Preserving the Harvest
The farmers’ market stalls are overflowing with produce and your garden is producing more tomatoes than you can handle. What to do? Lock in peak nutrition and summer flavor and try your hand at basic food preservation! Your taste buds will welcome the hint of summer during the colder months.
When time is of the essence, freezing is a simple, quick, effective way to store up food. Purchase freezer bags to store your frozen food in to help alleviate freezer burn and off flavors. Any fruit or vegetable can be frozen and are best used for cooking upon thawing. Before freezing, blanch (boil in water) your vegetables for 1-2 minutes. This deactivates enzymes that will negatively change the color, flavor, texture, and nutrition of your produce. Berries and other delicate fruits should not be blanched.
Nutrition of Frozen Food
If produce is handled properly before processing (stored at an appropriate temperature for no longer than a few days), very few nutrients are lost in this preservation method. Frozen food is the closest thing to eating freshly pick, vine ripened food!
There are two main types of canning: water bath and pressure. Water bath canning is safest for high acid foods such as pickles, tomatoes, and fruits while pressure canning is used with low-acid foods like meat, beans, and some vegetables. If you’re new to canning, start with water bath canning. One of the easiest foods to start with is whole or crushed tomatoes. For specific recipes and tips, visit the USDA or Ball websites. Only use canning recipes from well-known sources such as the MSU Extension, The USDA or Ball.
Nutrition of Canned Food
Home canned food can be a great source of nutrition. If vegetables are harvested and stored properly before canning, home canned food can have more nutrients than produce stored for long periods of time or in improper conditions. Some nutrients (most notably vitamin C, A, and B vitamins) are reduced in the canning process, but it isn’t much more than what is lost by normal degradation when produced is stored in the fridge for longer than one week. Some phytonutrients, like lycopene (an antioxidant that helps give tomatoes their red color), are made more bioavailable during the cooking process.
Ready to try your hand at home food preservation? Try one of the following recipes. Do you have a favorite canning recipe to share? Let us know and we may share it on our blog.
Kelly Wilson, RDN, is the Owner of Taste of Health Nutrition and our local food coordinator for Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at [email protected]