With summer waning, many start thinking about what is to be done with all the surplus fruits and vegetables growing in our gardens or the bushels and baskets that can be purchased at your local Vince’s Market or farm fresh stand. Simple food preservation techniques are the answer. And it doesn’t just have to be jam and pickles either! All the produce plentiful in the summer months can be preserved with different methods to prolong their freshness and make them available for use over the winter.
While this topic may make some nervous with a lack of education, it’s truly an easy feat. Our ancestors have used these methods for hundreds of years, refining them as new technologies became available and our contemporaries have been harkening back to the old ways while discovering new innovations along the way.
Time to Jam!
Making jam is the most adventurous many will get when it comes to food preservation. And that’s not a bad thing. Making jam can be simple, cost effective, and the result is delicious! Not only does it make a great hostess gift in the fall when you need something to take in a pinch, homemade jam just tastes better. Plus, you can control what you put into it so you know exactly what you’re feeding your family.
Better yet, you can play with flavours and make instant family favourites. How about blackberry jam with a hint of basil? Or peach jam with some added ginger? One of my personal favourites is apple jam with cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. It’s got an inherent warmth to it that reminds me of warm apple crisp on a chilly fall evening. The combinations really are endless. By playing with the fruit combinations and different herbs and spices, you can create magic in a jar.
Pickles, Pickles, Pickles!
Pickles are very easy to make. It’s essentially making a brine and then waiting as the brine does all the work. You can tweak your brine as well with different spices and herbs to your own tastes. Like things spicy? Add some red pepper flakes.
Want to think a little outside the box? Try pickling more than just cucumbers. Green beans, carrots, beets, cabbage, asparagus, cauliflower, ginger, and radishes are great options, just to name a few.
The Freezer Is Your Friend!
Many fruits and vegetables can be preserved in your freezer with minimal preparation. Whether they need to be scalded or blanched prior to lying them out flat on a cookie sheet to freeze separately or transferred into freezer bags, it’s all dependent on what you’re preserving.
Don’t Forget the Salt!
Salt is a great preservative. You can use salt to preserve different herbs like basil for future use and lemons take on a concentrated flavour with less of the sour tartness most associate with the citrus fruit. And preserved lemons can change the intensity of any recipe calling for lemons—they are that good and totally worth the effort.
Preserving the bounty of summer doesn’t have to be hard work. Simple techniques employed at the peak of freshness can extend the lives of your fruits and vegetables through the fall and winter. Minimal expertise is required to start but a little fearlessness is essential. Trust the processes tested by those who’ve come before you and you can’t really go wrong.
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Until next time,