Going green just got a whole lot more delicious. Make the most out of your leftover produce, and save the world while you’re at it.
BY: ANNE DANAHY, MS, RD
Have you ever wondered what you can do to with all your extra fruits and veggies? If you’re mindful about the freshness of produce in your fridge, there’s a way to save them before they go bad. After all, less food waste is always desirable.
Think preserving and canning.
There’s nothing better than a jar of homemade salsa, preserves, or pickled anything. In fact, proper canning of fruits and vegetables prevents the growth of microbes, including botulism, and helps ensure freshness. The secret is to follow the rules and directions which have been tested to ensure your end product is safe to eat. Luckily, there are a variety of methods for preserving and canning – check them out below.
For anyone who wants a simple and basic method for preserving produce, look no further than your freezer. Most vegetables and fruits can easily be stored for an average of 8-12 months in your freezer, with minor preparation. The only equipment needed are freezer-safe containers and freezer bags to freeze and store your produce in.
Fruits should be washed and sorted to remove any that are bruised or overly ripe. The National Center for Home Preservation (NCHFP) recommends stemming, pitting and slicing fruit as desired, and treating any fruits like apples or peaches, that are subject to browning, with ascorbic acid. Fruits can be frozen unsweetened, but some may have a better texture when stored in sugar or syrup.
Vegetables should be frozen at their peak of freshness. Blanch and chill them quickly to stop the action of enzymes that cause loss of flavor, color, and texture, before you freeze them. With the exception of leafy vegetables, cucumbers, radishes, and celery, which become limp and discolored when frozen, most other vegetables freeze very well.
Refrigerator pickling takes just a little bit more work, but it allows you to be a bit more creative with recipes and flavors. The only requirements are fresh fruits, vegetables, any desired herbs, a large saucepan to boil the pickling brine, and jars to store your picked creations in the refrigerator for up to a few weeks.
Don’t limit your pickling to cucumbers! Try carrots, onions, radishes, jicama, peppers, grapes, or even melon.
Canning may conjure up images of grandmothers working for hours in the hot kitchen, peeling, cooking, and processing jars in a huge water bath or pressure cooker. Unfortunately, the process hasn’t changed much over the years, except for air conditioning. It’s definitely more time-consuming, but it’s a wonderful and satisfying way to enjoy and share your favorite produce with friends and family. Proper canning allows you to store your produce for longer periods of time without refrigeration, but it’s important to follow the exact recipe and instructions, which have been tested by food science experts to ensure that the end products are not only fresh looking and tasting, but also safe to eat.
According to NCHFP, proper canning practices include selecting only the freshest foods and preparing them properly; hot packing many foods; adding acids like lemon juice or vinegar when necessary to reduce the pH, using sterile jars with self-sealing lids; and processing jars in a boiling water or pressure canner for the correct period of time. It may sound like a scary chemistry experiment that can go terribly wrong, but the good news is that there are many resources and cookbooks o help ensure that your final product will be delicious.
Save those fruits and veggies from going to waste, and store away!
Adapted from the original article.
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Anne Danahy, MS, RD is a Scottsdale-AZ-based registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant specializing in women’s health and healthy aging. Anne is passionate about teaching people how to make the science of nutrition more delicious on their plates. Visit her at Craving Something Healthy.