Congrats on a successful garden! If you’re wondering what to do with all that produce, here’s how to preserve your vegetables so that you can enjoy them over the winter!
After nurturing your vegetable garden all season long, your hard work paid off, resulting in a bountiful harvest! If you still have veggies left after eating them fresh and adding them to your favorite recipes of the season, there are many ways to preserve your harvest. This way, you make sure not to let any food go to waste, plus it lets you enjoy your harvest longer!
Only preserve vegetables that were picked fresh, and avoid handling them too much, since damaged produce won’t preserve well. Also, inspect for signs of rot, which can quickly spread to the rest of your harvest.
Pickle Your Harvest
One of the quickest and easiest ways to preserve vegetables is the “quick pickle” method. Other pickle methods require canning, and while they last longer, they do take a few extra steps. But quick pickles still allow you to preserve vegetables long term—for up to three weeks in the fridge—plus they are tasty!
While cucumbers are a go-to for pickles, you can pickle many types of vegetables, including asparagus, beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, peppers, and tomatoes. You can even add multiple types of veggies to one jar!
Once you decide which vegetables to use, place them in sterile jars. Then you’ll pour a brine into the jars. To make the brine, bring two cups each of water and vinegar to a boil, two tablespoons of kosher salt, and three to six tablespoons of sugar, adjusting according to taste. After you pour the brine in the jars, leave them uncovered, and let cool. This should take about two hours.
Once cooled, seal the jars and refrigerate. The pickles will be ready in about eight hours, but they’ll taste even better after a night in the fridge.
How to Can Vegetables
Canning vegetables does take more effort than other preservation methods, but it’s worth it since canned vegetables can last up to five years when done correctly. You’re able to can most vegetables—think of how many options there are down the canned goods aisle at the grocery store! Some of the best ones for canning are asparagus, beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, corn, peas, peppers, tomatoes, and squash.
You’ll need sterile jars and a pressure canner for this method. To start, chop your vegetables, and boil them for about five minutes to ensure no bacteria is present. Then follow the pressure canner directions carefully to make sure you’re creating an environment where bacteria won’t grow. Store the jars in a cool, dark, and dry place.
Preserve Vegetables in the Freezer
Another simple method for preserving vegetables is by freezing them. Frozen vegetables keep for up to six months.
Rather than simply tossing vegetables in the freezer, you’ll have to blanch them first. Place an ice bath in a large bowl near your stove—boil water in a large saucepan. Hold the vegetables in the boiling water using a mesh strainer for one to two minutes. The color of the vegetables will become more intense, and they should be tender, but not mushy.
When the vegetables reach that point, remove them from the boiling water and put them in the ice bath to cool. Remove from the ice bath, and shake off any excess water or let the vegetables drip dry. Put the vegetables in freezer bags or containers, then place them in the freezer.
Methods to Dehydrate Vegetables
Dehydrated vegetables can be stored for five years, even longer. But they’re so tasty; they probably won’t last that long!
While you can use a dehydrator machine, you can also use your oven, or even sun or air dry your vegetables. Some of the best vegetables to preserve by dehydrating include beans, beets, corn, herbs, onions, potatoes, peas, and turnips.
To begin, clean the produce and pat it dry with a towel. Slice the vegetables into even pieces, then blanch them by dipping in boiling water and cooling in an ice bath, like in the freezing preservation method. If you’re making chips from your vegetables, like beet chips, then you can add some seasoning.
Then it’s time to use whichever dehydration method is accessible to you (oven, dehydrator, air drying, sun drying). Dehydrating the vegetables can take up to 24 hours, depending on the produce. Once this stage is complete, store in airtight containers in a cool, dark, and dry place.
While some dried vegetables, like beet chips, can be eaten as is, others need to be rehydrated or can be added to soups.
While these methods do increase the time of when you can enjoy the veggies, the sooner you eat them, the better. That way, you avoid the risk of rotting, plus, eating the produce might just be the best part of gardening!