Quick Food Preservation Tips

Ever feel like you simply don’t have time to deal with your harvest?  Sure, you may have time to pick the tomatoes and snip that basil but, what if you have no time for canning?  Below you will find a few quick food preservation tips for the busy gardener.image

Tomatoes

Once these babies start coming they never seem to stop.  I don’t know about you but my kitchen windowsill becomes a tomato storage unit this time of year!  The smaller cherry or grape types come first.  Then the medium sized tomatoes start to ripen.  Bring on the BLT’s and Caprese salads! Still too many tomatoes?  No time for canning?

All shapes and sizes!
All shapes and sizes!

Have you ever heard of freezing whole tomatoes? I’ve been doing it for years after seeing it on a local cooking show.  All you have to do is wash the tomatoes and cut out the stem.

Cut out blossom end.
Cut out blossom end.

The next step is to toss them in a zipper bag and push the air out!  It’s as easy as that.

Place tomatoes in zipper bag.
Place tomatoes in zipper bag.

When you have a recipe that calls for a can of diced tomatoes, simply take out a few from the freezer bag and place them in a saucepan.  Add a little water and cover.  Simmer over medium heat until thawed.  Use a potato masher to crush them and remove the skins with a fork.  This can easily be done while you cook.  When cooking chili for instance, brown meat and prepare the rest of the ingredients.  When you are ready for the tomatoes, they should be done.  This way you can avoid canned tomatoes all together.  Of course, if you don’t have freezer space, traditional canning methods may be for you.

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Basil

When I get around to harvesting my basil, I usually have a ton of it all at once.  Making pesto is simple and it freezes well.  Most of you probably know of the old ice cube tray trick.  Just make a batch of pesto, scoop it into the ice cube trays and freeze.  After they have completely frozen, remove from trays and place in a freezer bag.  Now you have individual servings of pesto.  This works great for me since I’m the only one who eats it around here!

Basil in the salad spinner!
Basil in the salad spinner!

Throughout the year, it’s wonderful to have fresh basil on hand.  When I have an abundance, I prepare it for the freezer.

Wash and spin the basil leaves.
Wash and spin the basil leaves.

Remove leaves from the basil stems, wash and dry, then put in a freezer bag.  Squeeze out all of the air and freeze immediately.

Basil in a zipper bag, ready for the freezer.
Basil in a zipper bag, ready for the freezer.

To use, just quickly take the bag out of the freezer. Use your hand to crush some of the leaves and sprinkle into your dish.  The aroma of fresh basil permeates the kitchen and you have the closest thing to fresh basil going into your meal!  Make sure to put basil right back in the freezer.  Use this frozen basil in soups, stews, sauces and on pizza!

Herbs

At our house, we have quite a few perennial herbs growing in the gardens.  Oregano, thyme, mint. Rosemary is usually planted in with the basil for convenience.  As the summer slips by, I try to run out and harvest some for winter use. I don’t have a designated herb drying area yet.  I just grab an unused window screen from the basement and put my herb cuttings on it to dry. Placing the screen on top of my upright freezer ensures that they go undisturbed.

Make shift herb drying rack!
Make shift herb drying rack!

When herbs have dried, store them in an airtight container.  Rosemary and thyme are aromatic additions to many meals.  Mint can be used for tea. When you purchase and grow perennial herb plants, you can save money on buying dried herbs at the store.

Cucumbers 

They all seem to come at once if they come at all! The crunchy, refreshing cucumber.  I love to make pickles, especially Bread and Butter pickles.  But, the work involved can take hours. Fermented pickles or refrigerator pickles can be a lifesaver in these situations.  Fermented pickles are made in a crock or jar and are left for several months until they are ready. Refrigerator pickles are stored in the fridge and used much sooner.

Refrigerator pickles on the left, fermented pickles on the right!
Refrigerator pickles on the left, fermented pickles on the right!

For the refrigerator pickles I used a recipe from theprettybee.com but added some crushed red pepper flakes.  There are so many recipes out there.  Just look up a few and see what appeals to you.

Cut fresh cucumbers into spears.
Cut fresh cucumbers into spears.

The recipe I use for fermented pickles came from my mother-in-law.  I know many people use this and I’m sure the original recipe goes way back.  I broke it down for a one quart jar.  This way I can make one jar at a time if I like.  The recipe is actually for a gallon size jar.

Place sliced cucumbers in jar.
Place sliced cucumbers in jar.

Sour Mustard Pickles

1/4 cup Kosher canning salt

1/4 cup dry mustard

1 cup sugar

White vinegar for filling jar

Add ingredients to the jar.
Add ingredients to the jar.
Add the vinegar to the jar.
Add the vinegar to the jar.

Fill jar with 5% acidity white vinegar.  Leave about a half inch of head space.  Rotate jar a bit to mix ingredients.  Place in a dark, cool cupboard and wait a few months.  Some feel that these type of pickles come out mushy.  Make sure to use firm, fresh cucumbers for the best results and don’t keep them forever.  Eat them up!

Remember that farm stands usually sell tomatoes and cucumbers in bulk this time of year.  Even if your garden has been less that productive, you still have the chance to preserve some of the harvest!

Thanks for stopping by Everlongardener today.  I hope these quick tips are helpful in preserving your harvest in these busy times! I’m getting ready to plant more greens for winter so some garden space is getting cleared.  Have a great week! Hey! And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and follow Everlongardener on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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