Preserving vegetables at home by Sydneys Green Garden

There are many different ways you can preserve your vegetables so you can have fresh, pesticide free vegetables all year long. Each vegetable has a way of preserving it that is best for that vegetable. Some vegetables have many ways they can be preserved.

We are going to show you 6 ways to preserve your vegetables.

1. Root cellar or cold storage. Any storage area that will keep vegetables cool (32 to 40 degrees) but not freezing them is ideal.

2. Drying. Microwave or dehydrator.

3. Unblanched freezing. You can put in freezer bags without boiling.

4. Blanched freezing and blanched freezing in boilable bags. With blanched freezing or blanched freezing in boilable bags, the vegetables will be submerged in boiling water and then placed in cold water. Boilable bags can be found on the internet. Just google, bing, etc. and enter boilable bags. The cost is approximately 16 cents a bag. You cannot use any type of freezer bags, i.e. Ziploc, Glad.

5. Steam blanched freezing. Preheated water creating steam using a metal colander over a large pot.

6. Canning. There are two ways to can vegetables, Boiling Water Bath Canning and Pressure Canning. We will explain the Boiling Water Bath.

VEGETABLE – RECOMMNEDED WAY TO PRESERVE

Asparagus – Blanched Freezing in Boilable Bags

Beans – Unblanched Freezing

Beets – Root Cellar

Broccoli – Steam Blanched Freezing

Brussel Sprouts – Crisper or Unblanched Freezing

Carrots – Crisper or Root Cellar

Cucumbers – Freezing or Pickling

Herbs – Drying

Onions – Root Cellar

Peas – Blanched Freezing in Boilable Bags

Peppers – Unblanched Freezing

Potatoes – Root Cellar

Tomatoes – Root Cellar, Unblanched Freezing, Blanched Freezing, or Canning

Zucchini – Blanched Freeziing in Boilable Bags

ROOT CELLAR OR COLD STORAGE

If you have a root cellar or a place that maintains a temperature of 32 to 40 degrees you can store many vegetables without processing.
These vegetables we recommend for cold storage.

1. Beets. Leave in garden until late fall. A few frosts will not harm them. Try to dig beets on a sunny day. Cut the tops off, leaving an inch of stem. Leave the roots on. Let the beets lie on the ground, where animals cannot get to them, until the following day. Brush off the soil on the roots, but do not wash. Have a plastic lined cardboard box; add 2 to 4 inches of fresh sawdust. Add a single layer of beets, leaving 2 inches between each beet. (2 inches for storage areas that will remain above freezing). Repeat procedure until you are 2 inches from the top of the box. Beets kept in a root cellar will remain fresh and taste sweet well into late spring. If you do not have sawdust, store box in a cool location. They will not last as long as stored in sawdust but they should be good for at least 3 months. Also, sawdust can be very messy.

2. Brussels Sprouts. Store in crisper area of your refrigerator in a Zip lock bag. You can also wash the sprouts, dry them and put in a freezer bag in the freezer for longer term storage.

3. Carrots. Leave in the garden until you are ready to store them. Actually, carrots taste better if you harvest after a frost. A few frosts will not hurt the carrots. Dig them out and cut the tops off close to the carrots and leave them out for two hours in the sun to kill the feeder roots. Make sure you do not leave them where the animals can get to them. Do not wash them. Brush off the excess soil.
You can store carrots in damp, not wet, sand. Store in cold area. (35 to 40 degrees) They will keep until late spring.
You can also place a plastic bag in a cardboard box and fill with 2 inches of fresh sawdust on bottom and around the sides. Fill with one row of carrots and put another 2 inches of sawdust over the carrots and fill until you get to the top of the box. Fold over the top of the box. Store in cold area.
You can also store carrots by simply putting them in a freezer bag and storing in the crisper part of your refrigerator. Put a couple of holes in the bag to prevent rot. The carrots will last over three months this way and it is easy. This is the way I store my carrots.

4. Onions. When the tops have fallen over (on their own, do not bend) and the stems have almost completely dried, it is time to store. This is usually in late summer or early fall. Harvest the onions and dry them in the sun for a day. The best test to make sure your onions are ready for storage is if the outer skins are totally dry and can be slipped off easily. This usually takes 2-3 weeks. After this process is completed, place onions in a mesh bag and put in a cool, dry place. If you do not have a mesh bag, you can also store in a box.

5. Potatoes. Wait until the tops die off. Pull the tops from the ground 10 days before digging up your potatoes. Do not wash. After you have harvested your potatoes, keep them at room temperature, 60 to 75 degrees, for 10 to 14 days. Make sure the skins dry out enough to prevent moisture loss. The storage area should be out of any light. You can store your potatoes in open boxes, crates or bins where the temperature is around 40 degrees. Don’t put apples in the same place as storing your potatoes unless you have a well-ventilated room.

6. Tomatoes. Try to pick all your large tomatoes before a hard frost. Use the green ones if you are storing in root cellar. Place in a single layer on trays or low boxes. Cover with newspaper, two or three layers. Look at tomatoes often and remove the ones that have ripened. If there is any spoilage, take out right away. The tomatoes will ripen in 4 to 6 weeks. Using this process, the tomatoes will not taste as good as summer tomatoes but will definitely taste better than transported tomatoes. (see also unblanched and blanched freezing and canning tomatoes).

DRYING

The easiest way to dry herbs is in your microwave. You may also have a dehydrator in which case you will follow the directions that came with it.

1. Herbs. Wash carefully, be sure not to bruise the leaves, and dry completely. Spread a single layer onto a double thickness paper toweling and put in microwave oven. Microwave on high power for 1 – 2 minutes at a time. Between intervals, rearrange the herbs so that you have more even drying. After the second or third time your herbs will be noticeable dryer. Change the time to ½ to 1 minute, until your herbs are completely dry. Let cool and pack into airtight containers.

UNBLANCHED FREEZING
(no boiling needed)

1. Beans. Use beans that have not fully matured. They should be long and slender. Pick your beans late in the day. Trim both ends of the bean. Wash, drain, and pat dry completely. Pack in quart or gallon size freezer bags. Press out as much air as you can, seal and then freeze. These beans will still retain good quality up to 6 months.

2. Bell Peppers. Use fully mature peppers. They can be whole or halves. Wash and cut out the stem, white membrane, and all the seeds. Tray-freeze. In 12-to 24 hours package in freezer boxes or bags.

3. Cucumbers. Pick 6 to 8 firm cucumbers. Wash and slice thinly or use a food processor. Thinly slice 1 medium onion. Add onions to 2 quarts of sliced cucumbers in a large bowl. Mix in 2 tablespoons salt. Let stand 2 hours. Drain and rinse well in cold water. Drain well again. Put cucumbers in a rinsed bowl. Mix together 2/3-cup oil, 2/3-cup vinegar and 2/3-cup sugar with 1-teaspoon celery seed. Add to cucumber bowl and mix. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Use freezer jars or rigid containers, leaving at least 1 inch at the top. Freeze.

4. Peppers (cayenne, jalapeno, hungarians and other peppers). Wash thoroughly, dry and pack in freezer bags. You do not need to cut the peppers up.

5. Tomatoes. Wash and core tomatoes. Place on cookie sheets and put in the coldest part of your freezer. When they are fully frozen, pack in freezer bags.

BLANCHED FREEZING IN BOILING BAGS
(filled bags must be submerged in boiling water, making sure the water comes back to a boil each time you blanch)

1. Asparagus. Pick when the shoots are 6-8 inches high and a little thicker than a pencil. All of your shoots should be picked except the smaller ones, as they will continue to grow. Heat water for blanching. Wash by rubbing gently with a vegetable brush as you can easily bruise asparagus. Chop off the tough ends or snap at the brittle point. Cut into pieces or sort spears. Pack in boilable bags, adding butter and/or seasonings to your taste. Press out all the air in the bag and seal them. Blanch bags, 4 at a time, in the boiling water for 4-8 minutes depending on their size. Cool in ice water, dry the bags, then freeze.

2. Peas. (Not Sugar Snap Peas, see below) Pick your peas as soon as they fill the pod. Start at the bottom of the plant since these are the first to mature. Pick in late afternoon to gain the sweetest flavor. Snow peas have to be picked before the pea seed starts to develop. Begin heating water for blanching. Shell peas, wash and drain. Put in 1-pint boilable freezer bags adding butter and/or seasonings to your taste. Blanch four bags at a time for 4 minutes. Cool your bags in ice water, dry outside of bags and freeze.

3. Tomatoes. Heat water in a large pot to boiling. Wash tomatoes. Fill sink with cold water. Place tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and place in sink with cold water. Remove, peel skin and core. Use rigid containers or freezer bags, pressing out as much air as you can, leaving 1 inch on top. Dry outside of bags. Freeze.

4. Zucchini. Wash, drain and pat dry. Trim the ends. Put ¼ inch slices in a boilable freezer bag. Add butter and/or seasonings as desired. Press out any air and seal. Blanch bags, four at a time in boiling water for 5 minutes. Cool in ice water, dry outside of bags, freeze.

STEAM BLANCHED FREEZING

1. Broccoli. Soak in cold, salted water for ½ hour to remove dirt. Preheat water for the steam blanching. Drain, rinse, divide in same size pieces or chop. To make the whole broccoli cook at the same time, make long cross cuts in stalk. Taking one pound at a time, steam blanch for 5 minutes. Cool in ice water, drain, place in freezer bags, pressing out as much air as you can. Freeze.

2. Sugar Snap Peas. Sugar snap peas can be picked when ever you want, even up to the time they fill the pod tightly. Wash, trim ends and remove strings. Preheat water until steaming. Taking 1 pound at a time, blanch for 2 to 4½ minutes. Cool in ice water, drain, pat dry and tray freeze. (Place on a cookie sheet in single layer). Freeze thoroughly. After freezing pack in freezer bags or freezer containers.

CANNING

Tomatoes, whole or ½. Wash tomatoes, heat water in the blancher and boiling-water-bath-canner. Fill your sink or large pan with cold water. Put the tomatoes in boiling water, 2 or 3 at a time. Heat for 30 seconds. Place in cold water. After cool, take the tomatoes out of the water, peel and core. Sterilize your jars and lids in a dishwasher or boiling water for 1 minute. IMPORTANT: Add citric acid, ¼ teaspoon for a pint or ½ teaspoon for a quart size jar or add lemon juice, 1 tablespoon for a pint or 2 tablespoons for a quart size jar. Pack tomatoes in tightly, leaving ½ inch on top. Add boiling water or juice up to the ½ inch top. If desired, you can add salt, ½ teaspoon for a pint, 1 teaspoon for a quart. Place cap on jars and lower in canner so lids are covered with water and process for 45 minutes (pints) and 50 minutes (quarts).

*From the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven Hopp and Camille Kingsolver, published by Harper:

I recommend everyone read this book. It has great recipes and will give you a thorough understanding of how our food supply works and how you can grow your own food.

*Family Secret Tomato Sauce

If you are canning, stick closely to the recipe; adding additional fresh vegetables will change the pH so it’s unsafe for water-bath canning. If you’re freezing it, then it’s fine to throw in peppers, mushrooms, fresh garlic, whatever you want. This recipe makes 6-7 quarts – you can use a combination of pint and quart canning jars or freezer boxes.
Tomato Puree – Wash, core and slice tomatoes in quarters. Puree in a food processor or a hand-cranked strainer.

10 quarts tomato puree (about 30 pounds of tomatoes)
4 large onions, chopped
1 cup dried basil
½ cup honey
4 tablespoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons ground dried lemon peel
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons garlic powder (or more, to taste)
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg

Soften onions in a heavy 3 gallon kettle – add a small amount of water if necessary but no oil if you are canning (VERY IMPORTANT). Add pureed tomatoes and all seasonings, bring to a boil, and simmer on low heat for two to three hours until sauce has thickened to your liking. Stir frequently, especially toward the end to avoid burning. Meanwhile, heat water in canner bath, sterilize jars in boiling water or dishwasher, and pour boiling water over jar lids.

Bottled lemon juice or citric acid – NOT optional!

Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice OR ½ teaspoon citric acid to each quart jar, (using ½ the amount when using pint jars). This will make sure that the sauce will be safely acidic. When the sauce is ready, ladle it into the jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Cap jars, lower into the canner, making sure lids are covered with water, and boil for 35 minutes. Remove, cool, check all seals, label and store.