If you love the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables but hate the high prices at the store, you may want to learn how to can and freeze your own. Canning and freezing fruits and vegetables is a great way to enjoy them year-round.
Tips for Successful Canning and Freezing
Canning and freezing are popular ways to preserve foods, especially summer's bounty. They're both ways to prevent waste and save money. But things can go wrong, and sometimes your efforts to can and freeze don't turn out too well.
I personally like to dehydrate things as much as possible because we always have the chance of a power outage here in the winter. Our outages can last minutes, hours, or days and I hate losing food in my freezers.
Foods of the Season
For the best bet at success, preserve seasonal, local foods. They are fresher and therefore more nutritious.
Seasonal foods grown locally are also less likely to be sprayed with preservatives and other chemicals to protect them during long shipments.
This is where growing your own comes in handy. Or if you are unable to grow what you want or need, try buying at farm markets, or from local farmers.
If you are freezing fresh food, blanching the food before freezing it can up your success rates considerably.
To blanch foods, dip them in boiling water for a few minutes, then remove them quickly and plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process.
You can also blanch by steaming before the ice water bath. This process is supposed to help foods keep their color, flavor, and texture better than those that are frozen when raw.
The importance of cleanliness in preserving foods – especially canning – cannot be overemphasized. It's vital that you follow your canning recipe closely and that you update it.
Some recipes may call for a hot water bath when pressure canning is really the only way to be sure the germs are killed. Make sure you use sterilized jars, jar tops, funnel, and tongs.
Always use new jar tops. You can clean and reuse jars and jar rings, but it is important to buy new tops.
Getting the air out of foods you are freezing is essential. If you don't have a vacuum sealer you can draw the air out of zip-top bags with a straw. It is very easy.
In canned goods, you can tap the bottom of the jar sharply on the kitchen counter to release air bubbles. The process of water bathing will do this for you. Make sure that when you put your rings on that you do not over-tighten them preventing air from escaping. The pop you hear of the top sealing is the air escaping and the top being pulled in.
If there is a sale on produce at your local market or grocery store, canning and freezing are excellent ways to keep that wonderful money-saver from going to waste.
This is why I have so many peppers dehydrated in my cupboards. For one they were on sale for half off, but then they had a clearance 50% off stickers. Six large bell peppers for $1.50? Yes, please!
Preserve in Small Batches
I don't know about your garden, but mine seems to give me harvestables in spurts, which makes small-batch canning easier than trying to harvest enough tomatoes at one time to make spaghetti sauces or salsa.
For freezing foods, the colder the temperature, the better. This means that you may need to invest in a chest freezer rather than using your refrigerator's freezer.
Chest freezers keep the temperature lower than the average fridge freezer, and the colder the temperature, the longer the food can be kept.
You can also freeze items to be used later in canning. It can help you save fruits and vegetables to larger batch canning. I currently have tomatoes and blackberries in my freezer waiting for their canning day.