Freezing and canning are wonderful ways to preserve the bounty of your garden, local market, and/or even sales at your grocery store. If you’ve never preserved food before, it may seem a bit overwhelming. Maybe you’ve dabbled a bit in canning or freezing (most of us freeze foods at one time or another!), but you’ve never made a habit of it or attempted to feed your family on preserved foods through the winter. Regardless of where you are in the food preservation experience, a basic guide can be very helpful.
Here is a brief overview of canning and freezing.
What Foods to Preserve and When
Pretty much any produce can be preserved by canning and/or freezing. While the fresher the better, you don’t have to have a garden. You can preserve foods from your local farmers’ market and grocery store too. It’s a great way to take advantage of sales, but beware – sometimes great deals on produce mean the produce is on the verge of decay. That kind of sale produce is best eaten that same day. But if there’s a sale on fresh produce, go for it.
Toward the end of the growing season, you may find some great sales at your local farmers’ market or open air market. Bell peppers and tomatoes may still be picked fresh and ripe at the end of September, but the vendors are wrapping things up for the summer and will often have good deals.
Learning what foods are in season is a good way to find not only the freshest foods that will be available, but also to anticipate sales. If you know that peaches are in season from June to August, for instance, then you can keep an eye out for sales in mid-August.
You can also can or freeze meats and fish, which you may find on sale periodically at your local market.
For canning, you’ll need some basic items:
* Wide-mouth funnel
* Wide-mouth canning jars in whatever size(s) you like
* Large tongs with rubber coating (or jar lifter)
* Pressure canner and/or large, deep pot
* Kitchen timer
For freezing, you need some simpler items:
* Zip top freezer bags
* Wax paper
* Cookie sheets or trays
* Ice cube trays (for chopped herbs or purees)
A good book is another optional but handy piece of equipment for both freezing and canning. You can read it and get an idea of what you want to do, and a book will also have canning recipes.
* Sterilization is essential. Everything – jars, tongs, lids, etc. – should be boiled for 10 minutes before use.
* Low-acid foods need to be pressure-canned to make sure all bacteria are gone.
* When freezing plastic bags, place them on a tray so that the bag does not sag between the rungs of the freezer shelf.
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