Growing fruits and vegetables is a satisfying activity that can yield a bumper crop. After all the work of planting, weeding and harvest, we prefer not to toss extra produce on the compost pile.
Most of us give friends and family a considerable amount of cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and corn. Gospel Rescue Mission (326 S 2 and 918-682-3489) welcomes produce donations to feed local families in need.
When it comes to preserving and storing some of the extra to use over the winter, gardeners each have a preferred method.
To keep food safe and nutritious, four problems must be conquered. (See Piers Warren reference below.)
1) Enzymes cause food to begin to lose nutritional value and to spoil quickly. Extreme heat used for canning stops enzyme action, as does freezing.
2) Bacteria cause most food poisoning and their growth can be stopped through freezing, high heat, and high concentrations of sugar, salt or acid used for pickling.
3) Yeasts cause the kind of food spoilage seen when jam ferments. Cooking jam at high enough heat for the correct length of time prevents yeast growth until the jar is opened.
4) Fungi spores are in the air and cause bread to mold. Fungi growth can be prevented through freezing and pickling.
Preserving produce by freezing is straightforward if you have vacuum sealing equipment and a chest freezer.
Pick produce in the morning and handle carefully to avoid bruising or nicking. Wash and prepare - steam, blanch, chop, or slice. Foods such as corn and peas lose sweetness quickly so have everything ready to go before picking.
Both produce and herbs can be air dried in a few hours in an oven set to 110-degrees. Store in airtight containers to maintain flavor.
Sauerkraut is an easy to make example of salt preserving. The flavor of homemade kraut makes it worth the small amount of trouble.
High acid foods such as tomatoes are usually canned in a boiling water bath. We can outside using a turkey deep fryer with propane. Canning outside keeps the heat out of the house and the deep fryer pot is tall enough to cover quart jars with two inches of boiling water.
Use a pressure canner for preserving low acid foods such as green beans. If you have any questions about pressure canning, Virginia Stanley at Oklahoma State University Extension is our local resource. You can contact Stanley at 918-686-7200.
Mason canning jars were invented in the 1860s and home canning became a hobby of the wealthy by the 1880s. Home canned food was used to feed troops and home canning remained popular until after WWII.
Jam, jelly, and pickles are the some of the safest products for home canning. They have enough preservative in the form of sugar, salt or vinegar to keep them from spoiling.
Americans' insecurity about food safety is thought to be one of the primary reasons that there has been a 92 percent increase in the sales of home canning supplies such as jars, containers and food storage systems.
To be sure your home preserved foods are safe to eat, check out some of these resources -
The United States Department of Agriculture Complete Guide to Home Canning at http://is.gd/1glGe.
The Ball Blue Book is the standard for food preserving guidance. Ball's website has step-by-step canning, recipes, and videos at www.freshpreserving.com.
“Introduction to Home Food Preservation” is online at http://is.gd/1gleN from the University of South Carolina.
Piers Warren provides several straightforward approaches to food preservation in his “How to Store Your Garden Produce: The Key to Self-sufficiency”. Warren grows most of his food on an acre in Norfolk UK. The book was published by Chelsea Green, www.chelseagreen.com, and $12 online.