You simply cannot eat all of the produce you'll get from a moderately sized fruit and vegetable garden. Many people give plenty away to neighbours and friends in the glut of the season, only to have to resort to commercially available produce and the impending disappointment when comparing it back to what was grown at home.
Preserving is the key..
There are a few different ways of preserving produce, not all are suitable for all types of produce.
Making into Jam/Jellies and Marmalades
Jams & Chutneys, Pickles & Bottled fruits
A range of preserved fruit and vegetables
Here's an example of a range of preserved fruit and vegetables grown in my parent's average sized, suburban backyard. A range of bottled fruit such as plums and apricots, tomatoes for sauces in winter and marmalades, jams and chutneys.
Recipes for these are available in the Members' recipe interchange.
Pickled Jalapeno Chillies
Do you love Chillies?
Pickled Jalapeno Chillies are commercially available and often used as anti pasto and as a topping on pizza just for starters, but, they're not exactly cheap!
We grew and pickled a dozen jars of Jalapenos for a fraction of the cost and it is quick and easy to do, well, once you've grown the chillies!
How do I grow the chillies you ask? Have a look here.
Prefer a written, easy to follow, step by step booklet that you can sit and read later?
We have an easy to download e-book available here. AND it includes free seeds (subject to seasonal availability and quarantine restrictions) or the recipe to pickle your own Jalapenos included in the price.
Freezing Vegetables and Fruit
When the size of your vegetable and fruit harvest starts to exceed what you can consume or giveaway, it's time to start looking at storing it.
Freezing, assuming you have the space (I have a chest freezer which is invaluable)is a quick and easy way to preserve food for winter.
The process followed depends on what it is that you are preserving. The commonly accepted method for freezing vegetables is to blanch them first, that is, drop them into boiling water for under a minute, then immediately immerse then in very cold (chilled/iced) water. This preserves the colour of the produce and helps to minimise the damage caused by freezing.
Freezing anything causes the water content in it to expand as the liquid forms crystals inside the tissue cells, these crystals burst the cells and when the item is defrosted, it goes all limp and sometimes mushy.
I pretty much limit the vegetables I freeze to Tomatoes, Sweetcorn, sometimes beans and leeks.
This is mainly because they are the easiest to freeze and even when defrosted, their state doesn't affect my intended purpose.
Tomatoes would have to be one of the easiest and most forgiving of produce to freeze. You can, quite simply place them in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer. They freeze solid like little pool balls. Then when defrosted, they will collapse and can be used as is. If you don't mind the seeds in your sauce, pierce the tomato skin, hold onto the stalk and squeeze the "guts" of the tomato out.
I prefer however to make an oven roasted sauce which can then be either bottled of frozen. When defrosted or decanted, I use this to make pasta or chilli sauces.
Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce
This is an easy recipe for preserving large quantities of tomatoes. It is best suited to fleshier varieties of tomatoes such as the Roma's or Cuor di Bue, but can be used for any.
Simply preheat an oven to around 200 deg C.
On an oven tray (with some depth to allow for the liquids from the tomatoes)place halved tomatoes, cut side up to fill the tray.
Sprinkle the tomatoes lightly with salt (I prefer to freshly grind rock salt, freshly ground black pepper, a light dressing of crushed garlic, or you can include whole cloves.
Lightly sprinkle this with a good olive oil and some freshly chopped thyme and basil.
Roast for around 30 mins or so, allowing the tomatoes to collapse and start to take on a darkened colour. Don't worry if they start to blacken slightly at the edge.
Allow to cool then push them through a fine sieve or something like a Mouli. This will separate the skins and seeds and leave you with a beautiful rich sauce, ready for bottling or freezing.
Sweetcorn is another vegetable that many advocate the blanching of before freezing.
I have never bothered to do this as I found it made no apparent difference.
My simple approach here is to pick the corn straight from the plant, leave it in its husk unpeeled and freeze it straight away. When you're ready to use it, defrost it, peel it and steam it. Of course, it's never as good as fresh from the plant to the pot, but it's pretty close!
Fruit is just as easy to freeze as tomatoes. Some thought should be put into the intended use first though. As the fruit will collapse when defrosted, freezing is a method best used when you intend to use the defrosted produce as pureed/stewed fruit, or for jam making. This is what I do. If you want to use the fruit for pies, or to serve simply as preserved fruits as a dessert, you are better off bottling as this will enable the fruit to retain it's normal shape.
Berries are probably one of the easiest to freeze. They need no more care than an inspection for any garden "critters", thorns or wayward stalks, then I just place them in 500gm plastic containers, label them and freeze. Because of the delicate nature of berries, smaller quantities are best. If the quantities are too large, they will be crushed under their own weight.
Once defrosted, my bramble berries go into the pot for a light "stewing", then the necessary sugar and pectin is added and the mixture brought up to the appropriate setting temperature and boiled, then bottled.
Here's a batch of Boysenberry jam ready for labelling