Filling the Pantry with Your Harvest
By Maria Pippidis
UD Cooperative Extension
Are you thinking “what am I going to do with all of that produce?” Many families have started gardens this year and though the harvest isn’t in full swing yet, it won’t be long before you have tomatoes, peppers, corn and beans. It can be a challenge eating them all up as soon as they come in the door. Freezing or canning your harvest is the best way to “put foods up” for later.
We have had many calls already for people interested in learning how to preserve food safely. Canning can be daunting if you’ve never done it before. And with the risk of botulism it’s important to get it right. Your grandma’s recipes should be placed in a memorial recipe book and the new approved recipes followed. Preserving foods properly will ensure their safety in the future.
For approved recipes go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation website at: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/ or to USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning at:
http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/publications_usda.html. Ball has some excellent tested recipes as well.
Be careful though. I’ve seen some downright wrong recipes and techniques on the web. It’s important to follow tested recipes because test labs have reviewed the ingredients and procedures. By following the recipes and following the steps you reduce the chances of Clostridium botulinum reproduction and thus the development of the neurotoxin that can cause severe illness and even death.
For those who want a hands-on learning experience, I’ve set up two learning opportunities. Food Preservation Basics 101 will be held on June 29th, 2013 from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm. I’ll provide you with the reference materials you need and you’ll get a chance to participate in the process of using the boiling water bath canning. Pre-registration is required and there is a fee of $45 to cover the costs of the reference text book and materials. Call the office for information at 831-1239.
For those of you who are interested in learning how to can tomatoes and salsa, the Canning Tomatoes and Salsa workshop will be your best bet. This class will be held on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 from 6:30 pm—9:00 pm at the NCC Extension Office. The charge will be $20. We need to know you’re comings so pre-registration is required for both workshops.
Freezing Foods Safely will be held on July 24th from 6:30-9pm. The cost is $15. You’ll learn best strategies for freezing foods to ensure their quality and longevity in the freezer.
I’ll also be hosting a “Check Your Pressure Canner” open house on July 11, from 10 am to 3pm. This is for people who have dial gauge pressure canners. I’ll inspect your canner and test the gauge to be sure it’s reading correctly. Just call to let me know you’re coming.
If canning is something you don’t want to take on, freezing may be your best bet. The two reference websites above also provide guidance on effective freezing. Though there isn’t the concern about botulism when freezing, there are techniques that will ensure product quality over time. Blanching is one strategy that kills enzymes and will reduce discoloration of products. Each product has different blanch times so look them up. Packing product tightly and reducing air within the container also helps reduce freezer burn. You can find simple directions at our Cooperative Extension website: http://extension.udel.edu/fcs/food-safety/food-preservation/
Canning and freezing food is a great way to preserve your harvest so you can enjoy it throughout the year. With some practice and patience you’ll be preserving your harvest in no time at all. But of course, if you still have extra produce after you’ve eaten your fill or filled your pantry, you can donate it to the Food Bank of Delaware. They are collecting and redistributing fresh produce to families in need.