Wouldn’t some home-grown peas, tomatoes or squash taste good next January? While you’re too late to start a garden this year, shop for good buys on delicious seasonal fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or at farmers markets. Maybe you are lucky and have friends or relatives with extra fruits and vegetables to share with you. Gardening and food preservation can pay off by promoting a healthier diet. Depending on the equipment you already have, you could save some money by preserving food at home. Some studies report for every $1 spent on seeds, you get $10 worth of fresh produce. That depends on a good season and knowledge of gardening.
Canning and freezing are examples of food preservation. Canning requires the largest investment in equipment and supplies, such as a canner, jars and lids. If you have freezer space, freezing is easy to do and it requires little special equipment other than a stove, large kettle and metal basket. To freeze foods properly, remember these tips:
· Choose containers made for freezer storage, such as freezer bags or plastic freezer containers. Good freezer containers keep moisture in and air out.
· Blanch, or heat treat, as directed. Blanching is scalding vegetables or fruits in steam or boiling water for a short period of time. If you do not blanch, vegetables may discolor, toughen or develop off-color or off-flavors during frozen storage.
· Label containers with contents and date.
· For best quality, use frozen vegetables within 12 months.
If you would like to preserve food in jars for shelf storage, follow these recommendations for a safe product:
· Always use research-tested recipes available from your Extension Service office. For safety, do not alter ingredient proportions. If you create your own recipe and want to preserve it, freezing is the safest option.
· If you plan to can tomatoes for use in soup, spaghetti sauce or other recipes, be sure to acidify tomatoes with the recommended amount of lemon juice or citric acid prior to canning. Add 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice (or ¼ teaspoon of citric acid) per pint of tomatoes or 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice (or ½ teaspoon of citric acid) per quart.
· Be sure to seal jams and jellies with a regular canning lid (not wax) and process them in a boiling-water-bath for five to 10 minutes, depending on altitude. Enjoy your preserves at their best quality. Store canned goods in a cool, dark place. For best quality, use home-canned goods within one year.
· Pressure canning is required for safety when canning low-acid foods such as corn, beans, meat and many mixtures of foods. Do not can these in a boiling-water bath canner. Use a pressure canner and current U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines. Be sure to read the instructions that came with your canner. Have the pressure gauge tested every year to be sure it is accurate.
Information from “http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/foodwise/newsletters.htm.” For more information on this topic, contact Luella Morehouse, FNP Education Assistant, NDSU Extension Service Stutsman County, at firstname.lastname@example.org.