Nutrition-wise blog

Calling all gardeners: Preserve your harvest

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. August 7, 2013

Warm days. Cool nights. Lengthening shadows. Autumn is around the corner.  

Now is the time to make plans for preserving your summer bounty so you can enjoy these foods when the weather cools off. Whether you freeze, dry, pickle or can, here are some tips for ensuring that your summer delights are safe and tasty:

  • Stick with recipes. It's best not to guess. Good safe recipes will guide you through the process from washing and preparing produce for canning, to filling and sealing containers, to labeling and storing them. The National Center for Home Food Preservation, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides research-based, practical recommendations.
  • Put safety first. A food thermometer is essential to follow the recipe to ensure bacteria are destroyed and jars are tightly sealed. Follow the recipe's recommendations for storage — usually in a cool, dry, dark place. Refrigerate after opening. Discard anything you doubt, such as anything that is off color or smelly.
  • Be picky. Plan to preserve your best produce. Avoid those that are bruised, punctured or cracked open, or have off colors or texture. The best time to preserve produce is when it is at its peak — brightly colored and plump.
  • Use the right method for the right produce. Some foods are better frozen or pickled, while others are better canned or dried (dehydrated).
  • Use the right equipment. Use jars, lids and bands meant for canning. Other equipment includes a large pot (boiling-water bath), pressure cooker, funnel, jar lifter and ruler (to ensure jars are filled to proper level). A food thermometer is essential to ensure your produce is cooked to the right temperature to destroy harmful bacteria.

I plan to start small, with some jam, pickles and dried apples. I fondly remember my mother's crabapple jelly so I may give that a go too. What will you try and why?

- Jennifer

Aug. 07, 2013