There’s nothing like a summer meal with vegetables fresh from the garden.
“But when the vegetables are getting ripe faster than you can eat them, save them for a cold winter night when you can’t go harvest them from the garden,” said Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
To assure the foods are at optimal quality, they should be canned, frozen or dried, according to Roberts.
The process of canning heats foods to temperatures that inactivate enzymes and destroy microorganisms that could cause illness or food spoilage.
During the canning process, the heat forces the air out of the jar and then as the jar cools, a vacuum seal is formed. This seal prevents air, which can contain microorganisms, from getting back into the food.
Boiling water canning is recommended only for jams, jellies, fruit, tomatoes and pickles. All other vegetables, meat and poultry should be processed in a pressure canner.
In pressure canning, there is some loss of vitamins and minerals because of the high levels of heat. Some of the vitamins and minerals are lost in the fluid in the jar. Using the fluid helps assure maximum nutrient value of the food.
Freezing foods stops the growth of microorganisms but does not destroy them.
Enzymes are proteins produced by the cell of the plant. One thing enzymes are responsible for is the maturing of the fruit of the plant. Enzymes must be inactivated before foods are frozen to prevent undesirable changes in flavor, color and texture.
This is achieved by blanching for a specified amount of time. If done correctly, this preservation process assures maximum nutrient retention in the food.
Drying is one of the oldest methods of food preservation. The process of drying removes the moisture from the food so that microorganisms cannot grow and spoil the food.
Some commonly eaten dried foods include jerky, fruit leathers and fruit pieces.
The only equipment needed is a dehydrator or an oven. Vitamins A and C can be lost in this process but there is a process called sulfuring to help prevent the vitamin loss.
One good thing about dried foods is they are lightweight and only require a small area for storage space.
There are many things to consider when deciding how to preserve your food. For all methods of food preservation, you need equipment.
“In making a decision about how to preserve your food, consider the equipment required, the preparation and processing times, the nutrient value of the foods and the convenience of preparation for you after the food has been preserved,” said Roberts.
For a hands-on learning experience, find a food preservation workshop in your area using the the MU Extension calendar.