CLEVELAND, Ohio — Harvest season is here. If your garden has been successful, you may have more produce than you know what to do with. (And if it’s been a disappointing season, the upside is that you don’t have to find another way to prepare zucchini or cabbage.)
With food prices rising, it’s harder than ever to see good food go to waste, especially when it’s grown from seed, so this week’s column is dedicated to ways to save your harvest. before it spoils.
If you’ve never tried quick pickling before, it’s probably a lot easier than you think, which is one of the reasons pickling techniques are a part of every ethnic cuisine. What these techniques have in common is that they stop food from spoiling by immersing it in water and some combination of salt, spices, and perhaps acid or sugar. The cool, dark environment of a refrigerator also prevents food from spoiling and eliminates the need for complicated canning processes for a novice. Refrigerator pickles will last for weeks, not months, but they’re so delicious you’ll probably eat a lot before they go bad.
Quick pickle recipes are found in most general cookbooks, such as “The Joy of Cooking” or “How to Cook Everything”, and once you’ve mastered the basic formula, it’s easy to improvise with different types of vinegar, herbs and spices. . The library has many books with pickle recipes for specific cuisines, from Armenian to Korean to Ukrainian. It’s no wonder many cultures include a plate of pickled foods with meals for a little crunch, flavor, and healthy nutrition.
If the first word that comes to mind when you think of canning is botulism, you’re not alone, and a little fear can be a good thing when it comes to this preservation technique. Other words that may come to mind include complicated, hot, slow, and laborious. All that said, canning is a rewarding and exciting experience if you have a large batch of a truly special food made from fresh produce, like homemade applesauce, hot sauce, jam, salsa, ketchup, or pickles.
First, make sure you have a whole day off and preferably one or two helpers. In terms of supplies, it’s not hard to find a used canning pot and rack at most thrift stores or garage sales, or you can use a deep pot for the water bath. A jar set that includes a starter kit with accessories such as tongs and a rack is relatively inexpensive and available again. The kit comes with full instructions for safe canning, and it’s best to read them two or three times before you start and then again while canning. The Ball Canning website (https://www.ballmasonjars.com/canning-preserving-guides.html) is a free, authoritative, easy-to-use source of information on safe canning.
Drying is another ancient technique that works well for most herbs and is as easy as tying a string around a small bunch of cut herbs, hanging it upside down in a cool, dark, dry place, and then storing the leaves. dry for future use. use. You’ll finally have a use for all those empty spice jars you can’t bear to throw away.
Fruit can also be dried, but generally requires the use of solar ovens, convection ovens, or dehydrators to do so safely. If I have that much extra fruit, I prefer to make a cake or jam with it, but it’s a great option for those who enjoy fruit leather and other snacks that travel well.
With the wonders of refrigeration, freezing is an option for preserving food that was not available to most of our ancestors. Freezing fruits and vegetables for future use in smoothies, soups, quick breads, and casseroles is as simple as putting them in a plastic bag, removing excess air, and (this is the most important part) labeling them with the date and what it means. . it is.
I’m more likely to use frozen foods if they’re already in the serving size I need when I go to use them. For example, silicone ice cube trays are a great way to store herbs and smaller portions of sauces and broths to include in recipes.
One of my favorite things about gardening is the variety of gift options it offers. Anyone can order a book or buy a greeting card, but how about a pint of fresh greens with a bow, a bouquet of fresh herbs, or a pumpkin with googly eyes and a mouth drawn for a unique and delicious gift? ?
Some areas even have charities that will accept fresh produce as donations for those in need. I haven’t found one in Northeast Ohio yet, but would love to hear otherwise if any readers know of one.
Preparing for next year
Was two zucchini plants more than enough? Was this new variety of cucumber bitter? Do your children cry when they see eggplants? Was one type of tomato much more tasty and productive than the others? The best way to grow as a gardener is to write down the lessons learned from this season in a dedicated notebook or document on your computer and adjust for next year.
While you’re at it, email me at [email protected] with a photo of your summer harvest or flower garden. Include the word “harvest” in the subject line, as well as your name, city, and permission to use your photo. We will publish a compilation of the photos in a future column.
plants and planters
soil and seeds
Find all Susan Brownstein’s Gardening Columns here.