Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Preserving the Bounty

It feels as though summer has been here for a couple of months instead of being a couple of weeks away. Most of us agreed not to complain about hot weather if we could ever see the end of our long cold winter. Our memories get very short when we must make good on such promises. Well it is hot and that can be a good thing if you have a garden planted. It is that bright warm sunshine that makes the tomatoes sweet and the other garden vegetables have the wonderful summer flavors. Now is the time to start planning how you will use the bounty that can be harvested from even a small garden plot. Remember that most of the summer vegetables are low acid and need to be preserved using a pressure canner if you are planning to can the vegetables. There is also the option of freezing and dehydrating in addition to canning. Simple dehydrators can be constructed to dry apples, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables. I have talked to some people who prefer to dehydrate their green beans. These are called leather britches. Fruit can also be pureed and dried to make fruit leathers. Dehydrated foods are perfect for people who enjoy camping and hiking. High acid foods, which include most fruits, can be preserved using the hot water bath. Of course making jams and jellies is another option for preserving fruits. If you are concerned with the large amount of sugar that is used with the jams and jellies, look for a recipe that uses less sugar or low sugar pectin recipes. The tomato varieties that we have today have less acid than some of the heirloom varieties. These tomatoes can still be preserved using the hot water bath but lemon juice needs to be added to the tomatoes to make them more acidic. If you plan to make a batch of tomato vegetable soup using a variety of vegetables, plan to preserve that soup either by freezing or using the pressure canner. The low acid vegetables need to be pressure canned. Botulism is the concern of low acid foods. When water boils in a hot water bath it never gets hotter than 212 degrees, the boiling point of water. The botulism spore can only be killed at temperatures that are around 240 degrees. The only way to get to this temperature is using the pressure canner. Another option for any extra produce that you may have is to donate excess food to the local food banks in the county. There are many people in the county that are not able to plant a garden and can certainly use the extra food!

Teresa Wiley
FCS Agent