Everyone looks forward to fall and the beautiful fruits and vegetables that are harvested. Not only are they bursting with flavour but they are also the best price of the season. Be sure to stock up on your favourite fruits and vegetables and preserve them for the winter. With a little extra effort you will be enjoying the taste of summer all year round. Below are some tips on how you can preserve your summer fruit and vegetables:
1. Wash your fruit and or vegetables in cold water. Drain well on a clean tea towel or paper towels. Remove all excess moisture and ensure your fruit is completely dry to avoid forming ice crystals.
2. Tray freeze your produce by placing pieces in a single layer on a cookie sheet or shallow pan, and place uncovered in freezer for 1 to 2 hours. Tray freezing allows fruits and vegetables to maintain their shape and avoid sticking together. But don’t forget about them! Leaving them like this for more than 2 hours will give them freezer burn.
3. Fruits and vegetables contain a high proportion of water which will form ice crystals when frozen. The sharp edges and corners of the ice crystals will puncture cell walls softening the texture and causing juice loss. To minimize ice crystals drain the fruits well and freeze them as quickly as possible. Keep your freezer at a constant temperature of -18°C (0°F) or lower.
4. To avoid freezer burn, use appropriate packaging. Remove as much air as possible from the packages before freezing the fruits and vegetables.
In some instances, you should blanch your fruit and vegetables before freezing it. Fruits that have skin (like peaches, apricots and tomatoes) are best to freeze when they are blanched as this loosens their skin so it’s easy to slip off. Berries don’t require blanching, however you do want to be sure to wash and remove their stems before freezing. There are two methods to blanching:
- Boiling: place your fruit or veg (one at a time) in boiling water for 30 seconds and then remove it with a slotted spoon. Immediately place in an ice bath to cool it. If it has a skin (ie. peaches), peel the skin and remove the pit. Cut the fruit or veg into desired size and follow the remaining steps above.
- Steaming: place your fruit or veg in a steamer basket and lower into a large covered pot for 15 seconds. Remove the steamer rack and proceed with the remaining steps to freezing.
1. When drying summer produce, it’s best to remove all peels, seeds and pits.
2. Slice your produce into thin slices (make sure to slice and not cube the produce). There is no need to cut small fruit such as blueberries and raspberries.
3. Use a dehydrator for the best results (and to save time!) However, if you don’t have a dehydrator, lay your fruit/veg on a single layer of a cookie sheet and dry in the oven at 200°F. Depending on the thickness of your slices, it could take 8 hours or more to dry. Be sure to check on them periodically to ensure they don’t burn. You will know they are ready when there is no moisture remaining and they have a chewy texture.
4. Store in an airtight container.
Different fruits and vegetables require different canning methods. For the best results, it’s best to follow a recipe specific to the type of fruit you are using. With peaches and apricots for example:
1. Blanch and peel your peaches. It takes about 5 regular sized peaches to fill 1 quart jar.
2. Slice peaches into quarters and remove the pit.
3. Place the sliced peaches into a bowl and pour ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice over them. The lemon juice will keep the peaches from browning.
4. Make the syrup by boiling 6 cups of water in a large pot. For light syrup, add 2 cups of sugar, medium syrup add 3 cups of sugar and for heavy syrup add 4 cups of sugar.
5. Stir the sugar water mixture slowly until the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring the water to a gentle boil.
6. Once it’s reached a boil, turn the heat down to simmer.
7. Bring another pot of water to boil for the jars. Be sure to use sterile jars (to sterile your jars, simply run them through the dishwasher).
8. Once the water has boiled, place the jar lids in the water. Keep the lids in the water until you have filled the jars with your peaches.
9. Place your sliced peaches into the simmering syrup mixture and stir for 5 minutes until your peaches are coated.
10. Ladle the peaches into jars, leaving ½ inch of space at the top of the jar. Run a small spatula around the inside of the jar. This will remove air bubbles trapped in the jar.
11. Once all jars have been filled, pour the remaining syrup from the pot into the jar, again leaving ½ inch of space from the top. Be sure to wipe off any spills, especially in the lid area of the jar.
12. Use a magnetic lid lifter or tongs to retrieve the lids from the boiling water and place and secure them on your jars.
13. Place jars in a canner, leaving 1-2 inches of water above the jars. If you don’t have a canner, place a washcloth or towel at the bottom of a large pot and fill with water. The cloth will keep the jars from directly touching the bottom of the pot.
14. Leave the jars in the boiling water for 15-20 minutes.
15. When ready, use a jar lifter to remove the jars from the water. Set them on a towel and allow them to cool completely for 12-24 hours.
16. Check the lids before your store them. The lids shouldn’t pop out if you press on them. If the lid does pop, put the jar in the fridge and be sure to eat the fruit within a week. Properly sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place. Once jars are opened they should be refrigerated and consumed within a week.