A glut or excess harvest can be a bit of a dilemma. Often all of your tomatoes ripen at once, or you find you have a whole tree of apricots or apples and not enough bellies to consume them!
So how can we save some away for the leaner months without spoiling? Well the best way is to preserve your produce, but there are many ways to achieve this and one method may not work on all type of food. I have used all of these methods with success and preserving day is often long and tiring. However, it is always rewarding, especially when you pull out a jar of some fruit or vegetable, or cheese, or meat that you have preserved yourself. Very gratifying.
So without further ado, here are our 9 ways to preserve your excess produce.
Pickling is achieved by using vegetables or fruit and using a vinegar and salt solution to preserve them in. In most cases, the sealed jar is also water bath treated to prevent bacterial contamination.
Most high acid or high sugar fruit and vegetables can be preserved using the water bath method. You place your filled jars into a big pot and fill it with water to just under the lids, and bring the temperature up to around 95°C (203°F) for a designated time depending on the contents and the recipe you used.
Jam and Jellies
Turning fruit and some vegetables into jam and jellies is a great way to preserve the essence of these fruits. The addition of pectin and sugar convert the heated fruit into a viscous liquid that can be poured (or strained for jelly using a jelly bag) into hot sterilised jars with pop-top lids and/or water bathed if you want to be a bit safer. My favourite jams are Marmalade, Strawberry, Fig, and Chili!
Curing is achieved using salt as the main preservative. Meat and some vegetables like olives can be preserved using this method. Curing meat has to be performed in hygienic and cold conditions to make sure that bacterial contamination is avoided. The right fat to meat and salt ratio is essential for good taste and proper curing.
Excess vegetables can be blanched then frozen to preserve them for up to six months. With that said, I must admit that I often find a bag of broad beans or peas at the back of the freezer after a year and they are perfectly fine for use in stews and casseroles!
By putting your vegetables in boiling water for a few minutes, you are aiming to kill the enzymes that make the beans rot, not to cook them outright. Then they are cooled down rapidly and frozen straight away.
Here is the method I use to blanch Broad Beans.
I use this method for lazy housewife and scarlet runner beans and popcorn. It’s so simple. I just leave the bean pods on the vine until they dry out, and then store the dried beans in a jar with one of those oxygen absorbing pouches you find in some foods. This helps keep them dry if you don’t have a good seal. With popcorn, allow the ears to dry out completely, then husk the corn kernels into a jar for when you want to make some yummy popcorn.
Your can also make or buy solar dehydrators that so the same thing. They simply use the sun’s infrared radiation to dry the vegetables or fruit so that you can store it for longer. Electric dehydrators can also be utilised if you don’t have a sunny climate. I have even seen people use the parcel shelf in their car to dry fruit!
fermentation is an easy way to preserve certain vegetables like cabbage, in the form of sauerkraut and kimchi, or to produce the most wonderful drinks like kombucha tea, or my favourite, Beer! Yeast is the main active ingredient in all fermentation, whether that be wild or cultured yeasts, it doesn’t matter. They convert sugars into alcohol which helps preserve the food.
This preserving method can be used to extend the life of meat and dried herbs and vegetables, however most items still need to be refrigerated after vacuum sealing. It works by sucking the majority of the air out of the container which assists in preventing spoilage and rotting.
It can also be used to mature cheese in lieu of waxing to prevent the cheese from drying out and becoming infected by unwanted bacteria and moulds.
Great for preserving cheese for maturation and for sealing jars of jam. I have even used wax to seal swing top lids when making tomato sauce to ensure an airtight seal. Waxing simply prevents air from getting to the encased food and depending on the food type and if kept in a cool place will keep for an extended period.
Check out how I have waxed cheese to help keep out unwanted moulds and bacteria.
Preserving is Fun
I love preserving my excess produce. I make sure I have a few hours allocated to the task without any distractions, then I get stuck into preparing the food for preserving or storage. I find that if I set up all the necessary equipment first, then it seems like less of a chore.
What other methods do you use to preserve your excess harvest? I am sure that there are some that I have missed. Chime in with a comment below.