Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Preserving the Harvest: Top Three Methods

Harvest...it's a wonderful thing, and losing any of it to ruin is just painful. During the peak harvest season, we plan our meals according to the fresh produce of the day, but we also need to put some of that bounty away for the end of season. There are many wonderful methods to preserving the harvest, and I have tried most of them, but three have remained tried and true and top of the list.

1. Freezing

    In the heat and humidity of our southern home freezing is my top method of choice. Produce is picked at its peak, mildly processed (if at all) and frozen quickly. Safe in the freezer, mold and pests don't stand a chance. The down side of freezing is space; with broilers and turkeys also stored in the freezer, space is precious and must be used wisely. My food freezing musts are: cole crops, greens (chard, spinach), okra, corn and squash/gourds.

2. Canning

    Second in line and next on the list is canning; water bath and pressure methods. High acid foods, jams, jellies and relishes and pickles hold well with a gentle water bath set up where as sauces, veggies, and pie fillings require the intensity of a pressure canning. Space is not quite as competitive with canned goods since they store easily in the top of a pantry, under a bed, or in any cool dark place.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and carrots along with berries of all kinds are excellent canning candidates.

3. Dehydrating

    Last, but not least I love dehydrating. Dried goods are space friendly and easy to incorporate into everyday cooking. Some items lend well to a simple open air drying method: hot peppers, garlic, onions and herbs are a few...while some require a bit more intensity. My electric dehydrator is perfect for putting up apples, bananas, bell peppers. We love the tasty tang of kale chips and the chewy zing of a dry pineapple. Dried foods need airtight conditions to keep well; canning jars or sealed bags work very well and store right alongside other canned goods. 

   As I walk through my growing garden, my thoughts look to the future: the pop and sizzle of the canning vent, colorful peppers hanging in rows along the kitchen walls, the steady hum and comforting fragrance of the dehydrator working its magic. Yes, I can hardly wait until harvest comes and preservation begins.

   What are some methods you use in your harvest kitchen?


Becky said...

I like to freeze and can too, but haven't used my dehydrator much. I should probably do that since I have less and less freezer space each year. I'm not complaining though. I'll take all the deer, fish and wild turkey I can get.

Simply Scaife Family said...

I admit dehydrating is underused in my kitchen as well...it is really hard to turn on a dehydrator when the temps are over 85 even in the spring:)

Anonymous said...

Inviting you the Carnival of Home Preserving on my blog today and every Friday. Hope to see you there. Laura Williams’ Musings http://laurawilliamsmusings.blogspot.com