The heat and drought are hard on fruits and vegetables, so production at home and at farmers markets is down. But, you might still be able to find some great tasting fruits and/or vegetables to can, freeze, pickle, dry or make into jam. Using current tested recipes and procedures is very important, both to make sure your food is safe and to get the best tasting results.
Sometimes I freeze tomatoes to use in chili and soup and berries (when I can get them for a bargain). My sisters and I make jam and salsa from our garden and give them away to our friends and relatives. We have fun working together and the food gifts seem a little more special when you make them instead of buy them.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has new on-line classes, regional workshops, and a new series of free publications with the latest recommendations on food preservation called Preserve the Taste of Summer. Plus ISU Extension Answerline, toll-free in Iowa 800-262-3804, is still available and answered by friendly, patient Home Economists.
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.