Preserving foods is a fantastic and frugal way to stock your pantry and freezer so you can have fresh, summer meals all year long. While it may sound old fashioned, overly domestic and perhaps a bit time-consuming, preserving is actually quite simple and a great way to save money and time otherwise spent grocery shopping. It’s often even healthier than buying store-bought canned and frozen foods throughout the seasons. A lot of canned food in stores contains unnecessary sugar, sodium and other preservatives that you can easily substitute or omit completely in canning from home, and frozen foods are not always prepared properly to maintain their nutritional value.
There are many options available for preserving your foods. You can grow your own fruits and veggies yourself, or buy boxes in season from local farms or grocers. Then, preserve them while they are still fresh, or even prepare meals and sauces for canning and freezing as well. Below are a few simple tips and recipes that can help you stock your pantry and freezer this fall and winter!
Freezing your foods can be as simple as buying a box of Ziploc freezer bags, or as complex as using a Foodsaver vacuum sealer. Whichever way you decide to go, freezing fresh fruits, vegetables and prepared foods is a fantastic way to feed your family well-rounded meals using whole instead of processed ingredients, throughout the year.
Every summer and fall, I make and freeze jars of applesauce, chicken/vegetable stock, roasted tomato marinara, and basil pesto. Vegetables like peas, green beans and corn can be shucked, cut and then blanched and frozen in Ziploc bags, while zucchini can be shredded and pumpkin cooked and cut up for freezer bags as well. Fruits like cherries, berries and even apple slices can be flash frozen and then put in bags for pies and crisps!
Canning does require a few items to invest in, but you can often find them discounted this time of year, or free or cheap if you get them secondhand. Thankfully, canners, canning tools and even jars and rings can be reused over and over again, so if you do invest in some, they pay for themselves after just a few uses.
While some may say that the high heat of canning removes a lot of the nutrition in raw fruits and vegetables, I would argue that if I can’t get fresh and local green beans, pumpkins and tomatoes in the winter, I would rather have my own in glass jars than those with preservatives in aluminum cans from the store. Furthermore, if I’m going to buy canned pickles, sauerkraut, applesauce, jams and jellies, I might as well make them myself!
But how much time do I spend preparing all these things over a hot stove for several weeks, you ask? Well, I have found that by freezing and canning produce from my own garden as it ripens or buying boxes of fruits and vegetables as they are in season throughout the summer and fall, I actually can break up these preserving jobs. Frankly, I don’t think I spend any more time canning and freezing than I would shopping at the store for them each week during the winter! But to give you an idea of what a simple, seasonal preserving schedule looks like, here is what I follow, and some of the favorite recipes I use…
- Shuck peas, blanch and freeze in Ziploc bags
- Shred and freeze zucchini in Ziploc bags
- Flash freeze strawberries, and/or make jelly and jam
- Pick cucumbers for pickles and bread and butter chips (on and off through August)
- Freeze early tomatoes, green beans and carrots
- Flash freeze raspberries, blueberries and cherries, and/or make jelly and jam
- Make and freeze fresh basil pesto
- Shred and cure cabbage for sauerkraut
- Flash freeze blackberries and marionberries, and/or make jelly and jam
- Continue freezing tomatoes, green beans, and carrots
- Make tomatillo salsa and tomato pico de gallo with peppers and cilantro
- Harvest and roast beets. Can or freeze them as desired
- Cut and blanch corn for freezing
- Defrost green beans (if desired) and can (requires pressure canner)
- Use frozen/fresh tomatoes to make roasted marinara and can whole, stewed tomatoes
- Pick apples for canning/freezing sauce and slices
- Cut and roast winter squash for freezing or canning (requires pressure canner)
Are you willing to try canning and freezing? What are some of your favorite preserving tips and recipes?