Canning and Freezing Fruits and Vegetables
Canning and freezing your fruits and vegetables is an easy and affordable way to extend the life of your summer garden harvest. If done properly, you can enjoy fresh, natural foods year-round. Follow these tips for food preparation and food storage, ensuring the best quality produce for you and your family:
- When it comes to harvesting, choose ripe (but not overripe) fruits and vegetables, free of blemishes and bruises. Gather crops in the morning, and only pick the amount you can process in two to three hours.
- Rinse - don't soak - produce in cold water and, if needed, use a vegetable brush to remove excess dirt. Peel, stem, pit or slice each item as desired and sort according to size for even heating, cooling and packing.
- Use Mason jars to can fruits and vegetables. They are heat-tempered and sturdy enough for proper storage and their smooth, flat edges are perfect for sealing lids properly. Before each canning season, check all jars and lids for chips, nicks or cracks that could ruin the seal and cause spoilage. Thoroughly clean all tools and jars with hot water and soap prior to canning.
- All produce should be blanched, heating for a short time in water or steam to deactivate the enzymes responsible for loss of nutrition, flavor and texture during storage. To avoid overcooking, promptly chill the produce in ice water for the same amount of time they were blanched.
- Whether freezing, water-bath canning or pressure canning your produce, leave a 1/2 inch of space for expansion at the top of each container. For proper amount of time and pressure when canning, follow recipes specific to each fruit or vegetable.
- Test the seal on your jars by pressing the center of the metal lid and making sure it does not move. Label and date all jars, storing them in a cool, dry, dark space or freezing them at 0 degrees or below.