Interested in preserving foods at home but don’t know where to start? You might be surprised to learn there are a variety of food preservation methods – canning, drying, freezing, and fermenting, to name a few. There are several methods that require little equipment which makes it easier to try out food preservation without spending lots of money.
If you would like to start with a simple form of food preservation, try preserving herbs. Herbs can be frozen and dried. Freeze herbs quickly either whole or cut by spacing the herbs out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for about 2 hours. Another option is to chop herbs into pieces and place pinches of the herbs into ice cube trays and cover with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or water and freeze. Once frozen, the herbs can be stored in a freezer container or bag and placed back in the freezer. Push excess air out of the bag to avoid freezer burn. Label packages with the name of the herb and the date it was packaged. Use within 3-6 months for best quality. Alternatively, there are four methods for drying herbs – oven, microwave, air, and dehydrator. Store dried herbs in an air-tight, labeled container in a cool, dry, dark place and use within a year for best quality. To learn more about these freezing and drying methods, check out OSU Extension’s Ohioline fact sheet here.
Refrigerator pickles are another quick and easy option if you are looking to try out food preservation. This process is fun, easy, and contains lots of variety. For example, you can pickle a wide range of vegetables, select from an assortment of flavorings, and choose between sour or sweet brine. Start the process by washing and chopping the vegetables into the desired shape. The vegetables will not require cooking prior to pickling. Next, select flavorings – mix and match up to 2 tablespoons of fresh and dried herbs and spices per jar such as bay leaves, celery seed, dill seed, mustard seed, pickling spice, turmeric, garlic, or horseradish. Next, pack the prepared vegetables tightly into washed pint-sized canning jars. Make the brine either sweet or sour by using 3 cups white vinegar and 3 cups water. For sour brine add 3 tablespoons of pickling salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar to the vinegar/water mixture. For sweet brine add 2 tablespoons of pickling salt and 1 ½ cups sugar to the vinegar/water mixture. Bring the brine to a boil and let boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Next, fill the jars with brine to within ½ inch from the top of the rim. The recipes above should fill up to 4 jars. Place lids on the jars and refrigerate. Let flavor develop 1-2 days before serving and use within 2 weeks. To learn more about this simple pickling process, check out North Carolina Extension’s guide here.
Preserving uncooked jams and jellies is another relatively easy way to save your harvest for later. This is a great option because no processing is required but that means these jams and jellies must be stored in a refrigerator or freezer. Essential ingredients for uncooked jams and jellies include fruit, pectin, acid, and sugar. Basic equipment typically needed for freezer jams and jellies include a bowl large enough (2-3 quart) to hold the fruit and sugar, a small pan to heat powdered pectin and water, measuring cups, and mixing spoons. If extracting juice for jelly, you will also need a jelly bag or cloth. Finally, you will need glass canning jars or food-grade plastic containers designed for the freezer. When filling the containers, leave some room for the jams and jellies to expand. To learn more about this type of food preservation, check out OSU Extension’s Ohioline fact sheet here.
Starting out with these easy methods of food preservation may give you a sense of whether you would like to pursue food preservation further. Food safety is a priority with home food preservation so if you have questions about this topic, reach out to us at the Wayne County Extension office at 330-264-8722. If you’re using a pressure canner for home food preservation, have your canner’s dial gauge tested once a year. Our next canner testing is August 19, 2021 from 9am to 1pm at Lehman’s in Kidron.
Sara Meeks is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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