If you have the produce, the storage space, determination, and a friend to rope into helping, preserving your fall harvest vegetables should a snap. Besides, you’ll need a little reminder of the summer warmth when the winter winds howl and you’re making dinner with some of your preserved foodstuffs.
Entire classes are taught – and should be – on how to properly can and process foods safely. Please note the website address for the National Center For Home Food Preservation and refer to it frequently should you have any questions: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/
There are 8 major ways to preserve foods: canning, freezing, drying, curing, fermenting, pickling, making jams or jellies and storing. Some foods are flexible, and others will work well with only one type of technique. For the sake of brevity and common sense, I’ll utilize the easiest of the techniques for each vegetable.
Based on the Virginia Fruit & Vegetable Availability Calendar as published by the Cooperative Extension, the following vegetables could be considered part of our fall harvest.
Broccoli is best frozen after brining the stalks to remove insects. Water blanch (3 minutes) or steam blanch (5 minutes). Cool, drain. Place into freezer bags with no “headspace.” Seal and place in freezer.
Water blanch ears (4 min), cool and cut away from cob. Package the kernels leaving ½” headspace.
Cucumbers can be pickled and canned, although to be honest, the requirements of pickling go well beyond the scope of this article.
A local Amish writer and cook, in her column for the Daily News Records, cites this specific “easy” recipe for pickling as successful for freezing cucumbers:
2 quarts cucumbers (sliced)
2 tablespoons salt
1 large onion (sliced)
1 ¾ cup sugar
½ cup vinegar
Put ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate for 24 hours. Drain. Mix sugar and ½ cup vinegar and pour over pickles. Cover and refrigerate for 24 more hours. Take out of refrigerator or cellar and pack in freezer boxes. Pour syrup over pickles and freeze. These are really good and crisp.
Green beans can be canned, frozen or dried. To freeze them, wash younger beans in cold water. Cut into 2-4″ lengths. Water blanch (3 minutes). Cool, drain and put in freezer bag with ½” headspace. Seal and freeze.
Green peppers can be frozen or dried. To freeze, cut out stem and seeds. Cut lengthwise or into rings. Water blanch (2-3 minutes), drain, and bag with a ½” headspace. You can also package these unheated for later use in uncooked foods. After cleaning, and deseeding, package raw leaving no headspace.
Peppers can be dried in a home food dehydrator according to manufacturer directions.
Pumpkins can be frozen after the following preparation. If you have a dry root cellar, pumpkins may also keep whole well into the winter. To prepare pumpkin for freezing, cook until soft via boiling water, steaming, baking, pressure cooking, etc. When soft and cool, remove pulp from rind and mash. Package with ½” headspace.
Summer squash (zucchini & yellow squash) can be cut into ½” slices, water blanched (3 minutes), cooled, and packaged for freezing with ½” headspace.
Winter squash can be stored or cooked, mashed and frozen as with pumpkins.
Tomatoes can be canned, dried or frozen. To prepare “raw,” wash whole tomato and dip in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen skin. Cool, core and peel. Cut into chunks and package, leaving a 1″ headspace.
Good luck enjoying – literally – the fruits of your labors!
2010 Shenandoah Valley Buy Fresh Buy Local newsletter, Virginia Cooperative
Preparation: Drying Vegetables, No. 9.308, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension
Daily News Record article on freezer pickles: