Just because the seasons are changing doesn’t mean you have to give up your local produce habit. It just means you’ll have some planning and prepping to do. The end of farmers market season has come, but you still have a chance to stock up on all the Llano Estacado’s best.
It’d be nice if saving our region’s fresh fruits and veggies was as simple as throwing it in the freezer, but even freezing food for preservation has a few steps to follow if you want to get the most from it. Of course this doesn’t mean you have to rule out growing your own winter vegetables. We over viewed that, here. Either way, you’re running out of time. You’ll need to make it to one of the area’s farmers markets quick to stock up.
Canning Vegetables Is Versatile
Canning is one of the best ways to preserve your harvest bounty. But it’s also one of the more extensive methods. Cleanliness is a key concern because fresh produce can be a fertile environment for harmful bacteria growth. It also requires some equipment to purchase. You’ll have a wide variety of options to explore by this method though. A few including:
- Fruit and pie fillings
- Meat, Poultry, and Seafood
- Jams and Jellies
- Pickles and Fermented Foods
There are two basic types of canners explained here: pressure canners and boiling-water canners. Follow the unique instructions for your type. See our older canning blog about apricots, here.
Freezing Vegetables Is Simple
While freezing is perhaps one of the easiest methods of food preservation, some prep work is still needed. Any frozen vegetable needs to be blanched first for optimal results. Methods for blanching include the following:
- Water blanching
- Steam blanching
Blanching is necessary to remove the naturally occurring enzymes from the produce that cause it to deteriorate over time. Each vegetable needs to be blanched according to its type. You can find a chart, here.
Freezing fruit can be a little different, especially if you want to use a few cups at a time for a recipe. This method instructs you to freeze pieces individually so you can access them at will and forgo having to break chucks off a block with a knife.
Want to freeze tomatoes? We explain how, here.
Some things just don’t freeze well. Here’s a list of a few of those things:
- Baked or Boiled Potatoes
Dehydrating Fruits, Herbs, and Vegetables
There are two basic ways of dehydrating foods:
- oven drying
- dehydrator drying
By most accounts a dehydrator is the clear winner. It’s more energy efficient, it produces a more consistent end product, and it’s less work during the process. If you want to give oven drying a shot, there are plenty of places online that explain the process.
By far, the best resource online for understanding and getting started in food preservation is at University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Food website found here. It has all you need to know about every method. We have a similar resource, here. It has a handy list of seasonal vegetables.