Summer is almost here, and that means that fresh produce will be coming into our local Farmer's Markets. Here are some tips of what to look for at those local markets to find those treasures that are available.
The golden rule of home food preservation is, "The quality of the foods preserved will only be as good as the quality of the foods when they were fresh." You should use only fresh, firm fruits and young, tender vegetables for preserving.
Raw Pack - For raw pack canning, pack cold raw fruits or vegetables tightly into the container and cover them with boiling water, hot syrup, or juice. Tight packing is necessary because the foods shrink during processing. A few foods, like corn, lima beans, and peas, should be packed loosely because they expand.
Hot Pack - Pack hot food fairly loosely. It should be at or near boiling temperature when you pack it. To use the hot pack method, preheat the food in syrup, water, extracted juice, or steam before packing.
You may reuse screw bands that are in good condition, but metal lids with sealing compound are for one-time use.
Most fruits can be frozen satisfactorily.
Most fruits are best when frozen soon after they are harvested. Peaches and pears may be held a short time to ripen.
Wash fruit in cold water before hulling or paring. Wash a small amount at one time to prevent bruising. Don't let fruit soak in water. Prepare as for serving.
Fruits packed with dry sugar or sugar syrup usually retain their color, flavor, and texture better than those packed without sugar. Juice fruits will make their own syrup when combined with dry sugar.
Some fruits darken during freezing unless treated to retard browning. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is effective in preserving the color and flavor of fruit and adds nutritive value. A crystalline or powdered form of ascorbic acid is easier and better to use than tablets.
Use a package that protects the quality of the fruit while in storage.
Leave headspace in the container as directed for each fruit.
Seal. Label with the name of the fruit; the date; the purpose for which the fruit is intended, such as pie, jam, or dessert; and the amount of sugar used in the pack.
Freeze at once.
Syrups for Use in Freezing Fruits
In general, up to one-fourth of the sugar may be replaced by corn syrup. A larger portion of corn syrup may be used if you use a bland, light-colored type.
First Steps - Begin preparation of most vegetables with washing. Wash thoroughly in cold water. Lift from water as grit settles to bottom of pan. Sort vegetables by size for heating and packing unless they are to be cut into pieces of uniform size. Peel, trim and cut into pieces, as directed for each vegetable.
An important step in preparing vegetables for freezing is heating or blanching. Practically every vegetable, except green pepper, maintains better quality in frozen storage if heated before packing.
The reason for heating vegetables before freezing is that it slows or stops the action of enzymes. If vegetables are not heated enough, the enzymes continue to be active during frozen storage. Then the vegetables may develop off-flavors, discolor, or toughen so that they may be unappetizing in a few weeks.
Heating also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack. Heating time varies with the vegetable and size of pieces.
Heating in Boiling Water - For home freezing, the most satisfactory way to heat almost all vegetables is in boiling water. Use a blancher, which has a blanching basket and cover. Or fit a wire basket into a large kettle, and add a cover.
For each pound of prepared vegetable use at least 1 gallon of boiling water in the blancher or kettle. Put vegetables in blanching basket or wire basket and lower into boiling water. Put lid on blancher or kettle and start counting time immediately. Keep heat high for time given in directions for vegetables you are freezing.
Cooling and Packaging - After vegetables are heated, cool quickly and thoroughly to stop cooking. To cool vegetables heated in boiling water, plunge basket of vegetables immediately into cold water 60 degrees F or below.