At the beginning of the year I set a crazy goal to grow half of my own food. And to do that I, of course, have to preserve the food I grow.
I realize now that particular goal was a little too ambitious but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up. Gardening and raising animals has become one of my favorite hobbies and can be a great way to save money and result in WAY better tasting food.
I’ve recently been putting a ton of work into preserving food that I’ve grown. Here are my favorite methods for doing so. (You can use these for preserving food out of your garden or taking advantage of the surplus you get at farmers markets or the grocery store.)
Canning is one of the best ways to preserve food but for some reason I was really nervous (like, really nervous) to use a pressure canner. I had visions of exploding canners in my head but with the surplus of everything the garden is bringing I had to bite the bullet and learn.
And guess what? The pressure canner is so easy.
There are basic precautions to take but as long as you’re paying attention it’s not hard or scary. Just follow the directions and don’t leave your canner unattended for a long period of time.
I’m using a pressure canner to preserve foods like green beans, corn and pumpkin. I’ll be using a water bath canner for things like homemade spaghetti sauce, salsa and jellies.
What I Use:
- Presto Canner – There are a bunch of options when it comes to canners. I chose this particular make and model solely on the advice of a friend who has been canning for years. She advised that I get this one because other brands tend to discontinue parts for their canners.
- Ball Blue Book to Food Preserving – You can find all of the information plus more for free on the internet but I wanted to be able to have this book right in front of me for easy access.
- Mason Jars + Lids
I LOVE dehydrating food. Especially jerky and zucchini.
I’ve been making deer jerky since I was a kid and nothing store bought will ever compare. And the thing I love the most about dehydrating is that is so easy.
I wish I had specific recipes to share, but I don’t. I whip up several different versions of jerky mix, slice the meat very thinly, let the meat soak in the mixture overnight in the fridge and then let the jerky dehydrate all day long until nice and crispy. (Dehydrate for a lower amount of time if you like a chewier texture.)
For zucchini I thinly slice, sprinkle salt and pepper and leave on the dehydrator until it reaches a potato chip like texture.
What I Use:
- I have two dehydrators. (Since I make a TON of jerky I splurged on a second dehydrator last year so I could have two running at once.) I have the Nesco Snackmaster that I bought last year. I got this one because it was so highly rated on Amazon. However, I didn’t read the instructions well enough and ran it through the dishwasher (and apparently you are not supposed to let it run through the “dry” cycle) A few of the trays warped and I was disappointed.
- Open Country Dehydrator – My favorite dehydrator is this one. If I ever purchase another I would try to get this brand. It doesn’t have all the fancy features and settings that newer models have but it works very well and is surprisingly affordable.
Freezing is the easiest way to preserve food and a good place to start. As an added bonus you don’t need to purchase any special equipment to freeze.
You can freeze just about anything but there are different ways to go about each method. Here are some of the foods I freeze the most.
Freezing Corn – We grew a TON of corn this year. Part of the corn is a friend’s but even if he takes half we’ll still have more than anyone could ever eat in one summer. Luckily corn is both freezable and canner friendly.
To freeze blanch the corn by putting in a pot of boiling water for about five minutes. Move the corn to a bowl of cold water to cool down. Once the corn is cool cut corn off the cob and place in freezer bags.
Freezing Fruits – Fruits are really easy to freeze and good for use in recipes or smoothies after being frozen.
To freeze fruit wash and cut up. Then place parchment paper on baking sheets and spread the food out so that it’s not touching. Place in your freezer until frozen solid. (This usually takes 3-4 hours.) Once the fruit is frozen stick in freezer bags and label.
Freezing Bread – I’m not a big bread maker until I start dealing with five billion zucchini that five plants to seem produce. (If you’ve ever grown zucchini you know what I’m talking about!) Once that happens I’m making a ton of zucchini bread.
A couple years ago I was given Jamie’s grandmas zucchini bread recipe. And OMG – the best stuff I’ve ever tasted. Since then I’ve made the recipe, gave a loaf to each and every one of my family members and then froze the rest.
And again, freezing bread if super easy to do.
To freeze bread I wrap individual loafs in plastic wrap (after they’re cool) and then place them freezer in bags. When you’re ready to eat just thaw it out ahead of time. Super easy.
Freezing Herbs – I’ve got a decent herb garden going this year and I just LOVE being able to walk to my back porch to pick herbs. I’ve even got some peppermint growing in my living room windowsill which is my absolute favorite. (I often put peppermint leaves in my water. I love the taste as they soak but also eat the leaves when I’ve drank all my water.)
Freezing herbs couldn’t be easier. To freeze simply wash and cut up your herbs. Place a teaspoon full (or more) in the bottom of an ice cube tray and then fill the tray. Once done pop the herb infused ice cubes in a freezer bag. When you need some of your herb pull out ice cubes and let them thaw out.
It’s Easy and Addicting
If you would’ve asked me a few years ago if I thought I would be preserving my own food I would’ve responded with a big ole “NO.” But truth be told I’ve come to really enjoy not only the process and money savings, but the quality of food I get from doing this.
If you’re interested in preserving your own food start by freezing or dehydrating something and see how you like it. If you’re like me you’ll get addicted to the process and within a year will have a bunch of food you’ve preserved yourself.
Do you preserve your own food? If so what are the things you LOVE preserving each year?