Over the past few weeks we’ve shared how our gardens are growing (Christine, Katy, and Jody ). And next week Justine will give us an update about her garden. Eating delicious home-grown food is a joy of gardening, so it has been fun to review the ways we use our garden produce. While fresh produce from the garden is delicious, sometimes you have so much you need to save it for later.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has many food preservation resources, including virtual and in person classes. Preserve the Taste of Summer offers participants the opportunity to learn safe food preservation techniques, including canning, freezing and dehydrating. For more information and to find a class, check out https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/preserve-taste-summer.
Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.
Have you noticed the interest in home food preservation? Equipment sales are up, cookbooks are selling and home cooks, from beginners to experts, are enjoying the pleasure of canning, freezing, jams, jellies and drying foods. Some are doing it for creativity or to give as homemade gifts. Others want to control salt, sugar and other preservatives in the foods they eat. Some want to save money by preserving the excess garden bounty.
Whatever your motivation, it is very important to use reliable recipes, instructions and equipment. I have been horrified by some of the directions I hear people sharing. I know that home canned food can be dangerous and sometimes the food will spoil before it can be used. Years ago I used to teach food preservation and answer questions from the public. I cringe at the time and money that is wasted by shortcuts or lack of research-based directions.
Extension Services across the country provide information on food preservation. Check with your local extension service or look for resources at the National Center for Home food Preservation at the University of Georgia.
Here in Iowa our food and nutrition team has created a comprehensive course for people to learn about food preservation Preserve the Taste of Summer. This new program includes on-line courses and hands-on workshops.
Some Iowa counties will be hosting a program called Food Preservation 101: This is a one-time program lasting from 1.5 – 2 hours. It is free and gives people some basic information about food preservation and a chance to learn about the Preserve the Taste of Summer course. Check with your local office to see if it is scheduled.
Also, all the ISU food preservation publications have been revised with the most up- to-date information. Download any or all of these for free from the ISU web site.
Last year I made 10 batches of sour cherry jam. My sister and I picked the cherries and pitted them. We froze some for muffins and pies, but we made most of them into jam. This took most of a day since jam is one recipe you don’t double. The jam looked and tasted delicious. Although I gave most of it away, I still have a few jars to spread on toast for a special treat. It’s a good thing we made extra last year because this summer there were very few cherries on the trees.
Remember that old argument…is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Here’s the answer. BOTH. Botanically speaking, the tomato is a fruit. A “fruit” is any fleshy material covering a seed or seeds. Horticulturally speaking, the tomato is a vegetable plant. The plant is an annual and non-woody. (Source: Produce Marketing Association and the Produce for Better Health Foundation.)
Whatever, our garden and my patio plants are loaded with tomatoes that are almost ripe. I have my fingers crossed that we don’t get hail, insects or disease in the next few weeks. If not, there should be some extras to make salsa, or preserve for future meals.
Is your garden overflowing? I don’t have many tomatoes yet, but lots of everything else! I know some of my neighbors have been busy canning and freezing beans and other garden goodies. Canning and freezing may or may not save money (depending on how many supplies you have to purchase), but the end result definitely tastes good. Although home food preservation has been done for years, we learn more all the time about how to do it more safely and with better quality results. The ‘way Grandma did it’ may not follow current recommendations. For example,
Did you know you are supposed to add acid (lemon juice or citric acid) to every jar of canned tomatoes to keep them safe?
Did you know you are supposed to follow a tested recipe (not just one you got from a from a friend’s friend) for things like salsa, relish, and—in fact—all home canned items?
Did you know that ‘steam canners’ are not safe, even though you still see them sold in stores?
Did you know there is a new recommendation to leave jars in a pressure canner for 10 minutes after processing and leave jars in a water bath for 5 minutes after processing?