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Putting up the Harvest
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I've done drying, freezing and small amount of pickling and juicing and never canning.  I really need to learn to be more trustful of the canning process, but have yet to feel comfortable or confident enough to either try it or use it after it's been canned. 
 
This page lists the methods of preparing your harvest bounty;
 
  •     Drying Foods
  •     Canning
  •     Pickling
  •     Juicing
  •     Freezing

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                DRYING FOOD

Benefits

The high water content of fresh foods provides a breeding ground for the growth of microorganisms.  By drying foods, we reduce the high volume of water, thus preserving them.

Dried foods are easy to prepare and easy to store.  Nutritionally, the value of the food is only minimally affected during the drying process.  Dried foods are high in fiber & carbohydrates and low in fats.

Methods

SUN 

Bright sun, high temperatures (around 100 degrees), and low humidity are essential for sun drying.  If one of these elements is missing, foods will not be dried adequately.  Too much humidity will cause the food to retain it's moisture even on a hot, sunny day.

Drying food in the sun takes 3-7 days.  Place foods on racks and cover with cheese-cloth or netting to protect from insects and debris.  If the temperature drops more than 20 degrees during this time, take racks indoors overnight.  Sudden temperature changes and dew can put moisture back into the food. When the drying process is almost complete, place racks in an airy shady location to prevent scorching during the final stages of drying.

OVEN 

A basic kitchen oven can also dry foods.  Maintain a temperature of 140-160 degrees.  Keep an oven thermometer on the top rack to ensure that temperature remains consistent.  Oven door should be kept open slightly to provide ventilation for moisture to escape yet keeping heat in.  Trays should be rotated every half hour and food stirred to provide circulation to all surfaces.

DEHYDRATOR

Using a food dehydrator is the ideal method for drying food.  

  • Over-cast skies and high humidity can put a halt on sun drying.   
  • Oven drying can sometimes result in flavor-mixing.  

Preheat at 125 degrees.  Once filled racks are in, gradually increase temperature to 140 degrees.  Drying in a dehydrator usually takes anywhere from 4-12 hours.

 

Equipment

The primary equipment necessary for drying are drying racks and storage containers.

  • Drying Racks-Proper ventilation is required when choosing a drying rack.  Cookie sheets will not work because air cannot reach the undersides of food.  Choose racks made from wood slats or stainless steel mesh.  Do not use racks made of galvanized screen, aluminum, copper, fiberglass, or vinyl.  The metals in these may cause an acid reaction that forms harmful components.  Copper destroys vitamin C, aluminum causes an off-flavor in sulfered fruit, fiberglass may leave dangerous splinters, and vinyl melts.
  • Storage Containers-Use containers that are moisture and vapor-proof with tight fitting lids.  Vacuum sealable bags would be ideal, you may also use glass jars, plastic freezer bags, or coffee cans.  

Preparing the Food

Select food that is fresh, free of bruising, and fully ripe.  Maintain proper sanitation when handling and processing the food.  Peel, core, pit, and crack skins as necessary.  Tough skins will hamper the drying process when moisture cannot be released.  To crack skins, put fruit in boiling water for 30-60 seconds.  Then dip in very cold water.  Food being dried simultaneously should be cut in uniform sizes to ensure that all pieces will dry at the same rate.  Treat light colored fruit with an antioxidant to prevent it from turning brown.

  • Absorbic Acids-A temporary treatment which prevents light colored fruits from turning brown.
  • Sulfuring-A permanent antioxidant treatment which keeps fruit from turning brown and also helps prevent the loss of vitamins A and C.
  • Blanching-An alternative treatment method by steam treating food, but is not recommended.

Drying Times

Drying times vary upon methods used and the food being dried.

Drying food in an oven can take as little as 6 hrs. to as much as 10 hrs.

Herbs can dry in 2-3 days by air or 2-3 hrs. in an oven.

After it has been dried and before it is packaged, dried food should be conditioned.  Once the food is dry, cool it on a tray, then put pieces in a large closed container.  Be sure that the food has cooled, if it is still warm it will sweat inside the container.  Stir the food once a day for 7-10 days.  This process allows the moisture from the under-dried pieces to be absorbed by the over-dried pieces.  If moisture appears on the lid or sides, the food is not dry enough.  

Storing

Dried foods should be packaged in small quantities.  Once it is adequately dried, package the food in smaller, air-tight containers.  Containers that keep out light are best.  Force out air before sealing it.  Keep packages in a cool, dry, dark place.  Jerky and vegetables will keep for about 6 months if dried and stored properly.  Fruits and herbs will keep for about 1 year.

*References:  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Agriculture.

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            Pickling 

During the pickling process, food is preserved in brine or vinegar creating an undesirable environment for the growth of bacteria.


Pickling Methods

Quick Pack/Fresh Pack

Food is covered with boiling hot vinegar, spices, and seasonings. The acetic acid from the vinegar preserves the food.

Fermenting

Food undergoes a curing process in a brine solution for 1 or more weeks and may take up to 5 weeks to cure. The lactic acid produced during this process helps preserve the product.


Pickling Equipment

• Large Non-Metal Bowls – to prepare ingredients by salting which will extract excess water.
• Dinner Plates – to weigh down vegetables and keep them covered in brine.
• Sieve – to rinse vegetables after salting.
• Mason Jars and Lids

Avoid metallic equipment as vinegar will corrode them and affect flavor of pickled foods.


Pickling Safety

Both methods of pickling require sufficient acidity to prevent the growth of toxin production and Clostridium botulinum. Never dilute vinegar or use vinegar with unknown acidity.


Processing the Food

Salting

Some pickling recipes will require salting to remove excess moisture and allow the vinegar to effectively preserve the food. Once the salting process is complete, rinse food thoroughly to remove all salt and blot dry with a paper towel.

Packing

Pack the prepared vegetables loosely into sterilized containers. Cover with vinegar and tap sides to release air bubbles. If necessary, use crumpled grease-proof paper to push food down under the liquid. This can be removed after 2 weeks. Tightly seal lids.


Storing

For best results, keep pickled foods in a well ventilated cool, dark place.


Shelf Life

Quick Pack pickles generally have a shelf life of about 18 months. Fermented pickles can last up to 2 years.


Pickling FAQs

Does hard or soft water affect crispness?

Yes, it could. The minerals in hard water could interfere with the pickling process. The acidity of the pickle may be affected by a water ph of 8.0 or higher resulting in mushy pickles.

When are pickles ready to eat?

Wait at least 6 weeks. Pickles reach their full flavor 6 weeks after processing – sometimes longer.

How do I know which type of vinegar is best when pickling?

White distilled vinegar is used for onions, beans, and eggs when a clear color is desired. Cider vinegar has a good aroma and flavor but can darken very light colored vegetables and fruit. Never dilute vinegar unless it is called for in the recipe. It must maintain the required acidity.

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                CANNING
 
 Why Can?

Canning is a rewarding way to extend the garden and a great way of utilizing all the produce you have grown throughout the season letting nothing go to waste.  When produce is handled properly and canned immediately, it can actually be more nutritious than fresh produce from the store.  Economically, canning is very beneficial if you are up for the work.

Proper Safety

Fresh produce is perishable for several reasons.  Because of it's high water content there is an increased growth of undesirable microorganisms, increased activity of food enzymes, increased reactions with oxygen, and adverse effects from moisture loss.  All of these result in the breakdown and spoilage of food.

Canning is the process of using heat to destroy microorganisms responsible for the spoilage of food.  Also, during this process, air is driven from the jar and a vacuum is formed.  As the jar cools, it seals preventing microorganisms from entering and contaminating the food.  Therefore, a good vacuum keeps liquid in and air & microorganisms out.

There are two categories of food to be noted when implementing proper safety measures for canning. 

  • HIGH ACID foods have a high acid content which is an unlikely place for bacteria to thrive in.  These foods have a ph of 4.5 or lower and would include produce such as apples, apricots, berries, cherries, peaches, and tomatoes.
  •  LOW ACID foods have a low acid content which can be a dangerous breeding ground for bacteria.  These foods have a ph of 4.6 or higher and would include produce such as asparagus, beans, beets, carrots, corn, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes.

The USDA recommends pressure canning as the only safe method to can low-acid foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetables.  Improper canning can result in the presence of Botulism, a deadly poison caused by a toxin from the growth of spores from the bacteria, Clostridium Botulinum.  It takes a specific amount of heat, for a specific amount of time to kill certain bacteria.  This CANNOT be achieved by water bath canning.  

This however, should not scare away the beginning canner.  After following the proper guidelines below, you will be well aware of proper processing and indicators of danger.  And as always, the final step for the safety of home-canned low-acid foods and tomatoes is to boil them for 10 minutes after opening them.   Add an additional minute for every 1,000 ft. of elevation above sea level.


Equipment

  • WATER BATH CANNER-a large covered cooking pot.  As long as 1 in. of boiling water covers the jars, any large container may be used.  To ensure proper heat to all jars, the diameter of the water bath should be no more than 4 in. wider than the stove burner.

  • PRESSURE CANNER-A cooking pot with a locking, airtight lid and valve system to regulate internal pressure.

  • RACK-placed at the bottom of the canner to hold jars.

  • FUNNEL-used to fill  jars without spilling on rims

  • JAR LIFTER-tongs for removing hot jars from the canner

  • LID WAND-used to remove sterilized lids from hot water with a magnet on the end

  • BUBBLE WAND-helps remove air bubbles from jars

  • MASON JARS-Use only standard canning jars made of tempered glass.  These are made to withstand the high temperatures of canning.

  • LIDS-Use lids appropriate for the jars being used.

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                JUICING
 

Benefits of Juicing

By removing the fiber, juicing eliminates a separate digestive process your body would normally have to go through, and allows for the almost immediate assimilation, 20-30 minutes, of nutrients directly into your bloodstream. These nutrients aren’t found in commercial juices, which have been pasteurized. Juicing at home is the most efficient way to obtain large quantities of vitamins and minerals in a form most readily available for your body to use.

How Juicing Works

The process of juicing releases vitamins that are locked in the fiber of fresh fruits and vegetables. These vitamins, which would be discarded by the body, can now be easily absorbed within 20-30 minutes.


Juicing Methods

Centrifugal

Fibers are broken up with a cutting disc or grater while a high speed, centrifugal/circular revolving motion forces the pulp against the wall of the basket and juice is extracted through holes. Centrifugal juicers add oxygen to the juice causing oxidation. Over time, oxidation degrades nutrients. Juice made in a centrifugal juicer should be consumed as soon as it is made.

Masticating

Fibers are chewed by the machine. Masticating juicers operate at a lower speed which reduces oxidation. This method is ideal for wheat grass and leafy vegetables.

Pressing

Juice is squeezed from fibers with the force of pressure. Fruit Presses cause the least amount of oxidation. A pulp-free juice is created when strained through a cheese cloth.


Juicing Equipment

There are several types of tools available for extracting the juice from fresh fruits and vegetables.

Juicer

Juice is extracted by a rotating blade while pulp is pushed against sides of walls and juice is extracted through holes.

Fruit Press

Food is pressed and juice is extracted by pressure.


Blender/Food Processor

Food is cut up and juice is extracted by a rotating stainless steel cutting blade.


Preparing Food for Juicing

How food is to be prepared depends largely on the recipe being used. Some juicing recipes will require food to be cut while others may use whole foods. Many will call for skins and peels to be left on for optimal nutritional value. Typically, citrus peels are removed.


Storing the Juice

Fresh juices lose flavor and nutrient content quickly and are best when consumed immediately after juicing. When storing, it is best to keep juice in an air-tight container and use within 24 hours.


Juicing FAQs

Do I have to peel or remove seeds before juicing?

Citrus fruits must be peeled when juicing, but it is not necessary for other fruits. Pits, like the ones found in peaches must be removed.

Can I use frozen fruits and vegetables when juicing?

Thawed fruits and vegetables will produce more juice and provide optimum juicing.

What can I do with all the pulp I get when juicing?

You may want to run excess pulp from juicing through your machine twice to extract any additional juice. Some pulp can actually be added to recipes for soups and breads.

Is there anything I should be aware of when juicing?

To avoid consuming too much sugar, always drink as many vegetable juices as fruit juices when juicing.

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                Freezing

Benefits

Freezing food is the easiest, most convenient, and least time consuming method to preserve food.  Microorganisms are not destroyed, but the extreme cold significantly slows the growth and chemical changes that cause spoilage.  

Preparing the Food

When freezing food, select food that is fresh, free of bruising, and fully ripe.  Maintain proper sanitation when handling and processing the food.

Treatment of the food is essential for high quality frozen produce.

Preparing Vegetables

Blanch or steam all vegetables, except for peppers and onions, before freezing.

Blanching is the process of heating food quickly, with water or steam, to inactivate enzymes that cause spoilage. Microorganisms are also reduced at this time. Once the food is heated, it is immediately placed in ice water to stop any further cooking of the food.  

Blanching Instructions

  1. Fill 2/3 of a pot with water.

  2. Add 2 tbs. of salt.

  3. Bring water to a boil.

  4. Add food to water.  Do not cover.

  5. Boil 3-5 minutes.

  6. Quickly submerge into ice water.

  7. Drain excess water to prevent the formation of ice crystals on frozen food.  

Over-blanching will result in a cooked product that has a loss of nutrients, flavor, and color.  Under-blanching stimulates enzyme activity and is actually worse than not blanching at all.  Produce that is blanched properly will have remained it's resistance when pinched between the fingers.

Vegetable
Preparation
Blanching Time
Asparagus Trim; cut to package length or in 2 inch pieces. 3-4 minutes in boiling water
Beans, green Remove ends; cut to 1 0r 2 inch pieces. Cut – 2 minutes
Whole – 2
Beans, lima Shell or leave in pods and shell after blanching. 1-2 minutes
Beets Leave inch stems. Cook till tender. Peel and cut. Small – 25-30 minutes
Medium – 45-50 minutes
Broccoli Cut into medium pieces 5-6 inches long. No more than 1 inches in thickness. 3 minutes
Brussels Sprouts Remove outer leaves. Sort according to size. Small – 3 minutes
Large – 5 minutes
Carrots Cut into inch slices. Leave whole if small Sliced – 3 minutes
Whole – 4
Cauliflower Cut into 1 inch pieces 3-4 minutes
Corn on cob Blanch on ears. Cool and cut off corn 7 – thin ears
9 – medium ears
11 – large ears
Corn kernels Blanch on ears. Cool and cut of corn. 4 minutes
Greens Cut and discard thick stems and damaged leaves. 2 minutes
Peas Shell, discard starchy peas. 1-2 minutes
Potatoes, sweet Cook with jackets on till almost tender. Cool, peel, and slice. 30-40 minutes
Spinach Wash leaves and cut off heavy stems. 1 minutes

Preparing Fruit

Treating

Treat light colored fruit with an antioxidant such as ascorbic or citric acid to prevent it from turning brown.

Packing

There are several ways to pack fruit for freezing.

  • Dry Pack - Fruit is put into a sealed container.
  • Syrup Pack - Fruit is covered with a syrup mixture. Best used for sauces or desserts.
  • Sugar Pack - Sugar is sprinkled over fruit and mixed gently until juice is drawn out and sugar dissolves. Works well with juicy fruits. Best for cooking purposes like pies or crisps.
  • Unsweetened Pack - Fruit is covered with water containing ascorbic acid.

Syrup Packing Mixtures

Syrup Type Cups of Sugar Cups of Water Yield Syrup
Very Light - 20% 1 4 4 2/3
Light – 30% 2 4 5
Medium – 40% 3 4 5
Heavy – 50% 4 4 6
Very Heavy – 60% 7 4 7

Press fruit into syrup or sugar. Cover with syrup in syrup packs. Leave headspace then seal and freeze.

Fruit Syrup Pack Sugar Pack
Apples Use 40% syrup. Add tsp. crystalline ascorbic acid to each qt. syrup to prevent browning. Press fruit down and cover with syrup. Mix with cup sugar with every 1 quart of fruit.
Apricots Use 40% syrup. Mix with cup sugar for every 1 quart of fruit.
Avocado Puree and add 1 tbsp. lime juice for 2 avocados.
Bananas Mash and add 1 tsp. lemon juice per cup of banana.
Cherries Sour, use 60% syrup.  Sweet, use 40% syrup. Sour, mix with cups sugar for every 1 qt. cherries.
Cranberries Use 50% syrup  
Figs Use 50% syrup  
Grapefruit Use 30% syrup.  
Grapes Use 40% syrup.  
Lemons/Limes Use 40% syrup  
Mangoes Use 30% syrup.  
Melons Use 30% syrup.  
Nectarines Use 40% syrup.  
Oranges Use 40% syrup.  
Peaches Use 40% syrup. Mix with 2/3 cups sugar for each quart of fruit.
Pears Use 40% syrup.  Heat in boiling syrup for 1-2 minutes. Drain and cool. Pack and cover with syrup.  
Pineapples Use a 30% syrup made with pineapple juice.  Or use unsweetened pineapple juice.  
Plums Use 40-50% syrup.  
Raspberries Use 40% syrup. Mix with cups sugar for every 1 quart of berries.
Rhubarb Use 40% syrup. Mix cup sugar for every 1 quart of fruit.
Strawberries Use 50% syrup. Mix with cups sugar to every 1 quart of strawberries.
Tomatoes Freeze only as sauce, puree, or paste.

Processing the Food

Freeze food quickly to produce tiny ice crystals which protect food as it thaws and leaves food with a better texture.

To ensure a quick freezing time:

  • Place packages close to the sides of the freezer where it is the coldest.
  • Provide enough space between newly packaged foods to allow for adequate air circulation.
  • Lower the temperature of the freezer until food is completely frozen.
  • Do not overload freezer during initial freezing. Fewer items in the freezer will allow for a quicker freeze.

Once food is frozen, packages can be moved from the sides of the freezer and packed closer together.

Keep the freezer at 0 degrees or lower to protect quality. Use a freezer thermometer to regulate proper temperatures.

Storing

Store food in a packaging material that will prevent air contact.  Contact with air will cause moisture loss and freezer burn.  

  • Semi-fluid foods should be stored in rigid plastic or glass wide-mouth containers that can be closed tightly.  
  • Solids should be stored in durable, moisture-proof bags.  

Vacuum sealing food can extend freshness by 3-5 times longer. 

Shelf Life

Properly frozen fruits and vegetables will last 8-12 months.

FAQs

How long will food stay frozen if the power goes off?

Food will stay frozen longer if the freezer is not opened, if the freezer is full, and if it is in a cool place. Generally, a full freezer will keep food frozen for 2-4 days, depending on the size. A half filled freezer will keep food frozen for about 24 hours.

Can food be re-frozen after it thaws?

Foods may be refrozen if they are only partially thawed and still have ice crystals on the package or if the freezer temperature has remained at 40 degrees F or below.

What causes freezer burn?

It is caused by food that is not properly wrapped and comes in contact with air. Dehydration occurs on the surface of the frozen product.

Are there any foods that should not be frozen?

Because ice crystals can cause breakage of cell membranes in some foods, freezing them should be avoided. Mushrooms, soft fruits, and salad vegetables tend to lose crispness and firmness when frozen. Raw grapes and apples become mushy. Tomatoes become watery and limp.

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--Beware of Snapdragons--

--Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade--
 
--My husband said if I buy any more perennials he would leave me...gosh, I'm going to miss that man!--