It’s the time of year when if you’re like me you simply don’t how many more tomatoes you can feasibly eat. Is there possibly a green bean toxicity level? If there is, l’ve reached it. You’ve shared your gardens bounty with family, at work, or with your neighbors, and they have simply tapped out. Don’t despair! There are so many great options for preserving your garden’s harvest. Your very own organic, fresh and healthy food is the most economical way to provide for yourself and/or your family during the winter months. For those who might be new to the canning/freezing concept; don’t worry, it isn’t difficult. With a minor investment up front you’ll have the equipment you need to create healthy preserves. Many find it is a wonderful hobby and a great opportunity to get together with friends and family to have a canning party. We will make a comparison of length of time the garden products can be stored, what types of veggies and fruits can be frozen or canned, and review both base equipment needed as well as equipment upgrades for longer lasting storage and time savings.
No matter which method of preservation you’re considering, going fresh from garden to freezer or canning is extremely important. Never can something you wouldn’t eat fresh as it is. Another few things to always take into consideration before choosing your preservation method are what type of fruit or vegetable are you trying to store, and how long are you wanting to store it for.
Storage length for FROZEN fruits, veggies and herbs:
• Frozen fruit – 8 months
• Frozen veggies – 8-12 months
• Frozen herbs – 6 months
• Frozen root veggies – 9 months
PRO TIP: using a vacuum sealing machine will make your frozen items last for 1-3 months longer than using freezer bag technique.
Storage length for canned fruit and veggies:
• Just about all canner food, as long as the packaging is in good condition, is good for a year. While most are safe to eat for up to two years, over time the food will break down and the texture will change.
While there are always ways to be creative, this is just a short list of the most common foods to that are not optimal for canning or freezing:
Fruits and veggies to avoid for freezing:
• Lettuce/cabbage or other leafy vegetables
• Any vegetable with a very high-water content
• Citrus fruits
• Brussel sprouts
- Most fruits can be canned
• Freezer bags in quart and gallon sizes
• Large bowl
• Wraps such as butcher paper, foil and plastic wrap
• Rigid containers such as reusable plastic storage
• Canning jars
• Immersion blender or food processor
• Sheet pan with lip up your freezing game with these incredibly helpful tools
• Canning jars and lids
• A large pot
- You’ll need a canning rack for this method
• Canner/canning pot – my personal preference!
• Food strainer or food mill
Now that you know what you can freeze or can, and the tools you’ll need to do it, let’s go some simple instructions. We do suggest you invest some time in looking up details for each item you’re freezing or canning – and that after you have the basics down get creative! ALWAYS be sure to check details about food storage and food safety.
• Preparation: Wash, peel (if needed), and cut the vegetables into appropriate sizes for your intended use.
• Blanching: Many vegetables benefit from blanching before freezing. Blanching involves briefly immersing vegetables in boiling water, then quickly cooling them in ice water. This helps to retain color, texture, and nutritional value. Blanching times vary by vegetable.
• Packaging: Drain the blanched vegetables thoroughly and pat them dry. Pack them into airtight freezer-safe bags or containers, removing as much air as possible.
• Labeling: Label each container with the contents and date to keep track of when the vegetables were frozen.
• Preparation: Wash, peel (if necessary), pit, slice fruits as needed.
• Sugar or syrup: Some fruit may benefit from being packed in sugar syrup to maintain quality. Prepare a syrup by dissolving sugar in water and bringing it to a boil. Let it cool before using.
• Packaging: Pack fruits into airtight containers or freezer bags, leaving some space for expansion.
• Labeling: Label containers with the type of fruit and the date of freezing.
• Preparation: Wash berries gently and let them dry completely.
• Freezing: For berries, it’s often best to freeze them individually on a baking sheet first. Once they’re frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag to prevent them from sticking together.
• Labeling: Label the bag with the type of berry and the date.
• Washing: Wash herbs gently and pat them dry.
• Freezing: There are a few methods to freeze herbs. One common method is to chop them finely, place them in silicone trays, and cover them with water or olive oil.
• Labeling: Label the freezer bag with the type of herb and the date.
• Drying: If you’re saving seeds from your garden for future planting, making sure they are fully dry before storing them.
• Storage: Place the seeds in airtight containers or envelopes, and then store these containers in a cool, dry place.
• Gather Supplies:
- Fresh vegetables (e.g.,green beeans, carrots, tomatoes)
- Canning jars with lids and bands
- pressure canner or water bath canner
- Canning tools (jar lifter, lid lifer, funnel)
- Salt (if desired)
• Prepare Vegetables:
- Wash and chop vegetables into appropriate sizes.
- Blanch the vegetables by briefly boiling them, then immediately placing them in ice water to stop the cooking process.
• Pack Jars:
- Pack the blanched vegetables tightly into clean, sterilized canning jars, leaving recommended headspace (usually 1/2 to 1 inch).
• Add Salt (optional):
- Add salt to taste, usually around 1/2 teaspoon per pint jar (adjust based on personal preference).
• Prepare Brine or Liquid (if needed):
- If your recipe calls for a liquid (like a pickling solution), prepare it according to the recipe instructions.
• Remove Air Bubbles:
- Use a plastic or wooden tool to remove any air bubbles from the jars.
• Wipe Jar Rims:
- Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp cloth to ensure a proper seal.
• Apply Lids and Bands:
- Place sterilized lids on the jars and screw on the bands until they are finger-tip-tight.
• Process Jars:
- Process the jars in a pressure canner or water bath canner according to the recommended processing time for the specific vegetable and jar size.
• Cool and Test Seals:
- After processing, let the jars cool on a clean towel or rack.
- Check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center; they should not flex or pop.
• Store Jars:
- Label the jars with the contents and date.
- Store in a cool, dark, and dry place.
Canning fruits generally follows similar steps as canning vegetables, but you may need to make adjustments for the type of fruit and whether you’re making friut preserves, syrups, or whole fruits.
Canning herbs is not as common as canning vegetables and fruits. Instead, most people prefer to dry or freeze herbs for preservation. However, if you want to can herbs, we suggest you try specific recipes or infusion.
Now that you have the basics, go and save those amazing fruits, vegetables and herbs from your garden before it is too late. Once you have the basics down, be sure to explore the wide and very popular world of freezing and canning. Your body and your pocket-book will thank you!
For all your freezing and canning supplies visit Mimbach Fleet & Supply. At Mimbach Fleet & Supply, we are proud to be a employee-owned hardware, outdoor power equipment and farm store and SO much more. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff have been serving Minnesota an the Midwest since 1953. Stop in and enjoy our large selection of products to help you complete your projects, big or small!