Broke the seal on a jar of low-sugar peach preserves I put up last summer. Spread chunks of juicy peaches onto my wheat-free toast and went to heaven! Preserving food is a fun, inexpensive way to store food and create gifts that are appreciated year round. My favorites so far have been peaches with vanilla bean, and a green tomatillo salsa.
Tried growing tomatillos a few years ago and they just didn’t take (they require several plants for open pollination). That summer, however, a friend had an abundance of tomatillos but didn’t know what to do with them all. Serendipity! Took enough home to process a couple of dozen jelly jars worth of zesty salsa, and gave the kind farmer some salsa to try. Tomatillos look like a small green tomato and are in the tomato family, but is altogether different. The dry husk is removed to reveal a sticky coating, which can be washed off. The fruit is firm and tart, and goes great with tortilla chips, or as a topping for tacos or other Mexican fare.
You can see a small jar of green tomatillo salsa on the left hand side of this photo, as well as a large jar of vanilla bean infused peaches prepared from the book Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff. All of Krissoff’s recipes are made with high acid fruit and vegetables, which are safer to learn on. They are also made without the use of commercial pectin, and instead use the cores, seeds and fruit of green apples and other fruits for the natural pectin that is released through processing. My other standby canning book is the classic Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving which contains tried and true recipes. The 100th Anniversary Edition also includes instructions for freezing and dehydrating foods, as well as low-sugar and low-salt recipes. Some canning recipes require sugar for proper preservation, so be sure to follow your recipe exactly.
Freezer jams, ones that are not stored at room temperature, can be made in a variety of ways. I tried a commercial stevia product that was a cup for cup substitute for sugar, but did not care for it either in baked goods or preserves. Instead, I will grow my own stevia plants again this year, dry them, and use to make an inexpensive herbal, calorie-free sweetener. Stevia is estimated to be 300 times sweeter than sugar –so a little goes a long way! When I make sun tea, I’ll put dried stevia leaves into a tea ball and steep along with three tea bags in two quarts of water. Let brew in a sunny spot for a few hours.
This year, I’m thinking about making Chow Chow – a spicy, sweet, sassy relish that is wonderful on top of soup beans or tortilla chips. It’s mostly cabbage, with cauliflower, peppers, tomatoes, onions, or other vegis mixed with sugar and spices. If my tiny kitchen gets overwhelmed, I may seek out the community cannery hosted by our local Cooperative Extension. Their website includes goodies like free workshops, tips on organic gardening, and local resources. Here’s a partial list of community canneries. Some churches and community kitchens allow folks to use their facilities.
Whether you choose to preserve store-bought, farmer’s market, or your own garden harvest, try your hand at canning, dehydrating, or freezing fresh produce this season. Cracking into a gorgeous jar of golden peaches will bring a smile to your face every time!
Think: What are your favorite foods? Is there a way to preserve your favorite local produce for use year round? What are the benefits to doing this?
Say: Ask a friend who knows how to preserve food to teach you. Or contact your local Cooperative Extension office.
Do: If you know how to make preserves, teach a small group. Let nature’s abundance flow through you!