As the summer comes to a close, you may have produce in your kitchen than you can use before it spoils. And although too much of a good thing isn’t usually a problem, you don’t want to waste your fruits and vegetables. Learning to store food long term can help you save time and money.
Before you get started, however, use or discard any damaged items while they’re still ripe. Bruised produce will rot and can spread to other stored vegetables, so be sure to sort through any produce before putting it away.
Canning and pickling involve a fair amount of time and supplies, but most fruits can be canned easily. Common vegetables such as onions and beans can also be canned. Whichever foods you’d like to do this with, consider “pickling” the ones that don’t naturally fit in sealable containers.
The two most popular canning methods are water bath and pressure canning, as explained by Ball. Choose water bath canning for high-acidity foods — namely fresh preserves, salsas, tomatoes, pickles and fruit juices. Because these foods are naturally high in acid, they do not need a temperature much higher than boiling point to prevent bacteria. Using this method, you will fill a preheated jar in boiling water to seal and then store it at room temperature.
For pressure canning, low-acidity foods such as vegetables are your best option. Foods that are low in acid content require higher canning temperatures of 240 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid spoilage from germ growth. With this method, you’ll fill a preheated canning jar and then place it in a pressure canner, which has a locking lid that allows the temperature to rise before sealing the jar for long-term storage. Most canned fruits and vegetables can be stored for up to a year.
Learn more about food storage.
Drying preserves foods for up to a year as well by removing the water that encourages mold and bacteria to fester. Although not every fruit and vegetable can be dried, this option is safe and reliable using a few different methods.
You can dry either indoors or outdoors. For outdoor preparation, sun drying is a popular choice. With respect to typical Southern humidity, however, the University of Georgia suggests drying outside when the humidity is below 60% and the temperature is above 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
High humidity prevents foods from drying, so living in a high-moisture climate may require you to dry foods inside. For the best results, dry on racks that are safe for food.
You can also use an oven or dehydrator. Keep the oven at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and prop the door open just a little for air circulation. Cooling racks placed on top of cookie sheets are a great option for drying a variety of fruits and vegetables. Dehydrators are separate appliances that have both a heating element and a fan for circulation. After drying, cool your produce and pack it in containers of your choice.
Many fruits and vegetables can be frozen. Vegetables that need to be cooked will generally freeze well, but there are those that don’t: cucumbers, lettuce, radishes and tomatoes. Most fruits can be frozen, too, but should be peeled, pitted or have their seeds removed before storage.
The best choices for frozen storage include beets, broccoli, carrots, squash, corn, berries, bananas, apples, oranges, peaches and cherries. Pack tightly and store at 32 degrees or lower.
Remember that while most fruits and vegetable can be stored, they won’t last forever. Take note of when you plan on using your produce, and use this guide to get the most from them while they’re at their freshest.