Best Ways to Preserve Vegetables and Fruits

Whether canning, freezing, drying or putting in cold storage, here are the preferred methods of storing common garden produce.
By John Vivian
August/September 1999
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While many recommend freezing corn, canning it cream-style also allows you to enjoy all of the veggie's goodness.
ILLUSTRATION: MEGHAN WIDMAN


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This chart is not intended as a substitute for a USDA-data-based manual that gives proven recipes and step-by-step details. But for quick reference, following are MOTHER'S own preferred ways of preserving vegetables and fruits for the winter.

All canning is done in a pressure canner, omitting need to acidify sub-acid tomatoes and bland fruits for hot-water canning. Heat and processing times are extra conservative for safety's sake. Change them only if you have an approved, proven recipe. Prefreeze blanching times are USDA standard for one pound of food.

APPLES  

Cold cellar store whole, cut in rings and dry, or pressure can, as applesauce.

ASPARAGUS  

Freeze what you don't eat fresh. Cut spears in 1-inch sections. Steam-blanch 4 minutes. Ice-chill 5 minutes. Bag in a single layer and flesh-freeze.

BEANS, GREEN OR YELLOW  

Can. Pick over, stem and string if needed. Pack whole into widemouthed pints or cut into 1/2-inch lengths and pack into quarts. Fill with water leaving 1-inch headroom. Steam-process for 30 minutes at 15 pounds.

BEANS, LIMA  

Freeze. Boil-blanch for 3 minutes, chill for 5 minutes and press beans from pod with one end cut off. Box and freeze.

BERRIES  

Wash, trim, dry, roll in sugar, bag and flash-freeze.

BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER  

Freeze. Soak in saltwater to expose cabbage worms. Rinse well. Cut head into 1-inch florets. Peel stem and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Steam-blanch for 5 minutes. Chill 7 minutes. Dry, bag and flash-freeze.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS  

Hang. Top plant in early fall. After light frost remove leaves, pull plant and hang upside down in a cool but not freezing outdoor location. Twist off sprouts as needed.

CABBAGE  

Store in pit or root cellar (but not under house; they can stink). Hold near freezing, moderately moist. Overhaul often, removing soft leaves and any visible spots of black or yellow mold.

CARROTS 

Leave in ground under mulch. Or keep in clean, sharp, barely damp sand in dark root cellar. Hold near freezing. Overhaul monthly, use any with black rot on ends. Plant out sprouting roots in spring for carrot seed.

CELERY  

Stalks will store in straw, but get bitter quickly. Dry leaves for winter seasoning. Save plant bases in sand in root cellar to replant in spring for seeds.

CORN  

Can cream-style to get all the goodness. Cut kernels from ears; scrape ears with back of knife to harvest kernel hearts and milk. Bring to a boil, add water or mashed kernels if needed to cover well. Pack hot in widemouthed pints (only) with a full 1-inch of headroom. Pressure-process at 15 pounds for a full 90 minutes.

CORN ON COB  

Freeze. To avoid cobby flavor from too-slow processing, before shucking, drill a 1/2-inch hole through cob. Trim or split cobs to 5-inch length. Insert a 6-inch steel spike with each end exposed and leave in through processing. Shuck, water-blanch for 10 minutes. Chill for 15 minutes. Remove spike, bag individually and flash-freeze, turning after a half hour. (Oil spikes with vegetable shortening to prevent rust till next crop.)

CHERRIES  

Can as Aunt Birdie's stewed cherries. Pick over, wash and pit red sour cherries. Cook till soft in equal parts sugar and water. Can in pints, leaving 1/2-inch headroom, for 30 minutes at 15 pounds. For a treat, cook and can with a few drops of almond oil, rind-on orange rounds, Cherry Heering or other fruit cordial (boiling removes alcohol).

GREENS  

Freeze. Pick over and wash in saltwater to eliminate small wildlife. Rinse and dry. Cut in 1/2-inch-wide strips. Boil-blanch for 3 minutes, chill for 5 minutes. Pack loosely in a large bag and flash-freeze.

ONIONS  

Sun/air dry. Braid fully dry tops. If not dry, freeze onions. Do not blanch. Skin under water, chop coarsely, conserving juice, and bag. Flash-freeze and take from bag as needed.

PEAS, SWEET AND SUGAR  

Freeze. Steam-blanch peas or small-pod sugar peas for 2 minutes. Chill for 5 minutes. Dry, bag and flash-freeze.

PEACHES, PEARS, QUINCES  

Can in sugar syrup. Pick firm, newly ripe fruit. To skin, scald in boiling water. Pit/core and cut in two-bite slices in a bowl to conserve juice. Poach for 3 minutes in medium syrup (one part sugar to two parts water, with a squeeze of lemon juice per cup). Pack hot into widemouthed pints and fill to 1/2-inch of top with hot syrup. Process in pressure cooker for 30 minutes at 15 lbs.

PEPPERS, HOT  

Air/sun dry. Braid, string or pull whole plant and hang from the south, facing front porch ceiling or door to dry in the fall sun.

PEPPERS, SWEET 

Freeze. Cut out stern and blemishes, quarter and seed. Cut in strips or dice. Steam-blanch for 4 minutes. Chill for 5 minutes. Dry, bag and flash-freeze.

POTATOES  

Cold cellar, or else dice and dry. Keep loosely packed in dry straw or on trays at moderate humidity, at 35°'F to 40°F and in total dark. Overhaul biweekly. Remove and use any with soft spots. To dry, scrub or peel if you must dice and soak in ascorbic acid to retain the white color. Dry as rapidly as possibly. Bag and store in a cool, dry place (in nitrogen).

PUMPKIN, WINTER SQUASH  

Pick when stem slips. Hold in dry, warm storage at 55°F (not touching, in clean straw in a dresser drawer under the bed in an unheated bedroom is traditional). When water spots threaten to soften into rot after several months, split seed and bake till soft. Scrape out pulp, add water in a pot and bring to a boil. Pack hot in one-pie pints or two-pie quarts, leaving 1-inch headroom. Pressure can at 15 pounds for 70 minutes in pints, 90 minutes for quarts.

RHUBARB 

Pull stalks, discard leaves, trim bottom. Cut in 1-inch slices. Mix with 1/2 cup white sugar and a pinch of salt per cup of stalks. Steep for an hour to draw fluid. Bring to a boil and cook till sugar dissolves and stalks soften. Add slices of mouse-nibbled strawberries for color and flavor. Pack in pints, leaving 1/2-inch headroom. Pressure-cook for 20 minutes at 15 pounds.

RUTABEGA  

Cold cellar at about 40°F. Cut off tops and roots, let dry and dip in melted paraffin for best keeping quality.

SUMMER SQUASH  

Move fast to retain crispness. Live-stearn blanch small fruit cut in 1/2-inch-thick slices a few at a time for a scant minute. Chill for 5 minutes, dry and flash-freeze in bags. Try it with turnips and kohlrabi if you like either well enough to preserve some.

SWEET POTATOES  

Cure under old vines in field or barn till cuts are healed and dry. Store semi-warm (55°F to 60°F) in moderately dry air same as winter squash. Overhaul often.


More on Preserving

For more information, see Home Canning and Storing Foods Safely, About Using Old Canning Jars, andVacuum Packing and Nitrogen Packing Foods.


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