As you stroll one morning through your local farmer’s market, you spy a flat of “scratch and dent” organic peaches. They are large, beautifully ripe but not beautiful to look at. They are also 25% off their regular price. Your family loves peaches, but ten pounds worth of peaches? That need to be eaten in the next day or two?
Buy those peaches and don’t panic!
With a few simple techniques, you will be able to use all of those peaches in 24 hours, enjoying them months later in pies, on toast, and maybe on a grilled piece of fish! Even if you do not grow your own food, you can shop in season and freeze, can, dehydrate, and otherwise “put up” a bounty of summer fruits and vegetables to enjoy all year long.
The first, most common technique is freezing. Most fruits and vegetables can simply be washed, sliced, frozen on a cookie sheet (so they won’t freeze together in a clump), and then sealed into a freezer bag (or vacuum sealed if you have a vacuum sealer). Some other ideas for freezing:
- Corn can be made into creamed corn, portioned into freezer bags, sealed, and then frozen flat for easy storage
- Green beans can be blanched (dunked into boiling water for a few minutes until they turn bright green and then rinsed with cold water to stop cooking), then frozen
- Berries can be pre-mixed into pie portions (using your favorite recipe)
- Homemade veggie soup can also be frozen flat in freezer or sandwich bags for individual portions
Canning is another common way to preserve food. There are two types of canning: using a pressure cooker and water bath canning. Water bath canning only requires a deep, large pot to get started (plus canning jars and lids), but low-acid foods require a pressure cooker to be safe. Besides standard jams, jellies, and tomato canning, try these ideas:
- Make your own salsa. You can use the peaches you got at the scratch and dent sale!
- Make tomato sauce.
- Pickle everything you can get your hands on, from peaches to garlic to okra to asparagus.
- Make your own pie filling, or make apple butter in a crockpot and can it!
You get the idea. If you would buy it in a jar or a can in the grocery store, then you can can it at home. Some people even can water for disaster prep!
Of all of the ways to preserve food for later use, dehydrating is the most energy intense. Dehydrating requires that food be baked very slowly over a long period of time to gradually remove all of the water. There are food dehydrators that do the same job with potentially less energy, but you can dehydrate nearly anything you like in your oven with a jellyroll pan (or a cookie sheet with a lip) and a metal rack. As a general rule of thumb, the more moisture, the longer it will take, but most foods can be dried in the oven at 140˚ Fahrenheit for 10-18 hours. Some ideas of foods to dry:
- Apples: Pretreat by lightly coating with lemon juice to prevent skin darkening
- Berries: Excellent for a burst of tart sweetness in your winter oatmeal!
- Fruit leathers and jerkies: These make a great snack but are a bit more complex to make
These recipes and ideas are just the beginning. For more details on food preservation, including recipes plus links to the USDA’s food safety guidelines, visit Pick Your Own.
Now that you can confidently buy that flat of peaches; how will you preserve your own food?
Image by Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau via Flickr