I remember the first time I tasted store bought grape juice. It was completely flat, lacking the vivid depth of concord grape juice we prepared and canned on the farm.
My grandparent’s farm was relatively small, yet it still produced a lot of food, which meant we processed…a lot. We canned, pickled, made jams and jellies, froze, and dried. Sometimes it was a weekend adventure with house full of family members, at other times is was a quick task of blanching chard to freeze or making a small batch of jam with the season’s last apricots.
I still prefer to fill my pantry and freezer with foods that I have preserved myself, but I don’t put the same time and effort into that we did while I was young. Did I mention I’m a lazy cook? I rarely use the pressure canner, preferring to freeze low acid foods and using the water bath method for small batches of high acid foods like jams, jellies, butters, and pickles.
As it is time to start processing foods again, I will share recipes and techniques in the upcoming weeks to help you stretch out summer’s flavor. Care to join me? Bookmark this page and as I add recipes it will link to them. View recipes in the Preserved foods category.
Ways to preserve foods
Foods are cleaned, prepped and then processed in sterilized canning jars. True, it can be quite a daunting and labor intensive task, but once you get into the hang of understanding the process involved, you can create a simple rhythm that works with your time and your willingness to put forth effort. There are two types of canning.
Boiling water baths are used for high-acid foods like soft spreads including jams, jellies, butters, preserves and conserves (I’ll go into their differences later), juices, preserving whole or slide fruit or drunken cherries. Water baths also work for salsas, relishes and pickles. Sounds complicated? It’s not, it’s actually a very simple process. A quick lesson from the Ball Blue Book or Youtube channels and you are on your way.
Pressure canning is used for low-acid foods like meats, soups and entrees, green beans and other vegetables. Personally, I’m a little bit of a pansy when it comes to pressure canning, often opting to freeze foods that normally would require the pressure.
Preserving foods by drying them is easy and efficient, especially if you are short on time or the food needs processed now. You can use a store bought dehydrator or dry foods at low settings in your oven. Make fruit leather and dried fruits or dry extra vegetables for soup bases to use later. Depending on your climate, you may not even need a machine. In Idaho’s dry climate, food can simply be laid out on trays and covered to dry in the sun.
Freezing is another fantastic way to save summer’s bounty. It works well for prepared meals and entrees. There are few foods that don’t save well with freezing. It is my preferred method for green beans, corn and other traditional vegetables.
Pickling & Brining
Every culture pickles and brines, using methods that may include squeezing, pressure, vinegar, spice or salt (for brining). The process can be one that takes a great deal of time or something that you whip together an hour before serving like many day pickles. The beautiful thing about these types of pickles is their flavor and digestive benefits improve with age.