When your fruit trees and vegetable garden start producing like crazy, you’ll want to make good use of all the nutritious goodies while they’re fresh. But you can only make so much tomato salsa and apple pies, even if you delight your friends and neighbors with the fruits of your harvest. Freezing, drying, canning and pickling are all ways you can stock up for winter and preserve your bounty. With only a few tools, you’ll be able to put up jams, make dried fruit and freeze both fruits and veggies and maybe learn how your grandmother used to spend her summers.
Freeze many types of fruit for later use. For example, if you make applesauce, you can put it in plastic zipper bags or sealable containers and freeze it for later use. Some fruits do well in the freezer if you put them through a food processor or blender, add a bit of lemon or lime juice to prevent discoloration. Vegetables such as green beans freeze well too—blanch them first by steaming or boiling them for one minute, rinse in cold water, pat dry, and then transfer to freezer containers. Juice oranges, lemons and limes and freeze the juice in plastic freezer containers.
Dry fruit such as apricots by slicing firm, fresh fruit and then placing the slices in a food dehydrator. You can make sun-dried tomatoes by slicing Roma-type tomatoes thickly and then laying them on an old window screen in a sunny location. Leave them in the sun all day and then move them indoors at night. In just a few days, you’ll have tasty dried tomatoes that you can store in plastic zipper bags, sealable jars or your freezer.
Make jam, jelly or butter from your plums, apricots, strawberries, oranges, apples, peaches and more. Many recipes are available in cookbooks and the Internet. Experiment to learn what you and your family like the best. You’ll need glass canning jars with lids or paraffin wax to seal them, sugar, pectin and a canning kettle for the hot water bath they require to make the jars seal.
Can fruits and some vegetables in pint and quart jars in a hot water bath. Tomatoes are easy to process: Dunk fresh tomatoes in boiling water for one minute, then slip off the skins. Pack them into sterilized jars, whole or in chunks. You can make an all-purpose canned tomato by adding only salt. Then when you use them, you can add Italian spices for spaghetti sauces or hot peppers for chile. Add cilantro for salsa.
Make pickles from cucumbers, zucchini, cauliflower and other vegetables. You can pickle just about anything—an interesting, pretty jar might contain carrots, cauliflower, onion slices, red bell peppers and green tomatoes. Pickling requires that you make a brine from vinegar, water and salt, which you pour over your sliced vegetables in sealable jars.