Posted on by Cleverona Kitchen

How to Store Summer Fruits and Vegetables

Summer is over in a few weeks and it might be the last opportunity for you to go out and have fun under the sun. The same goes for your favorite fruit or vegetable that will soon be harder to acquire, and you might just have to wait until next summer to taste again. But what if there’s a way to extend the season if only for a few months more.

People have been preserving food even before the handy refrigerator was invented. We do this to eliminate spoilage, remove harmful bacteria, and you guessed it, so we can enjoy food even when its season is over. We have a few ways for you to preserve those summer fruits and vegetables, and it’s easy enough for anyone to do at home. You’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor even months after summer! Pun intended.

Freezing is the easiest, most convenient, and the least time-consuming method of preserving food. We have to thank refrigeration for that. Freezing retains the quality of food over long storage periods. Freezing is generally superior to canning and dehydration when it comes down to long-term preservation for fruits and vegetables. It just retains the taste and nutrition better.

Though microorganism growth is stopped altogether in freezing, enzyme activity is however only slowed down. This means that in time color, taste, and nutrition will change. Vegetables must be blanched to inactivate these enzymes and destroys any microorganism at the same time. After blanching, the vegetables should be rapidly cooled in cold water to avoid cooking.  

  • Freeze your fruits and vegetables by spreading them in a tray then putting them in the freezer. Once frozen solid, you can put them all in a bag in batches. This method will prevent them from clumping together. It also freezes them evenly and quicker, which is needed in retaining the quality of the food.
  • Never overload your freezer. This will cause unwanted temperature drops that will ruin the freezing process.
  • When done correctly, freezing fruits and vegetables can preserve the greatest quantity of nutrients. Make sure to freeze below 0 degrees Fahrenheit or about 17 degrees Celsius.

There are always disadvantages. Since water makes up over 90 percent of most fruits and vegetables. freezing fruits and vegetables expands the water within the plant cells causing the cell wall to rupture. This makes the texture, when thawed, much softer. This can be controlled by freezing the food as quickly as possible.

What summer fruits and vegetables can you freeze? You can freeze almost everything you can think of. But their use might change as the texture of the food also changes. You won’t be able to eat watermelon like you would when fresh, but it will be great for daiquiris or sorbets.

Some of the best fruits and vegetables to freeze are green beans, avocados, strawberries, peaches, watermelon, tomatoes, okra, corn, blueberries, cantaloupe, and raspberries.

Way before refrigeration was invented, the most common way of preserving food was to let it dry out in the sun, expose it to the wind, or place it near a fire. Drying or dehydrating removes the water so bacteria, yeast, and mold cannot grow and ruin the food over time. It also slows down enzyme activity but does not inactivate them. And, unlike other preservation methods, drying completely changes both the texture and taste of the food. When dehydrated, the food will become smaller and lighter in weight. You can eat dried foods directly, or rehydrate them and watch the food return to its original shape.

 

There are a few methods that you can use to dry your food.

  • Dehydrators - Thanks to the modern age technology we now have dehydrators that effectively dehydrate food efficiently.
    • Dehydrators are designed to dry food evenly and efficiently to retain food quality.
    • It produces the best quality of dried food compared to other methods of drying.
  • Using an oven - It’s a much less efficient way of drying food that can take up to 3 times longer than a dehydrator.
    • Set the oven to the lowest temperature. If the heat is high, your food will cook instead of dry.
    • Use the convection setting for air circulation. If your oven doesn’t have one, prop a fan near the oven.
    • Leave the oven door a few inches open to allow moisture to get out.
    • Occasionally turn the food or rotate the tray to evenly dry your fruits or vegetables.
    • Place your vegetables on a cooling rack for better air circulation.
  • Sun-drying - Too dependent on where you are located due to weather and humidity.
    • Require constant exposure to the sun and may require days of drying to achieve results.
    • If the humidity is too high, the food will mold instead of dry.
    • You constantly have to watch your product for days, looking out for changes in the weather like rain or snow.
  • Air drying - It’s mostly done indoors protected from the weather.
    • Requires a well-ventilated area.
    • Herbs, delicate greens, mushrooms, and peppers are most commonly air-dried.
    • Relies heavily on humidity rather than heat from the sun.
    • Food is usually tied and hung. Make sure not to clump too many herbs on one tie so it dries evenly.
Some of the best fruits and vegetables to dry are mangoes, apples, peppers, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, bananas, herbs, cantaloupe, strawberries, mushrooms, blueberries, carrots, celery, corn, green beans, potatoes, and tomatoes.

    Canning is a method that involves placing foods in jars and heating them to a temperature that destroys microorganisms and inactivates enzymes, which could be a health hazard or cause the food to spoil. Canning must be done properly or else everything will spoil. This is why most beginners are withdrawn from trying this method. 

    Before canning, make sure all your equipment is clean. Though the bacteria will be eliminated during the process, some people go as far as sterilizing their jars and lids and using them immediately after. The food is carefully placed in the jars and covered with warm water, broth or syrup depending on the food being preserved. Don’t fill the jars to the brim. Leave a gap of air about a quarter to a half-inch. The heat from the process will expand the food and we don’t want them spilling out of our jars.

    Almost anything can be canned, including cooked food. The method you’ll use depends on what type of food you want to preserve, or to be more precise what their acidity is. Botulism is the most commonly associated food-borne illness with home-canned foods. That's why we use different canning methods based on the acidity of the food.

    The water-bath canning method is used for acidic fruits, jams, jellies, syrups, and pickling. It’s where the filled jars are immersed in a bath of boiling water. Acidic foods have a pH of 4.6 or less and contain enough acid so that the Clostridium botulinum spores can not grow and produce their deadly toxin. High acidic foods can be safely canned using the boiling water bath method.

    This method is best for:

    • Fruits
    • Jams, jellies, preserves, conserves, and marmalades
    • Tomatoes, tomato sauces without meat, tomato juice, and salsa. More acidity might be needed to make sure the pH is low.
    • Foods that have vinegar, such as pickles and pickled products

    The pressure canning method is the only safe way to can non-acidic foods, but you’ll need a pressure canner for this process. Pressure canning heats your canned food under steam pressure, allowing for much higher temperatures. This ensures that all bacteria are killed since the low acidity of the food cannot assure that.

    This method is best for:

    • Vegetables
    • meats
    • seafood
    • poultry
    • dairy products

    Make sure to follow recipes to the letter and know exactly what correct method to use. Bacteria in food is no joke.

    When foods are sugared, the sugar draws out the water reducing the amount of water available for the growth of microorganisms. Though It has the same osmotic effect as salt, sugar has a different effect on fruits. When sugar is used, the flavor and texture of the fruit improve and the natural color and shape are preserved. 

    There are different ways of adding sugar to preserve food.

    • Preserving fruits in syrup doesn't really preserve the fruit but does help to retain the flavor, color, and shape. This method is also a form of the canning method. Just make sure to sterilize the jars you are using because you won’t be prepping this one in boiling water. The sweetness of the syrup depends on how sour the fruit is. The sourer they are, the sweeter the syrup should be.
    • One way to use sugar is to dry the fruits by drying them and then packing them with pure sugar. Ginger, cherries, and the peel of citrus fruits are commonly preserved through this method. This is where the difference between canning and sugaring is shown. We can preserve food by sugaring without the canning process.
    • Fruits can also be preserved by making them into jams and jellies. They are made by cooking crushed fruit or fruit juice with sugar that must be present in the proper proportions with pectin and acid to form a gel. For these reasons, regular jam and jelly recipes cannot be made into sugar-free, reduced sugar, or artificially sweetened products.
    • In preserves, the fruit comes in the form of chunks in a gel or syrup. Preserves will have more fruit in them compared to jams. This makes them more used in baking than the others.

        Pickling refers to the process of soaking fruit or vegetable in vinegar solution or brine. It requires a specific sterilization process to ensure that pickled products are safe to store. Pickling fruits and vegetables create a rough environment for bacteria. Potentially dangerous pathogens can’t survive the acidity of the vinegar, which means food can be kept safe and edible for years.

         There are generally four methods you can do to pickle your fruit or vegetables

        • The quick pickle method is done just like the regular canning method. Fresh produce & any other spices are packed into sterilized canning jars then filled with a vinegar-based pickling brine to completely submerge the produce. The jars then go through the water bath canning method. 
        • The salt-brined pickling method draws out water from the food. That’s why this method is specifically for pickling vegetables and produce that have high water content. This allows the pickling liquid to soak deeper giving the produce more flavor, better texture, and longer shelf life. The food is usually doused with salt for at least a few hours or up to a day. The excess salt then is rinsed off and the vegetables drained well and packed into canning jars. A vinegar-based pickling liquid is then added to create the proper acidic conditions and to add flavor. Then we go through the water-bath canning method.
        • The vinegar-brined pickling method is similar to the salt-brined method but requires an added layer of complexity to draw the maximum amount of water out of the produce. The water is gradually drawn out in stages by soaking, draining, and then soaking again. It uses a vinegar solution, sometimes in combination with salt-water brine and often with plenty of sugar. 
        • Fermented pickling is a considerably different technique from the others, though it uses salt-water brine. The produce is submerged under salt-water brine, usually in a common fermentation vessel like a pickling crock or a fermentation kit. They are weighed down to make sure the vegetables are immersed at all times, ensuring that the product is never exposed to any oxygen or bacteria that exist in the open air. The vegetables are left submerged in the brine, to ferment over a period of days or weeks. Fermentation times vary depending on the recipe, environment, and personal preference.

        So what can you pickle? Well, it’s better to ask what can’t you pickle since you can basically pickle anything you can think of. As long as the flavors are complemented with that salty, sour taste that pickled foods bear, you’re good.

        It’s still best to enjoy food fresh and no matter what you do it’s never going to be as good as when you picked it from your garden. And with things the way they are today, fresh produce is almost always available no matter where you are or what season it may be. So why do we still preserve food at home?

        Maybe we just preserve food now just for the convenience of having it ready at our kitchens. Or maybe we like the flavor and texture of these naturally preserved foods. Whatever reason that may be, homemade preserved foods are not going anywhere. They are easy to make, fun to learn, and are a healthier option than the chemically preserved foods that you might find in your local supermarket.