I was blessed with a green thumb. Awesome, right? Well, yes, but that means I have produce coming out my ears and one can only consume so many green beans, ya know? So, we eat as much as we can straight from the garden but there’s always more! This is where learning a variety of preserving methods as well as having handful of go-to recipes comes in handy.
Over the years I’ve tried many different recipes in many ways and have settled on a few tried-and-true recipes and methods. Of course I’m always learning and trying new things but here’s what I’ve found works for me.
First, if you have the freezer space, preserving foods in freezer bags or mason jars in the freezer is the absolute easiest! You don’t have to worry about acidity levels, having a certain amount of produce, using a pressure cooker, sterilizing everything, etc. Most foods you just blanch (cook briefly in boiling water) and freeze. You can do this as you have extra produce, no matter the amount, which makes it super easy and fast to preserve a little or a lot!
If freezer space is limited, the next best option is canning via hot water bath. I still prefer this method for tomatoes and tomato sauces, salsa, and pickled anything. It’s fairly easy, the shelf life is nice and long, and there’s something so rewarding about seeing all those cans stacked up in your pantry or basement!.
Last is pressure canning. If you are very limited on freezer space you can use this method for less acidic vegetables such as corn or green beans, but this method is best for canning meats, stocks, and stews. It’s time consuming, can only process a few jars at a time, and can be quite intimidating. Honestly, I haven’t canned anything via pressure cooker since 2008. Seriously (Although as I write this I’m getting a little itch).
You can also dry produce, meat, herbs, etc, but since I have little experience with drying food I’ll stick to the above-mentioned methods but it’s definitely another way to consider when preserving many of your foods.
The Ball Canning and Preserving book is an amazing resource for canning directions and tried-and-true recipes!
Considerations when preserving
How much will you use at a time?
There’s nothing worse than wasting food you worked hard to grow and preserve! If you have a favorite recipe you use if for, prep and measure it according to that recipe. Zucchini bread comes to mind for me. I shred it, measure out two cups, bag it, tag it, and freeze it. When I’m ready to make my bread I just pull out my pre-measured amount and I’m good to go!
Spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce are also used in moderation at our house. We rarely use a quart of tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce so why can it that way? Use pint or half-pint jars so you’re not having to open a giant jar only for it ti sit on the fridge shelf until it becomes a science project. It’s far easier to open multiple small jars than find several ways to use that large jar or watch your hard work go to waste!
This is also another reason I like freezing the vegetables I use as sides. I can just take what I need; I don’t have to try and use a whole can of corn or beans.
How will it be used?
Weather you put your preserved foods in soups or sauces, add them to baked goods, or eat them alone, it’s good to consider how you’ll use them when you prep them. I freeze both diced and cut carrots because I use the diced carrots in soups and serve sliced carrots as a side or in roasts. Zucchini is shred for use in breads and meatballs, cubed for stir fry and sliced for grilling or lasagna.
What type of texture do you want?
This may sound silly, but depending on the method used to preserve your produce you may get different textures. Zucchini can be quite soft and mushy, which works perfectly for breads, but it’s not typically the texture you want in a side dish. There are lots of tips for how to preserve different vegetables on my Canning and Preserving Pinterest board.