copyright 2009, Maria Liberati
Editor: Erin Kuhn
Preserving fruits and vegetables is a very useful way to get the most out of your garden, or that great deal from the local farm. Unless you are planning on eating everything within the next few days, a better decision is storing everything for future use. While there are different methods for storing fruits and vegetables, no special equipment is needed to perform it. The main goal of storing fruits and vegetables is to inhibit bacteria grow, which is the major cause of food spoilage. Furthermore, it is vital to wash all harvested fruits and vegetables before storing them, and fruits must be place in lemon juice and vegetables in water with canning salt to prevent darkening after harvest.
For the storing of fruits and vegetables in cans, a boiling water canner, a pressure canner, and canning jars are needed. Fruits in jars have to be placed with water and ½ teaspoon of sugar. The most important step in canning is boiling the jars containing the fruits or vegetables for a certain amount of time to kill the bacteria. When the boiling water canner’s water is boiling, place the fruit jar inside the boiler for a while. The water in the boiling water container must be high enough to cover the whole fruit jar. Fail to do so, will result in leaving alive bacteria inside the fruit jar.
Another way of preserving fruit is adding fruit slices in to a fruit syrup. Fruit syrup is made from a mixture of water and sugar: 2 cups of sugar yields light syrup, 3 cups of sugar medium syrup, and 4 and ½ cups of sugar heavy syrup. The fruit slices and the syrup are put together in a boiling water canner and stirred.
Canning vegetables is a similar, yet somewhat different process. For the boiling process of vegetables, a pressure canner is more effective. Place the vegetable jar inside the pressure canner and allow boiling for the first 10 minutes and then block the steam so that the hot air does not escape. The water inside the pressure canner must only reach about half the jar in this case. Different fruits and vegetables require different boiling times to kill the many bacteria, which I will provide information later on.
Freezing is relatively easy and there is no need for any equipment. Fruits and vegetables can be frozen in almost anything that you can get your hands on such as, cardboard boxes, plastic bags and aluminum foil. Freezing is healthier than boiling because it preserves the vitamins and minerals that are slightly loss during boiling. When freezing fruit, it is recommended to pour light syrup on the fruits to improve tastes before placing them in the freezer. Vegetables must be boiled first for a small amount of time; this is so that the vegetable is rid of damaging materials such as enzymes. After boiling, the vegetable must be submerged in cold water temporally and then placed on the desired container for freezing.
The cheapest way to dry fruits and vegetables is to place them under the sun. However, 5 consecutive days of 95 degrees or higher is needed for the drying process. An oven is a better choice but it is power consuming and if it can’t heat below 200 degrees, it is totally useless. Not to mention that the oven must stay open to allow the air to circulate. The best choice is a dehydrator, which must be set around 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit to dry fruits or vegetables. It is also possible to start at a higher temperature for a few hours and then lower the temperature until you reach 120 or 130 degrees, to achieve a good drying. Most vegetables and fruits need around 6 to 12 hours to dehydrate completely. During this time, is recommended to check for dry textures and cut small pieces to see if liquid is still present. In addition, it is essential to rotate fruits and vegetables often and leave plenty of room to breathe during the dehydration. Before dehydration of vegetables, the skin must be peeled off by boiling. For fruits, wash and cut them in to bite sizes, and for fruits like peaches, remove the core. After the dehydration is completed, fruits and vegetables have to be stored inside airtight jars and placed in a dark area with room temperature.
Pickling is a good way to preserve, obviously, pickles but other fruits and vegetables can be stored in this way too. And the fruits won’t taste sour as long as sugar is added to the brine (a significant amount of salt with water). Onions, olives, peppers, watermelon rind, cauliflower, apples and pears are some fruits and vegetables that can be preserved by pickling methods. Be sure to use a pickling vinegar or one in which its acidity is at least 18%, to store the fruits or vegetables. For fruits, it is not recommended to decrease the amount of vinegar in the brine, since vinegar is essential, but adding enough sugar to sweeten the formula is needed. Vinegar is very important because it is self-preserving due to its natural acidity which prevents bacteria growth. By pickling, condiments such as Giardiniera (pickled vegetables), used mostly in Italian communities, and chile peppers from Mexico, are produced.
The aforementioned methods for storing a wide array of fruits and vegetables vary with each fruit and vegetables. Although the methods are very similar for each fruit and vegetables, boiling time and some additional ingredients differ. For this reason I provided two great sources which offer instructions in detail on how to preserve each fruit and vegetable, as well as making fruit juices and syrups. The National center for home food preservation (http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/index.html) contains instruction on how to perform each of these storing methods efficiently and how to carry it out with different fruits. Another source for information is http://farmgal.tripod.com and it is much easier to navigate. Now that the storing methods have been revealed, perhaps it is a good time to do some harvesting.
For recipes to use those fresh fruits and veggies, get your copy of the best selling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking at http://www.marialiberati.com
Join The Basic Art of Italian Cooking school at Whole Foods Jenkintown,PA on June 11th at 6:15 PM. Class on SUmmer ecipes with The Basic Art of Italian Cooking. Call store or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info
June 15th- Willingboro Library, in Willingboro, NJ in the cooking cafe for Cooking on a Budget with The Basic Art of Italian Cooking. event is free and open to the public 7 PM. Call library or email email@example.com
June 20th on air on the Restaurant radio show in Chicago, Illinois foundo n the internet at www.restaurantradio.tv Interview on June 20th at 2PM
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