From the fermented bean of Green Bean.
Hmm, wrong adage. What I mean to say is that there is more than one way to preserve seasonal produce. When I first began trying to eat seasonally, I envisioned myself scrubbing jam off the ceiling and cooking down bits of stone fruits into a brown mash that would last for years.
After preserving for four years now, I have to say that it is nothing like that. Anyone - no matter where they live and how much time they have - can preserve produce in some delicious way, shape or form.
CANNING: Yes, I can! Mostly with a water bath canner because, I'll be honest, pressure canners scare me. I've brewed up more jars of jam than I can count over the last few years - covering all the different kinds of berries and even hitting on some straight up red pepper and plum pepper. The latter were divine with cheese and bread but not exactly kid or waist-line friendly so I mostly opt for fruit jam these days.
You can also do pickles and relish in a water bath canner. I've yet to land on a pickle recipe that I love but the pickle relish from the Ball Canning Cookbook is wonderful. So are various tomato jam and relish recipes that I've tried over the years. Chutney also rocks!
Pressure canning takes more time and attention but it lets you can almost anything - just read the directions and recipes first!! I pressure canned some pasta sauce using my own recipe and apparently that is a no-no. I ended up sticking everything in the freezer because I was paranoid that I had messed it up.
DEHYDRATING: Electric deyhdrators are everywhere these days - including the local thrift store. There are also several models for solar dehydrating. You slice your fruit or veggie - or meat if you are making jerky - real thin, plug it in and day later, viola! Persimmons that your family wouldn't touch are now viewed as candy. An overabundance of apples because "apple chips" that will last for, pretty much, ever. Tomatoes can be dried and put on pizzas in the winter. Or, you can rehydrate your lovies later in soup, stew and what not.
I used to dehydrate blueberries but frankly they shrunk so small that I decided the better option was freezing.
FREEZING: This is not my preferred option for most foods - except blueberries! And overripe bananas that are chopped up for smoothies. In any event, to freeze blueberries just wash them, let them air dry and then stick them on a cookie sheet in the freezer until frozen. I store mine in glass canning jars. Other fruit and certain vegetables (corn, peppers) can also be frozen. Most of my experience, though, has been that the fruit is only suitable for smoothies or cooking once thawed and the vegetables have tended to taste like freezer burn.
FERMENTING: Last summer, I'll confess that I didn't preserve anything. We moved in the middle of harvest season and, with all the packing and unpacking, I gave up. I did sign up for the "Preserve Share" with my local CSA. It ended up being a pricey endeavor that I doubt I'll repeat BUT I did encounter, among other things, fermenting vegetables and kimchi. I'd never considered fermentation before but woohoo, I'm so trying it this summer! Any tips? Links to good fermenting sites, books or recipes?
NOT PRESERVING: The final lesson that I have learned is that not all produce is worth preserving. Watermelon rinds? Um, I know that the pioneers did this big time but my dad was the only one willing to eat any of ours. Also, for me, strawberries were not worth preserving in any form other than jam. I live in California where we have strawberries 9 months a year. I spent on summer dehydrating them like mad only to find myself eating dried strawberries when fresh ones were available.
Do you preserve the harvest? Why or why not? If you are interested in learning more about food preservation, check out The Green Moms Carnival this month over at A Farmer's Daughter. It goes live on Monday, July 18th!