If your garden is doing well this year, you likely have an abundance of produce such as tomatoes, cucumbers, or zucchini. Herbs, squashes, beans, and more can often be so prolific that you soon find that you have much more than you can possibly consume at a meal setting. It’s time to put back some of that garden goodness to enjoy for the winter! As your kitchen counters fill up with the fruits of your labor, here are some ways that you can preserve your garden harvest:
There are two types of home canning preservation: Water bath canning and Pressure Canning.
Water bath canning involves submerging packed canning jars with lids underneath boiling water and processing them for a set amount of time in order to seal the lids and make the foods in them shelf-stable. Only high-acid foods like tomatoes, fruit, jams, jellies, and pickles can be processed in a hot water bath safely.
Pressure canners allow you to make lower-acid foods like soups, beans, and meats stable for storage on your pantry shelves. Jarred foods are placed in the pressure canner pot which holds a little water and the lid is locked down and then you raise the internal pressure within the canner via steam and process for a set time. Then, the canner is allowed to depressurize before removing the jars. The jars are then sealed and able to be stored like any other canned food.
There are many sanitary and safety procedures to follow when home canning, but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually really easy. Home canning can be very rewarding and reduce your overall home food bill because it allows you to preserve your garden produce and even store-bought produce when sale prices are rock bottom. Just make sure to follow instructions carefully and use the proper equipment and you will be stocking your shelves in no time with fresh healthy food!
Provided that you have the freezer space, freezing certain garden produce is an excellent way to preserve food in its most nutrient-dense peak. It’s also relatively easy to do. Foods can be wrapped and frozen, flash-frozen, and then transferred to bags or containers of your choice. There are some vegetables that do not freeze well, so make sure that you do your research on which items are best when frozen. Almost all vegetables freeze better when blanched before being frozen. This involves placing the vegetables in boiling water for a few moments then submerging them in ice water to halt the cooking process. It helps to retain color and freshness before freezing. Corn, peas, beans, berries, and soup vegetables are often top choices for the home freezer.
Dehydrating garden produce is an excellent way to preserve food and conserve storage space in your pantry. Many foods do very well being dehydrated and then rehydrated for later use in recipes and you can get very creative by making your own soup blends, seasonings, and more. Some foods can be dehydrated as is, others need to be slightly processed in order to dehydrate well. Dehydrating also helps to preserve nutrients and if stored properly, will last years.
Curing and cold storage
Several root vegetables and squashes can be cured after harvesting and stored in a cool, dark space, often for months at a time before they begin to go bad. Curing usually involves simply allowing the vegetables to sit in the sun for several days to toughen up their outer skins. Potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic are popular choices. Pumpkins, butternut squash, and other winter squashes can be stored for up to 8 months when cured and stored in the right kind of space like a root cellar or basement. Do your research and follow the proper curing and storage methods and you will enjoy your produce all winter long.
Finally, fermentation is another method to keep certain products like pickles and sauerkraut. The shelf life of your products will depend on many factors, but ferments typically last between 4 and 18 months! Fermenting some of your garden produce also carries added gut health benefits. Those yummy pickles, kraut, and kimchis will boost your immunity and bring balance to your gut flora, a much-added bonus!
I hope this inspires you to think of how you can enjoy your garden long after it goes to sleep for the winter. Here are some great resources to check out to explore more!
The Farm Girl’s Guide to Preserving the Harvest: How to Can, Freeze, Dehydrate, and Ferment Your Garden’s Goodness