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.
PM 1043 Preserve the Taste of Summer – Canning: Fruits
PM 1044 Preserve the Taste of Summer – Canning: Vegetables
PM 1366 Preserve the Taste of Summer – Canning: Fruit Spreads
PM 1368 Preserve the Taste of Summer – Canning: Pickles
PM 1045 Preserve the Taste of Summer – Freezing: Fruits and Vegetables
PM 0638 Preserve the Taste of Summer – Canning and Freezing: Tomatoes
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.
If you have access to extra tomatoes or other fruits and vegetables, Extension has an excellent source for current research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation and processing information. The National Center for Home Food Preservation provides information about canning, freezing, drying, curing, pickling, making jams and jellies, as well as storing foods.
If you have questions, you may call Families Extension Answer Line (800-262-3804). Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m.
– pointers from Peggy
My sisters, dad and I share a garden spot. We try to coordinate so that we all work in the garden at the same time because it is more fun that way, but with our schedules that doesn’t happen very often. This spring when we were planting, a couple of times someone planted over the top of something that was already in the ground (this is why we had peppers growing in the bean rows). I was determined to have some winter squash, so I planted a whole row of seeds about 3” apart and put milk cartons filled with water every foot to mark the row. To make a long story short, I didn’t thin the plants, so the squash took over a corner of the garden and now we have lots of acorn squash. If you have an abundance of winter squash or pumpkins, here are some helps:
-pointers by Peggy
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?
For all the latest info on home food preservation, including delicious tested recipes, check out Food Preservation Resources.
-pointers by Renee
Early in July I head to my favorite ‘you-pick’ blueberry farm and enjoy those delicious fresh berries! I don’t have the time or space to grow my own berries, so I’m happy others grow them for us to pick. Grocery stores are running specials of under $2.00 a pint; but, at one pick-your-own operation in SE Iowa, they were $2 a quart if you did the picking or $4 a quart if you bought them in the box. I get satisfaction from picking them myself, and knowing they were produced locally is well worth the price I pay.
Blueberries are one of the top fruits nutritionally and are great to eat fresh, or they can be frozen. You do need to rinse them off, but experts disagree whether that needs to be done before or after you freeze them. Frozen berries are great in muffins, salads, smoothies, on cereal, etc. The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. web site has directions for freezing fruits and vegetables.
Look for other pick-your-own opportunities. If you participate in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects, you may have the option of picking your own as well.
-pointers from Patty
Apparently, sandwiches were invented in the 18th century when the Earl of Sandwich asked for his meat to be served between slices of bread, to avoid interrupting a gambling game or getting his cards greasy. If the Earl were alive today he probably would have invented sandwiches so he could eat while driving, or to avoid getting his cell phone dirty!
I love sandwiches because they are so versatile and convenient. Sometimes I make sandwiches ahead and freeze them. It saves time and is a great way to use those bits of leftovers.
Half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a great snack for me. When I have a couple of slices of whole wheat bread at the end of the loaf, I spread a little peanut butter on both sides of the bread and put the jelly in the middle. This assembly method will help reduce sogginess.
Summer is coming! Consider adding frozen sandwiches to a cooler to keep everything colder longer.
University of Nebraska has a useful tip sheet for Freezing Sandwiches.
-pointers by Peggy