Post by Contributing Writer, Katie.
Summer gardens and orchards are starting to overflow with produce! Which means that now is the time to start preserving some of our food. There are four methods that I like to use to preserve food: canning, freezing, lacto-fermentation, and dehydrating.
Which is best?
It’s true that certain methods of food preservation have higher health benefits than others but it comes down to is what works for you and your family.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help decide which preservation method(s) you want to use:
What do I have time for?
How much room is in my fridge or freezer?
How much dry storage space do I have?
Do I have the right equipment?
How much money can I spend?
Freezing is one of my favorite ways to preserve food. There’s nothing like adding peaches to your smoothie that you cut and froze in the summer. What about pulling a bag of green beans from the freezer at the end of a busy day? Toss them in a pan with a little fat and seasonings and you have a side dish ready to go! Do you like to make jam but don’t want to can it? Try freezer jam. Frozen fruits and vegetables retain much of their color, taste, and nutrients.
If I could I would preserve most of my fruits by freezing them, unfortunately I do not have a lot of freezer space so I end up relying a lot more on canning.
There is no end to what you can preserve by canning. Home canned foods are a time saver later on in the year. There is such a satisfaction of pulling a jar of tomato sauce off the shelf that you made yourself. Cook some pasta, brown a little ground beef and add the sauce, maybe even open a can of peas or green beans that you put up in the summer. Half the work is done for you!
When you can your own fruits and vegetables you have the satisfaction of knowing what you put in your food, unlike buying canned goods from the store. Glass jars are naturally BPA free but unfortunately the seals you buy from Ball or Kerr are not. There is a solution to that; buy reusable Tattler Lids that are BPA free. It’s a two for one; you will save money by not having to buy new seals and your canned goods will be completely BPA free. If you are a little uncertain about them, Lindsay has a great video tutorial using her Tattler Lids.
My favorite things to can are apple, peach and apricot sauces! They make perfect snacks for little ones. They are a great way to use up “seconds” or mushy fruit sitting on your counter.
Homemade jams, syrups and sauces make wonderful housewarming, hostess and Christmas gifts. It’s nice to bless others with them and they are fun to receive as well.
To start canning you have to put out some money to buy canning supplies but once you have them you will be able to reuse your jars, canner and rims for years (your seals too if you buy Tattler).
Lacto-fermentation is in my opinion the optimal preservation method. It actually improves the health benefits of the foods being preserved. Many vegetables that are hard on your digestion system when eaten raw or cooked can be easily eaten because the lacto-fermented foods are “pre digested”.
Lacto-fermentation is a time saving preservation method, since there is no heating involved. You can lacto-ferment so many things; chili sauce, salsa, carrots and pickles to name a few. Once you get started on these naturally preserved foods you might not want to switch back to their canned or store bought counter parts.
Lacto-fermented food also last for a long time. For most ferments, the flavor and texture are more fully developed over time. My jar of kimchi (Korean Sauerkraut) was even more delicious a year later.
For those of us with limited fridge space and no cold storage like root cellars it doesn’t leave a lot of room for storage. So I tend to only make a few jars at a time.
If you are a little daunted by the thought of fermenting your foods there is no need to be. Wardeh has a wonderful book put out by Idiots Guide that will teach you how to ferment almost anything!
Dehydrating foods is my newest endeavor since I got my dehydrator. I LOVE drying things! You can dry herbs from the garden to flavor foods or to make your own herbal tea blends.
Do your kids like fruit roll ups or fruit leather, but you don’t want to feed them processed sugary junk or spend the money to buy a more natural fruit leather? You can make your own raw naturally sweetened ones very easily. Wash and chop the fruit, add a little raw honey if you want, blend and pour out on wax paper or a mat that comes with your dehydrator and dry in your dehydrator. You can also dry vegetables to keep on hand for “instant” soups, perfect for camping or back packing trips.
According to “Preserving it Naturally” (the companion guide that comes with the Excalibur Dehydrator), “Dehydration is the best way to preserve the essence of raw fruits and vegetables. When raw food is heated to an internal food temperature of 118 degrees or higher, for an extended period of time, its nutritional values begin to deteriorate, especially enzymes. Dehydrating does not subject food to the high temperatures associated with cooking, or traditional canning methods.”
If you don’t have a dehydrator, that’s ok. Many people use their ovens on the lowest or warm setting. You might want to open the oven occasionally or prop the door open so that it doesn’t get too hot. The majority of the enzymes will still be preserved. I like to save my dehydrated foods in canning jars or resealable bags.
What is your favorite way to preserve your summer harvest? Do you do you do all four too?
Katie is a dorm “mama” to 12 amazing girls ages 8 to 18 at a home and school for the Deaf in Baja California, Mexico. She and her “hijas” can be frequently found in the kitchen, the garden or making friends with their new chickens. She loves to read, hike the hills near her home and spend time with her girls. In her spare time Katie blogs at Mexican Wildflower about nourishing foods, herbal remedies, simple living, raising her girls and encouraging other women in their walk with Christ.