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Tips for Preserving the Harvest

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SchneiderPeeps - Tips for Preserving the Harvest

Many years ago, I canned about 30 quarts of pear chutney. I had never tried pear chutney, in fact I had never even heard the word “chutney” before that day. But our pear tree was producing a bumper crop that year and I decided it would be fun to try something new. {ahem}

No one liked it…not even me. However I was so determined that we would eat it eventually that it stayed in our cabinets for four years. Finally, we moved and I didn’t want to move them, so I put the contents in the compost, washed the jars and packed them up. 

I learned a lesson from that failure, don’t can things that you have never even tasted. 

I would love to say that’s my only failure in preserving food but in reality, it’s only one of many. But that’s okay, because I learn from my failures and that means I can share with you. Which means it’s not really a failure, right? 

Here are some other lessons I’ve learned from my years of preserving food.

Small batches are great. Obviously, that kind of goes along with my first lesson of not canning things I haven’t tasted. But this lesson is also great when I want to can things that I know we’ll only use a few times a year….like a sweet onion marmalade. Or when the garden is producing but not enough to do a large batch of one thing. This is why I usually make small batches of pesto instead of larger batches

Keep notes and inventory of what you preserve. I have a set of worksheets I print each year to keep track of what I’ve preserved. You can get the worksheets emailed to you by filling out the form below. 

Preserving the harvest doesn't have to be overwhelming or boring. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your efforts.

Figure out how much you really need. Can I confess something? I love having home preserved food for my family. I do not LOVE preserving said food. I know, some people love the process. I do not, I love the end product. So why would I spend time preserving too much? I would much rather be out in the garden and since we can garden year round I don’t feel a huge need to preserve a bunch of stuff. For vegetables, I need enough to get me from mid-July to October. This is the time of year when not much is available in our garden and I rely on our canned and frozen vegetables. Fruits are a little harder for me to determine because we eat a lot of fruit but most of our trees are not producing yet. I buy fruit in season and freeze, can or dehydrate it. But do I really need 20 quarts of canned peaches? Or the dehydrated zest from 100 lemons? Is it even possibly okay to be “done” before the trees or garden stops producing? 

You have to actually eat what you preserve. I’ve actually been guilty of letting home preserved food sit in my pantry or freezer and not use them. And it’s not always because we don’t like it as it was with the chutney. It’s because I forget about it (or I put up too much). Instead of making zucchini bread with the frozen grated zucchini, I choose to make banana bread with bananas that I should be freezing for smoothies. But the bananas are on my counter and brown and the zucchini is out of sight. I’m not completely sure how to overcome my forgetfulness, but each month I go through my outside freezer and bring things into the kitchen freezer that I want to make sure and use that month. 

Preserving the harvest doesn't have to be overwhelming or boring. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your efforts.

Variety is important. It’s good to preserve the same food in different ways. Each year we order several cases of apples. We’ll eat some fresh, but we’ll also freeze and dehydrate some and make applesauce with some. With the zucchini, we grate some and freeze it but we also dehydrate some for winter soups. You can see all the things we do with tomatoes here. I’ve found that when I preserve foods in different ways we wind up eating it more than if I just preserve it in one way. 

Preserving the harvest doesn't have to be overwhelming or boring. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your efforts.

Learn the rules and follow them….when it’s a safety issue. So I’ve already confessed many times that I’m not really a rule follower but there are times when it’s super important if you want to safely preserve food for your family. The main rule for canning you need to know, is that there are some foods that cannot be canned in a water bath canner no matter how long you process them. They need a pressure canner. The main rule for dehydrating you need to know is that you need dehydrate the food until you are sure there is no moisture left and if you are unsure, you can store it in the freezer. I’m not sure of any “if you don’t follow it, you could die” rules for freezing. 

Preserving the harvest doesn't have to be overwhelming or boring. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your efforts.

Break the rules…when it isn’t a safety issue. For instance, you don’t have to peel. This one always gets me in trouble, but I’m in good company. The only thing I peel before preserving is tomatoes since that’s the only thing my family complains about. Maybe because I’ve never peeled produce before preserving my family just doesn’t know any better. Not peeling saves me so much time. You also don’t have to blanch before freezing. I know, you’re supposed to. But my family can’t tell the difference when I blanch and when I don’t, so I don’t.

image of The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables and jars of home preserved vegetables

The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables

If you you’re looking for more preserving inspiration, I know you’ll love The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables. In this book I share how to can, dehydrate, freeze and ferment almost every vegetable. I also share 100 favorite recipes for preserving the vegetables in fun way that will save you time and money later. Get your copy here. Get your copy here.

Preserving the harvest doesn't have to be overwhelming or boring. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your efforts.

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

Organic Gardening Between the Seasons {how to eat well when there's not much to pick}
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