Many of us want to preserve locally grown produce by canning, freezing or drying some fruits and vegetables. Deciding what and how much food to preserve is a critical step in successful home food preservation. Last year, you may have been tempted by a deal on a box of beautiful green beans at a Seattle farmers market, so put up 20 quarts of green beans in a pressure canner. This year, you realize that your family doesn’t like canned green beans and you have 19 quarts of canned green beans* in your food pantry.
*You can’t donate home canned food to a food bank, but you may be able to serve canned green beans in some other way that your family will like, such as dressed with vinaigrette and garnished with chopped nuts or bacon bits; added to tossed green salads, soups, or stews; or in place of lettuce on a sandwich.
How to decide what foods to preserve
Decide what foods to preserve by first making a list of favorite menus and recipes that your family likes to eat regularly. Use this list of favorites to decide what specific foods to preserve. In some cases, the recipe may also help you decide one preservation method over another; for example, three-bean salad pickled in a boiling water bath canner or frozen whole green beans may be a better choice for your family than pressure canning green beans.
How much food to preserve
In a recent survey, people who regularly preserve foods by canning canned less than 20 quarts of each type of fruit, tomato product or vegetable and less than 10 quarts of pickles or jam. If you are new to canning, start with no more than one canner load (seven quarts or pints) of any one item, until you are sure that your family will like the preserved food.
As a rule, one canned quart requires between 1½ to 3 pounds of produce (that’s a big range, but there are many variables so this is only a basic guide). Therefore, start with 10-20 pounds of a particular fruit or vegetable, rather than a larger amount. Also be sure to try several different methods for preserving a food, to find out which suit your lifestyle best.
How to preserve foods
Besides canning, there are other methods such as freezing and drying that are easier and may be more useful. Lifestyles have changed a lot since your grandmother was “putting food by” for winter meals. Today’s family is busier and adapted to more variety throughout the year. Try small batches of several preservation methods to find the ones that your family likes best.
For example, if you want to preserve peaches, try canned peaches, peach jam, peach chutney, frozen peach slices and chopped dried peaches. Use canned or frozen peaches for breakfast smoothies, peach jam for tarts, chutney to serve with curries as well as with appetizers like cheese and samosas, frozen peach slices to make pie or cobbler, and dried peaches for snacks or baked into nut-studded muffins.
Popular books about food preservation
- Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingryand Lauren Devine
- Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoffand Rinne Allen
- Put ’em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling by Sherri Brooks Vinton
A few menu ideas and the foods to preserve
In the list below are a few example recipes and the foods that can be preserved in order to enjoy them throughout year.
- Healthy oatmeal breakfast cookies made with peanut butter and dried fruits like dried cherries or dried peaches
- Yogurt smoothies or yogurt parfaits made with frozen canned or frozen fruits like peaches or berries
- Taco soup made with fresh or dried onion, frozen corn, canned tomatoes, and pickled jalapenos
- Smoked salmon and pickled corn salad
Use these ideas to spark your imagination, beginning with the recipes that your family likes best. Try several different food preservation methods, including canning, freezing and drying.