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It's Time for Preserving!!!

box_of_veggiesThis is the time for making the most of your harvest, or of the harvest of other local growers, by preserving summer's bounty so that winter can be just as abundant. There are a number of ways you can preserve veggies, fruits, herbs, dairy products and meat, with very little time and energy.

Included in this article is an overview of the most popular methods (canning, freezing, dehydrating, pickling & fermenting, and dairying) with some resources to help you get started or expand your skill set. The National Center for Home Food Preservation and the NMSU Home Food Preservation website are great places to get reliable information, and in the case of NMSU, it is oftentimes regionally focused.



Canning - A simple, easy method of preserving food in jars. This can be done in a water bath canner for high acid foods or pressure canner for low acid foods. This method works to keep bacteria at bay for a longer period of time if storing items at room temperature. Check out our previous MRCOG Ag Collaborative article, "Canning, Yes You Can!," or the Home Canning Techniques and Preserves, Jam & Jelly sections of the Canning Pantry website.

Freezing - Many foods can be frozen raw or after a quick blanching in boiling water, and can be kept in a freezer from anywhere between a few months to a year depending on the food. The Cooperative Extension Service at The University of Georgia has provided a great PDF titled "Freezing Fruits and Vegetables at Home" that goes over the ins and outs of freezing. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a Freezing section that offers long list of foods that can be frozen and how to do so.

Dehydrating - Dehydrating is a low-energy way to make your foods last longer and travel more easily since they typically do not need to be refrigerated.  With a knife or a mandoline, foods can be easily sliced up and then dried in the oven, in an electronic dehydrator, or in a homemade solar dehydrator.

Pickling & Fermenting - Pickling and fermenting are preservation techniques that have been used for thousands of years. It requires minimal preparation and a little bit of patience as the brine works its magic. Pickled and fermented foods can be refrigerated if you plan to eat them right away, or canned using methods outlined above if you prefer to store them at room temperature or in a cellar for a longer period of time.

Dairying - If you've got your own dairy animals then you are probably well aware of the many ways to preserve your milk. However, if you don't, then you may not be aware of how easy it is to make your own butter, clarified butter (ghee), yogurt, kefir and cheese. If you've got a food processor you can start by making your own butter (salted, unsalted, cultured, herbed, and more). Once you've got butter, and a pan, you can make your own clarified butter, also known as ghee. Yogurt making is simple too, and requires only a few staple tools you probably already have in your kitchen. Sick of buying kefir at the store? Check out the Kefir DIY article from Edible Santa Fe. And while hard cheeses to require more time and energy, soft cheeses are simple and straightforward. NMSU has a Making Homemade Cheese publication and the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company has educational resources, a store and a help section to get any beginner going.

Additional Resources:

North Dakota State University - Garden to Table: Growing and Preserving Foods

Penn State Cooperative Extension - Home Food Preservation

TLC - How Food Preservation Works

USDA Food Preservation Tips and Resources

Tips and Recipes from Appliance Help website

 National Center for Home Food Preservation

Lora's Favorite Quick Pickle Recipe:


1/2 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 tbsp brown sugar (you can leave this out for a more tangy flavor)

1 teaspoon mustard seed

1 teaspoon salt

2 cloves cracked garlic

1 teaspoon dried dill, or 2 tablespoons fresh dill leaves (chopped or snipped), or one full-sized dill flower head

1 bay leaf

Optional: 1 small dried hot pepper, cut in half (for spicy pickles)

Optional: Other herbs or spices to suit your own preference

4 kirby/pickling cucumbers, cut into slices on an angle (about 3/4" thick), or into spears


Heat small saucepan over medium high heat. Add vinegar, mustard seed, salt, and garlic to the pan and cook until it begins to simmer and sugar dissolves. Toss the dill, bay leaf, any other options seasonings, and sliced cucumbers together in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the simmering liquid over the cucumbers and stir to evenly coat. Allow to cool to room temperature or chill before serving. These are best after a few days in the fridge, but can last up to two or three weeks. If you have a regular harvest of cukes you can re-use the brine by taking out any remaining pickles in the jar, putting the new ones at the bottom, and place your already-brined pickles back on top (that is, if you can resist eating them!).


Ann's Favorite Frozen Tomatoes:

Quarter ripe tomatoes (as many as you have).

Put them in a roasting pan with a high side, as you get lots of juice.

Add cloves of garlic, a few leaves of fresh basil, and salt and pepper.

Roast at 425 for 10 mins (or broil for 5 to get that blackened look).

Reduce heat to 350 and continue roasting for 1 hour.

Freeze in large zip-lock bags or serve immediately.  If you chose to blend before serving, remove basil first.

Enjoy :)


Jen's Rockin Jerky:

1 frozen, semi-thawed rump roast, or brisket, sliced very thin (beef,  buffalo, elk, etc.)

NOTE: Semi-frozen meat is easier to slice thin. Cut against the grain. You can ask your butcher to slice your meat (Kellers will still do custom slicing for their customers), or use a sharp knife. We have a small-sized meat slicer we found at a garage sale which works great! It is just  like the ones butchers have but much smaller.

Marinade  (for about 5 lbs of meat):
1/2 cup water
1/4 c. vinegar, wine or apple
1/4 c. oil, olive oil or other
1/4 c Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c. ketchup, (or soy for teriyaki style)
1/4 c. honey

Season marinade to taste with -
onion powder
garlic powder
ginger (for teriyaki style)
other spices desired


Placed sliced meat and marinade in covered container and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 1-1.5 days (depending on thickness of meat, thin meat requires less time). Once marinated, drain the meat  in a colander to remove as much juice as possible. Now you are ready to dry.

Drying methods:

Oven Method -
Place marinated strips onto a rack sitting on top of a cookie sheet,  bake at 200 degrees for about six hours, or until dry, with the over  door opened sightly.

Dehydrator -
Place marinated strips on dehydrator trays, do not let strips overlap too much. Dry at 150 degrees, or low setting, or 8-12 hours depending on thickness of strips.

Nana Cia's Old Fashioned Air/Sun-Dried -
(caution, try at your own risk - but my favorite way!! ) Your strips must be sliced very thin. Find an space in your home that
you can hang a clothes line in a dry, yet warm spot with air flow and no flying insects. (Covered porches, or sunrooms work great.)
Place newspaper under your line to catch the drips and simply lay the marinated strips over the line and allow to dry till done! 1-3 days. Ensure that your meat is dried completely before eatting.

Store jerky in covered containers, or jars, in the refrigerator.



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