Many people plant just enough in the garden to eat fresh all summer and into fall but what if you want to do more? Maybe you want to provide enough food for your family to get through the winter. Or what about just enjoying the goodness of summer all year long? Both are fantastic ideas and easier to do than you think. There are several options for preserving your garden harvest. Some folks prefer one method over another and some combine methods depending on what they are preserving. Here are the main options for food preservation.
Canning Your Harvest
This is a wonderful way to enjoy the hard work of your garden throughout the year. Canning involves preserving food in jars with special lids. Getting started is simple. Most people start out with a water bath canner and canning high acid foods such as pickles, salsa, jellies, and jams. Low acid foods like green beans, corn, soup or meats require a pressure canner. Neither method is hard it just takes some time getting to know your equipment and understanding the difference in high and low acid foods. The Ball Blue Book of Canning & Preserving is an excellent resource and considered the canning Bible. One of the big benefits of canning is if the electric goes out you don’t lose anything. Check yard sale sites or Craig’s list for jars.
Freezing Your Harvest
Freezing is a preferred method for many people because it’s quick and easy. You do have to have a freezer and you may need more than one if you are freezing a good bit. Sometimes it’s a taste preference as well. Frozen corn has a completely different taste than canned corn, for example. All you need for freezing is a pot to blanch your vegetables in, freezer bags or freezer containers. You can find a blanching time for fruits and vegetables here.
Dehydrating Your Harvest
Dehydrating fruits and vegetables can be a great way to preserve them and save space. When you dehydrate food it shrinks and can be stored in airtight containers. Just rehydrate with water and you are good to go. You can use your oven but to do it right you will need a dehydrator. They come in various sizes and costs. A simple round one you can buy at Walmart suffices for a lot of folks but if you find you enjoy it consider investing in something that will hold up. Dehydrated food, like canned goods, requires no electricity but it can be limited as it is time-consuming and not everything dehydrates well.
Getting Started With Canning
There are many reasons to preserve your own food. For starters, you know what’s in there and you know whether it’s organic or not. There are all kinds of cookbooks that provide guidelines and recipes. If you want to try canning salsa and jams are a great place to start. They are very simple. Both of those lend themselves well to freezing too. You’ll need a basic canning starter kit to begin. This Graniteware water bath kit has everything you need. If you want to can low acid foods than consider starting with simple foods like green beans. Vegetable soup is another easy to preserve item. You will need a pressure cooker for low acid foods. All America Canners are the best but Presto is good too. You will also need jars, lids, and rings.
Getting Started With Dehydrating
As with canning a good dehydrating cookbook is a must. There are various dehydrators to choose from depending on how much you will be doing. They range in price from over to $200 to under $50. Amazon has a great selection of dehydrators. You will need airtight containers to store your dried foods in and canning jars work great for this too.
Getting Started With Freezing
To get started freezing your food you obviously must have a freezer. If you are in the market for one check local stores like Lowes or Home Depot. There are sizes for every home. You can freeze in Ziploc freezer bags or plastic containers. How To Freeze Vegetables And Fruits: The Only Guide You Need to Freeze Summer Goodness is a great resource to get you started.
Once you start canning and freezing branch out beyond the basics. Canned soups, meatballs, chili, and chicken can be quite nice to have on hand. If unexpected company drops in you only need to grab a couple of jars and you have a complete meal in minutes. Freezer meals are so handy for families on the go. Preserving your own harvest means fresh tasting food all year long. You know what’s in what you eat and you will be enjoying the fruits of your labor. There is nothing more delicious than tomatoes in the middle of winter that actually taste like tomatoes! You may find you enjoy preserving your garden harvest so much you expand your garden next year.