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Tips for canning and preserving fall-harvest foods

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The summer is starting to fade to fall, which means that soon the fresh local tomatoes, corn, and other produce you’ve been enjoying will disappear from the farmer’s market. But you don’t have to stop enjoying the best of the summer harvest just because the cold weather is coming.

In recent years canning and other means of food preservation have discovered a new popularity. But if you’re like my grandma, canned tomatoes, beets, jams, and homemade salsa never went out of style.

There are two easy methods to preserve your garden- and farm-fresh veggies and fruits, and these tips will help you preserve the flavours of summer.

Freezing
Freezing is an easy way to preserve most vegetables and fruits, but there are a few things that will help you be more successful in this mode of preservation.

First, there are a few vegetables that simply won’t freeze well, like lettuce and salad greens. And a little prep time will save you a lot of hassle before you freeze. Make sure you wash, peel, and trim all your vegetables as you would if you were going to cook them fresh. The last thing you want to have to do is cut a frozen carrot.

For corn, remove it from the cob and freeze it flat on a baking sheet before freezing it in a freezer bag.

Starting peas, beans, blueberries, strawberries, huckleberries, and other small fruits and veggies on a baking sheet will keep you from having to thaw a solid frozen block when you take them out of your freezer.

Believe it or not, you can even freeze herbs like dill and basil. One easy way to do this is to freeze them in an ice-cube tray in a small amount of olive oil. This allows you to add them to sauces and other dishes to add a pinch of flavour.

Canning

Some people really find canning complicated and time consuming. While that can be true, if you get some friends together to help out with the canning, it can really cut down on the labour involved and make it more fun.

There are two methods for canning: the water-bath canner and the pressure canner. The water-bath canner is the least expensive vessel for canning, and you can find kits complete with cans at most grocery and even hardware stores. The water bath is recommended for fruits; fruit juices; acidic vegetables like tomatoes; and sauerkraut, pickles, or relishes.

One important thing to remember when canning is to sterilize your jars and lids. You can do this in boiling water.

If you’re reusing old jars, make sure the rims aren’t chipped or cracked. You need a smooth rim to insure you get a good seal. If it doesn’t seal properly, your veggies or jam will spoil.
Listen for the pops of your lids while you’re canning. If you don’t hear the pop, they haven’t sealed, and any unsealed cans need to be discarded or used immediately.

Megan Cole is an award-winning Victoria, B.C.–based journalist and freelance writer. She most enjoys writing about food and music, and when she isn’t behind a keyboard or camera, you can find her in the kitchen or at a concert. Visit her blog at: victoriaculinaryunderground.wordpress.com.