Summer is the season when it comes to enjoying the seasonal bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables available locally.
Since not everyone can eat their weight in berries or corn before they spoil, preserving these seasonal gems can help you not only enjoy the rich taste in-season produce provides, but it can even help you cut your grocery bill throughout the year. It also means that fall is the season for preserving all that delicious goodness.
There are several preserving methods, with the most popular (and practical) being canning, pickling, freezing, and dehydrating.
Canning and pickling are admittedly more work than freezing or dehydrating, but they allow for years of safe storage. Because they have very specific requirements in order to prevent foodborne illness, it’s best to follow expert instructions if you go this route.
Freezing is an excellent choice if you have ample space in a chest freezer, while dehydrating is another good option for those with plenty of room in the pantry to store their seasonal bounty. When freezing produce, it’s better to lay items out on a baking tray lined with parchment or wax paper before popping them into freezer-safe storage bags, as they won’t stick together that way. Fruits can be frozen straight after picking, but vegetables do better with a quick blanch before storing.
Dehydrated produce can be made in the oven on a low temperature, or using a food dehydrator machine. Ensure the finished product is well sealed for storage afterwards, in order to prevent spoilage.
From tomatoes to raspberries, here’s how to get the most from your late summer/fall harvest.
Apples: Although fresh apples store well in a cold cellar, they are also excellent sliced and dehydrated or turned into applesauce and canned. Kept in a cool, dry place, dehydrated apples should last about 6 months, while canned applesauce can last 2-3 years.
Raspberries: With one of the shortest shelf-lives of any seasonal fruit, raspberries are a great choice to pick and preserve at their peak freshness, especially as fall crops put out their final fruits. Turn them into jam and can for up to 2 years of storage, or freeze for use in smoothies for up to a year or longer. Dehydrated raspberries make a great addition to homemade trail mix, and should keep for 6-12 months.
Winter squash: Winter squash such as pumpkin, butternut, and acorn varieties all keep very well in cold storage for use throughout the winter, but you can also cube, blanch, and freeze it for up to a year. If you choose to cook and can your winter squash, it should last anywhere from 3-5 years and makes an excellent addition to homemade pies, soups, and chilis.
Beans: Green or yellow, bush or pole, beans are another distinctively summer eat that’s great for preserving. Beans can be blanched and frozen for up to 6 months, or pickled for about a year.
Carrots: Like beans, carrots preserve well by freezing or pickling. Frozen carrots last around 6-8 months, while pickled carrots are good for about a year. You can also cook and can carrots for longer-term storage, and some people like to thinly slice and dehydrate them to create carrot “chips” for a healthier snack.
Corn: It’s a fact that a fresh summer cob tastes better than one purchased out of season, and corn is so versatile when it comes to preserving that there’s no excuse not to! Slice kernels away from the cob and freeze on a baking sheet before placing into freezer-safe storage bags (or just shuck and freeze whole cobs if you prefer). Frozen corn is good for about 6-8 months, while canned (and pickled) corn should keep about 1-2 years. If you dehydrate and hermetically seal corn, it can keep for 8-10 years or longer!
Herbs: Herbs require a slightly different touch than the other items on our list, but store just as well. You can dry and grind your fresh herbs for long-term storage (seal well), or blend them with a touch of water or oil and freeze in ice cube trays for year-round flavor enhancers. Herbs also make wonderful infused oils and vinegars, for a seasonal punch of flavor any time of year.
Potatoes: If kept in a cool, dry, dark place, potatoes can keep for about 3-4 months, but you can also can, dehydrate, and freeze them for even longer storage. Cut into matchsticks before blanching and freezing for homemade french fries, shred and form into patties before freezing for healthier hash browns, or simply cube, blanch, and freeze for soups, stews, and mashed potatoes. Frozen potatoes should keep for up to a year or longer.
Radishes: An often ignored vegetable, radishes are amazingly healthy and pack a satisfying crunch. Preserve them by pickling either with a quick or traditional recipe. Quick pickled radishes should last up to 6 months when stored in the fridge, while radishes pickled and canned in the traditional manner should keep for about a year.
Tomatoes: Whether you’ve simply got a surplus from your own garden or picked up a giant box from the nearby farm stand, preserving tomatoes is super popular. Dehydrate them for your own homemade “sundried” tomatoes, or cook into sauce (or peel and leave whole) and can for use in pasta dishes and casseroles all year long. Dried tomatoes should keep for about for about 6 months at room temperature (a year in the freezer), while canned tomatoes and sauce should keep for about a year and a half.
Ready to start preserving? Check Flipp to find the best deals on local produce. Add supplies like jars, freezer bags, and parchment paper to your Flipp shopping list to check for sales and to make sure you don't forget any of the essentials.