How to preserve vegetables
If you happen to have an abundant amount of fresh, seasonal harvest at hand, and want to enjoy it all year round, you will need to preserve it in some form or the other. You can preserve most fruits, vegetables and herbs, and the methods will be as different as the objects at hand, the time within which you want to consume them, and your objective.
There are several methods of preserving fruits and vegetables, many of which include storing, canning, pickling, freezing, dehydrating, and making them into jams and jellies.
Storing is the simplest way to store vegetables, especially for root vegetables which have a long shelf life. Squashes, potatoes, beets, onions, etc. can be stored in this manner. Take care to wash the vegetables of all mud and impurities and dry them, before storing them, since dirt of humidity will accelerate the spoiling of these vegetables.
Canning is a great way to preserve softer, and high water content vegetables like tomatoes, beans, mushrooms, etc. however, care must be taken to choose only healthy, firm vegetables, and clean them thoroughly before blanching / processing them further for canning. Use new, dry jars for canning, and process in a pressure canner or boiling water of the prescribed amount of time. For recipes on canning vegetables, visit http://www.ifood.tv/network/canned_vegetables/recipes
Relishes of cucumbers, cauliflowers, onions, and fruits can be made by pickling them. Pickling vegetables involves string in an air tight jar, uniform pieces of vegetables preserved in a mixture of vinegar, salt or sugar, and a variety of pickling spices. For pickled vegetable recipes from around the world, log on to http://www.ifood.tv/network/pickled_vegetables/recipes
Most vegetables can last for 8 to 12 weeks in a freezer, when frozen properly. To freeze vegetables, cut into uniform pieces, blanch them in boiling water and immediately dip them in cold water to preserve the nutrients and texture. After blanching, freeze them in clean, dry, airtight freezer bags or jars. The vegetables can also be dipped in a solution of ascorbic acid before freezing, to further increase their shelf life.
An oven or food dehydrator can be used to dry out mature vegetables, herbs, meats, nuts, seeds and fruits. The vegetables should healthy and should be kept in a place with good air circulation. Unless the vegetables are completely dry, they will not last for long. This method is useful to make raisins, popcorn, and sun dried tomatoes.
JAMS AND JELLIES
Jams and jellies are made from the ripest and sweetest fruits. It is done by cooking and preserving fruits and some vegetables in sugar syrup. The sugar acts as a preservative and a gelling agent in such preserved foods. For recipes on different jams, visit http://www.ifood.tv/network/jams/recipes
For a comprehensive list of Do’s and Don’ts in preserving vegetables, visit the website of the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Log on to http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/ for more details.