Preserve Food? Yes You Can!
Tompkins Weekly – June 25, 2012
By Carole Fisher
Summer’s here, and finally the best-tasting, best-quality foods will be available… and at reasonable prices. Whether you grow your own, belong to a CSA, shop the farm stands, markets, or u-pick farms, learning to preserve the season’s bounty can replace the January doldrums with the sweet tastes of summer.
Most of us already have freezers in our home, and many seasonal fruits and vegetables can be successfully frozen for later use. One key tip for good quality frozen food is to use the proper packaging in the freezer to protect flavor, color, moisture content and nutritional value of your food.Berries can be a real treat in the winter when pulled from the freezer and tossed into yogurt, onto breakfast cereal, fruit salad, or blended into fruit smoothies. In order to use small amounts at a time, use this freezing method: wash whole berries, pat dry, then place on cookie sheets in the freezer for a few hours. When frozen, pack individually-frozen berries in plastic freezer bags, pressing out as much air as possible from the bags. Enjoy all year!
Interested in home canning? Did you know that properly home-canned food can be stored in a cool, dry pantry without using any electricity or freezer space? Ask any home canner about the satisfaction of seeing their pantry shelves filled with jars of food from their own garden, CSA share, or local farm. Once the basics of home canning are mastered, many foods can be preserved safely this way.
If canning sounds like something you’d like to do, but not sure how to start or what you’ll need, try a canning class at Cooperative Extension-Tompkins County. Learn how to make homemade jams (June 26th) or take the “Learn to Can” Series (July 3rd and 10th) to learn how to can both acidic foods like fruits, tomatoes, and pickles, as well as low-acid foods such as vegetables and meats. On July 18th, we’ll be making and canning salsa. Check the CCE website for a listing of other scheduled classes. They generally take place in the evenings in the new teaching kitchen at CCE-Tompkins, 615 Willow Ave, Ithaca, NY. Class size is limited so register early by calling (607) 272-2292.
At Cornell Cooperative Extension-Tompkins County and on its website, you can find current research-based resources to help you preserve foods safely and correctly. If searching for food preservation resources online, make sure you use only information from reputable sources, such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation at <www.homefoodpreservation.com> or other state cooperative extension websites. This is crucial in avoiding problems that can cause food spoilage or worse, foodborne illness.
Drying (or dehydrating) is another way to preserve foods. Removing moisture from food prevents bacteria, yeast and molds from growing and causing spoilage. This is one of the oldest known methods of food preservation and is simple and easy to learn. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, and meats can all be successfully dried when the right method is used. Although the upstate New York climate is not suitable for sun drying (you would need several days of at least 85°F temperature coupled with low humidity), you can still use a food dehydrator, conventional oven or convection oven.
There are many different methods of preserving foods. Choose the ways that work best for your family and the foods you like to eat. And always take care to use safe, reliable, up-to-date instructions and methods for preserving your food.
Carole Fisher is a Community Educator and Master Food Preserver with Cornell Cooperative Extension-Tompkins County.