Throughout the summer months, you may find plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Local farmers’ markets and even your backyard garden may produce an abundance.
Unfortunately, as the season draws to a close, many of those mouthwatering, seasonal treats are no longer available. Or, you may have an overabundance during the season and fear they may go bad.
Don’t worry! You can enjoy the bounty of the season year-round with these easy methods for preserving fruits and vegetables at home.
1. Drying (Dehydrating)
Dehydrators and ovens are the most common equipment used for food dehydration.
With a dehydrator, the process is simple. Put your food in, pick your drying time, and wait for the process to complete.
To dehydrate fruits and vegetables, slice them into thin slices. Soak fruits in equal parts lemon juice and water for about 10 minutes. Blanch vegetables in boiling water then shock them in cold water.
Next, put them in the dehydrator and dehydrate according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
With an oven, place the slices on parchment paper on a baking sheet and put in the oven at 140 degrees. Leave them in the oven for 5 to 10 hours.
With vegetables, a flexible and leathery texture will let you know when the process is complete. Fruits are dried when there is no moisture when squeezed while herbs will be brittle.
Properly packaged and stored , dehydrated foods can last more than 10 years. But, vegetables will last longer than fruits.
Freezing is another convenient option for preserving fruits and veggies. However, this method works best when fruits and vegetables are at the height of ripeness and freshness.
Another point to note is that freezing does not kill bacteria; rather, it makes them inactive .
Freezing can also change the texture of certain fruits and vegetables. Still, it is one of the easiest methods of preserving vegetables from the garden.
Before freezing veggies, blanch them in boiling water before swiftly dousing them in cold water. Cold water stops the cooking process.
After that, properly dry them and store them in airtight containers. However, for certain garden vegetables, particularly leafy ones, place them on a metal pan after drying. Next, place the pan in the freezer.
Finally, transfer them to a sterile, airtight freezer bag or container after they have frozen firm. This method prevents them from clumping together when transferred to the freezer bag or container.
You can freeze vegetables for up to 12 months.
Good news — all fruits can be frozen! To properly freeze, wash fruits thoroughly and dry them.
Next, slice them up and place them on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Afterward, place the baking sheet in the freezer until the slices are frozen firm.
Again, this prevents the fruit slices from sticking together once transferred to the storage vessel. Once fully frozen, transfer fruit slices to your storage container and place the container in the freezer.
Try to use up frozen fruits within 6 to 9 months.
In salting, moisture is drawn out of food by the addition of salt. As a result, bacteria are unable to thrive due to the salt’s hypertonic properties.
Salting preserves vegetables and gives them a distinct taste. For the process, you can use a saltwater solution (brine) or solid granules.
To brine your vegetables, put them in a large baking pan and fill the pan halfway with water. Next, add salt until enough is covering the vegetables, reaching the saturation point.
Afterward, place the pan in the fridge. After a week in, remove the pan from the fridge. Now, drain off the brine and cover the veggies with more granulated salt.
Finally, store in a cool dry place until the drying process is complete. Vegetables preserved with this method will keep for many months in a cool place.
Pickling vegetables requires the use of salt and acid (e.g. vinegar). Unlike freezing, this process kills bacteria and is one of the easier methods of food preservation.
You can produce “quick pickles” that can be stored in the refrigerator. However, long-term pickling requires fermentation along with other steps.
To quick-pickle vegetables, prepare your fresh veggies by slicing and dividing them among the canning jars.
Next, combine equal part water and white vinegar and bring to a boil. This makes a basic brine. Add half a tablespoon of salt for each cup of brine.
Afterward, fill each jar with the brine until the veggies are completely covered. Now, place the jars in the refrigerator.
Your pickled vegetables will be ready in 2 weeks and will keep for up to 6 months.
5. Oil Packing
This process makes it difficult for bacteria to thrive. However, the use of vegetable oils in the preservation of fruits and vegetables may add a completely different flavor.
With the addition of vinegar, oil packing generates anaerobic conditions (no oxygen). The method is good for preserving herbs, olives, onions, eggplants, and tomatoes.
To preserve vegetables in oil, do not use raw vegetables. Instead, cook the veggies in vinegar before transferring them to a sterile jar. Afterward, immediately fill the jar with oil, keeping out all air bubbles.
However, as there is a serious risk for botulism , do not use this method unless you are an expert at it. If after opening the jar you hear even a little bit of air coming out, discard the entire thing.
Fermenting fruits and vegetables is simple. First, cut them into thin slices or small chunks and place them into an airtight container.
To start the fermentation process, add salt, whey, or a starting culture to water, resulting in a brine solution.
Next, pour the brine over the food, ensuring that it’s completely covered. It’s also crucial to keep the food completely immersed in the brine during the fermenting process.
For fruit fermentation, the procedure should take around 48 hours. Vegetables, on the other hand, may take longer due to their low sugar content.
When done properly, fermented foods can last up to 18 months.
7. Vacuum Sealing
Another way to prolong the life of your fruits and vegetables is vacuum sealing.
Reduce the oxygen content in vacuum bags in this way. To achieve this, you’ll need a vacuum sealer.
However, for vegetables, blanch them first before shocking them in cold water. Next, drain well and put them into vacuum sealer bags then seal with your vacuum sealer.
Finally, put your packets in the freezer and use them when ready. Vacuum sealed vegetables can last up to 3 years in the freezer.
How to Store Root Vegetables
Root vegetables begin to sprout and decay at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and with 95% humidity. And when frozen, they lose their taste.
Do not wash root vegetables, since water may cause rotting and mildew. Also, to prevent sprouting, keep them out of direct sunlight.
Brush off the soil and store them in a cool dry place in paper bags, baskets, wooden crates, or bowls.
You can also store beets and carrots in containers filled with sand. Other root crops like potatoes can be left in the ground, covered with leaves or straw mulch.
Storing Bulb Vegetables
Bulb vegetables are sometimes grouped alongside root vegetables since they both grow underground.
To store garlic and onions, dry them for a few days. Next, place them in baskets and store in a cool dry place.
Storing Leafy Greens
Leafy greens such as spinach, lettuce, bok choy, and kale will stay fresh longer if stored properly.
It’s also possible to eat the greens from a number of the root crops. So, do not throw away the tops of turnips, radishes, and beets.
Refrigerate greens in an airtight container after wrapping them in moist paper towels.
Seasonal fruits and vegetables may be plenty throughout the summer months. However, some of your favorites may no longer be available to you after the season is over.
You can, however, make fruits and veggies last all year long in your kitchen. The list above highlights the best ways to preserve fresh vegetables and fruits for a long time.
Moreover, all of these methods are simple and easy to implement at home.