Why Preserve Food?
This year Alison and I are hoping to produce more than in past years in our gardens though with the size of our plots, it’s unlikely we’ll need to preserve a lot of our produce. However, to take advantage of the abundant produce in the summer months, I’ve often purchased large quantities of fruit or vegetables in season as this is when produce is freshest (and cheapest) but in doing that it’s essential to have a plan to preserve it!
With food prices going up, buying in-season and in large quantities is a great way to manage your budget as we go from the months of abundant produce to those months where it’s imported and more expensive. Additionally, transportation of food around the globe is a significant source of emissions that we can avoid by leveraging local in-season produce!
I was always fascinated, when reading books about life before refrigeration and other modern conveniences, by the effort and ingenuity required to grow and preserve food in the past. In fact, this last weekend my son and I went to a farm museum and were struck by how butter was made, honey was collected, vegetables planted and harvested – all these things we now just buy at the store that were grown and gathered with such effort.
So today on the blog I’m going to explore some options for purchasing produce in season and preserving it for the months to come!
Guide to Seasonal Produce
Please note that the dates I’m going to share are for my local region in Southern British Columbia. Dates may vary from what I’ve shared to where you live!
- Shelling peas
…And many others, but these are my favourites!
Methods for Preserving Food
I have a food dehydrator and it’s definitely one of those appliances that is used a lot, then not at all, then more again. It takes up a good amount of space in the cupboard, so might be a good thing to consider sharing with a number of other people. We’ve dehydrated apple and mango slices and made fruit leather by blending up fruit into a puree and dehydrating it. I’ve also heard of people dehydrating leftover vegetables and combining with rice noodles to make a home-made instant soup! Dehydrated foods can be stored for long periods of time and then eaten dry or re-hydrated by adding to soup or soaking in water.
Freezing is a great way to go to preserve food. It’s simple, you only need some kind of container or bag to store the item in so that it isn’t exposed to the air (which will cause freezer burn/spoilage/change taste). Processing the items can be a bit labour-intensive, but there are many tools and tricks to help!
For example, I have an apple peeler/corer that basically does what it says – peels and cores apples quickly! I freeze these processed apples to use in pies, oatmeal, applesauce, to name a few.
Another tool I love is this tomato processor: tomatoes go in and sauce comes out! The sauce can then be frozen in jars to be used for items like tomato sauce and soup.
Canning is not something I’ve done a lot, but I do have a canner and have tried it a bit in the past. The easiest things to try to start are canning are sweet items like peaches or pears. Canning involves putting a fruit or vegetable (pickles!) in an appropriate liquid or syrup in a glass mason jar and then sealing it by boiling the jar in a large pot called a canner to expel as much air as possible which then creates a vacuum seal. The items should then keep at room temperature for some time, however you do have to monitor for signs of spoilage.
Best Places to Buy Local Produce
- Farm stands/ farmer’s markets
- U-pick from specialty farms or orchards
- Farm box program
Do you take advantage of abundant produce in the summer months by preserving it for later use?