If you’re lucky enough to grow your own crops in your garden, you’ll doubtless be enjoying using your fruit and vegetables on your table. You may even be blessed with a bigger bounty of crops than you know what to do with! It’s a shame to let your hard-earned home-grown produce go to waste, so if you’ve got a generous harvest this year preserving them for later use is a great option.
There are a number of ways to preserve your fruit and vegetables so that you can enjoy their fresh taste into the winter months. Here are three of my top simple ways to preserve your crops.
Pickling your vegetables is a great way to keep them fresh and add a delicious tangy flavour!
Pickling is usually done with water, salt and vinegar, and your choice of herbs and aromatics. Veggies like cucumber, radish, cabbage, beans, cauliflower and cabbage all pickle really well and keep their satisfying crunch. Just remember to sterilise all of your equipment to make sure no bacteria sneaks into your pickling brine.
Depending on which crop you’re pickling, it’s worth having a browse online for a particular recipe that tickles your fancy – a favourite of mine is thinly sliced cucumber with mustard seed and lots of sprigs of dill thrown in! I wrote a beginner’s guide to pickling vegetables which you can find here.
Drying works for most fruit, vegetables and herbs, but it will change the flavour and texture of your produce due to the removal of water. Fruit and veg will go leathery and chewy (much nicer than it sounds), and herbs will go dry and crumbly (perfect for sprinkling!). Fancy food dehydrators exist for this purpose – and they’re well worth the investment if you think you’ll make good use of it – but your oven will work just as well. Simply blanch the prepared produce in boiling water for 2-3 minutes before plunging into iced water in order to preserve the colour. Then, place in your oven on a baking sheet on a very low heat to dry. This isn’t an exact science – some fruit and veg take just hours to dry, but some may take up to a full day! When your produce is wrinkled and tough-looking, it’s good to go and can be stored in an airtight container once cooled, where it should keep for up to a year. Apples, pears, apricots, carrots, corn, green beans and tomatoes all dry really nicely.
Herbs and chillies can be dried simply by hanging upside down in a cool, dark room. You can read more about preserving fresh herbs at home in this article I wrote.
I love to preserve my garden produce in olive oil. It’s a natural preservative and will protect foods from spoiling by preventing it from coming into contact with the air. Many Mediterranean countries have long relied on this method to keep their food fresh. Vegetables like mushrooms, dried tomatoes, artichokes, peppers and herbs preserve beautifully in oil.
Depending on how long you expect to keep the preserved produce and how you plan to store it, the methods of preparation differ. For example, if you’d like to keep yours in a pantry for a year or so, the produce will need to be cooked beforehand. It’s really important that your chosen veg is thoroughly clean and blemish-free, that all your utensils are sterilised, and that the food is submerged totally in oil with no chance of air getting to it. Depending on your chosen produce and method, make sure to research exactly how to preserve them safely.
With all of these methods, it’s really important to always sense-check your food before consuming. If it doesn’t look or smell right, please don’t take the risk and just get rid of it!
Happy preserving! Katie x