One of the things I liked about having produce in my backyard was the ability to preserve some of it for the future. I learned the value of food preservation while growing up. My parents had a huge garden, and we froze and bottled vegetables every harvest to preserve food for winter.
If you want to preserve produce for winter, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some tips for making sure that you can enjoy your garden year-round:
Get the Right Equipment
While you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, the truth is that a small, upfront investment in the right equipment now can save you a great deal of money over the long haul.
If you want to bottle your produce, the easiest method is to use a hot bath. All you need is pot large enough to hold five jars. However, you want to make sure that you purchase high-quality jars, and that you get new lids that will seal. You can re-use jars and rings, but you should buy new lids (with fresh seals) each time.
A simple cake rack at the bottom of the pot works, as does a pair of long tongs. However, if you plan to make this a regular thing, it makes sense to get a canning basket, which simplifies the process of submerging your jars (and getting them back out).
It can also make sense to spend a $150 to $200 to get a cool contraption (and attachments/accessories) from Victorio meant to help you make applesauce and salsa. Much easier and faster than doing it all by hand.
When freezing items, make sure you have sturdy freezer bags that seal properly. There are sealers that heat-seal bags, but it’s also possible, in some cases, to get heavy-duty Ziplock bags to take care of the job.
Finally, if you plan to dry fruit, get a good dehydrator. The right equipment now can make a big difference, and you will quickly recoup most of the expense.
Have a Storage Plan for when you Preserve Produce for Winter
Make sure you have adequate storage for your produce. Whether you keep your stores in the freezer or in a fruit room, you need to make sure that you have a place, out of the light, to store your produce.
Plan for the Time Investment
If you want to preserve produce can be a great way to save money, and live more sustainably. However, you also need to be prepared for the time investment. It’s a tradeoff. Even using a some of the great tools available today, it still took me half the day the last time I bottled applesauce, and another half day to make raspberry freezer jam. Realize that you might need several days to get through your produce, depending on how much you plan to preserve.
Consider Borrowing the Equipment
If you know you don’t have a lot to supply to preserve produce for winter, or you aren’t sure that this is something you want to do, consider borrowing the equipment if you can. Borrow the equipment from a friend or relative (make sure you share the results as a thank-you) so that you can get a feel for the process before you spend on your own equipment.
You can also work out an arrangement, depending on what you are likely to do more of, for sharing your equipment. If you know that you will use a dehydrator, but you aren’t sure about the hot bath, get the dehydrator and let your neighbor use it in return for letting you use his/her bottling equipment.
What are your tips to preserve produce for winter?