ice bath. The ice bath stops the cooking process. Drain, pat dry and freeze!
You can also blanch some vegetables or even herbs by ‘steaming.’ This is a great method for preserving basil. Just quickly steam, drain and dry and then freeze and your basil will maintain its green color and vibrant flavor (versus turning a black mushy mess!).
#3 – Simply Dehydrate
If you haven’t invested in dehydrator yet, go get one!
Yes, you can use a dehydrator to make fancy fruit leathers and even meat jerky! But at its simplest, dehydrators are a quick and easy way to preserve fruits and vegetables and will intensify the flavor as well. We love loading up a dehydrator with blueberries – so simple!
Most fruit is easy to dehydrate and simply needs to be sliced to the right size thickness. Peeling skins is up to you and the quality of the fruit you start with. Some fruits (like apples) are better is dunked in a quick lemon-juice bath to stop the oxidizing process. Most vegetables you’ll want to quickly blanch for the same reason (use the same recommendation as for blanch and freeze process).
Oh, and you REALLY want to impress? Dehydrate tomatoes for your very own ‘sun-dried tomatoes.’ So great on pizzas!
#4 – Quick Pickle It!
Yes, ‘quick pickles’ do require the use of a ‘canning jar.’ But, it doesn’t require a water bath or full-on canning process to preserve so we still consider them a quick and easy ‘no can’ solution.
The basic idea behind ‘quick pickles’ is that you preserve your vegetables (or fruit) with some sort of vinegar solution (you can use different types of vinegar depending on what you are quick-pickling) heated up to a boil and then poured into your packed can of veggies (or fruit). Then store in your fridge for typically, up to six months.
Many folks actually prefer the crispiness and fresh flavor that a quick pickle (which doesn’t involve cooking the vegetables first) imparts over a traditional canning process. Switch up the types of vinegars you use, mix and match with different herbs and spices and well, quick pickles may quickly become one of your families most favorite healthy snack!
#5 Kraut For the Gut Health Win!
Sauerkraut seems like it must to be a complicated, tricky thing to make right? Wrong!
Literally all you need to kraut is a ‘kraut friendly’ (aka not acidic) vegetable, salt and a jar. Then let ‘nature’ do the rest!
In this case, nature is ‘lacto-fermentation.’ A brilliant, easy way to preserve vegetables using beneficial natural bacteria to ferment in a brine, killing off bad bacteria preserving the vegetables and creating a gut-healthy, probiotic boost (similar to yogurt) as an extra added bonus.
Cabbage is the ‘typical’ vegetable used for ‘kraut’ recipes, but in reality there are many others that work well. Carrots, turnips, peppers, kohlrabi, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli – just kraut them!
Want to try out one of our ‘quick and easy’ methods for summer bounty preservation? Or a glutton punishment and still dying to can? (We can’t deny it, canned fruits and veggies are amazing too!). Either way, come check out our huge selection of vegetables and fruits perfect for preservation. See us at the farm store (open every day but Monday!) or farmers markets on Saturday and Sunday. Locations can be found on our website.
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