Friday, May 6, 2016

Freeze, Can or Dehydrate? Oh My!

   Today I stand amazed at what a garden can endure! Five months into this year we have faced record flooding, extended cool snaps, and a few heat fluctuations. Today the sun is out which invites the pests to hatch- strange year.

   Despite nature's mood swings the garden has been a gift! Greens, hot house tomatoes, herbs, peas and snap beans have consistently been harvested. Since the household is so small, that means it's time to preserve. Let's take a peek at the top three preservation methods that I not only use at home, but also teach as well.

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 have fallen in love with 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 do need airtight conditions to keep well; canning jars or sealed bags work very well and store right alongside other canned goods. 

   I slosh my way through the growing garden, my thoughts look to the pop and sizzle of canning lids, colorful peppers hanging in rows along kitchen walls, and steady hum of the dehydrator working its magic. 
   Local friends be sure to keep your eye out for our canning classes! If you are like me, you can hardly wait until this season of food preservation begins.

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