Friday, May 22, 2009

Plan Now for Summer Produce

Memorial Day weekend is finally here. This holiday is always a reminder that summer is just around the corner. With the warmer summer days, can come an abundance of summer fruit and vegetables. Whether you are harvesting from your own garden or purchasing from a local farmers’ market, it can be a challenge to properly store all of the fresh produce. Now is the time to plan how you will save fresh summer produce for use throughout the year. Canning and Freezing are two of the three main methods of preserving food. The preservation method you use really depends on the types of foods you want to preserve and which method suits your needs. According to So Easy to Preserve, a food preservation handbook published by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, canning is the process in which foods are placed in jars or cans and heated to a temperature that destroys microorganisms and inactivates enzymes. Freezing reduces the temperature of the food so that microorganisms cannot grow. To prepare for the upcoming food preservation season keep these tips in mind. • Determine if preserving food will actually save you money. Consider the cost in growing food in your own garden. If you are receiving food as a gift little cost is involved. Purchasing food from a farmers’ market may offer good prices when you buy at the peak of the season. • Some foods may be better suited for freezing while others may be best if canned. For help determining the best food preservation method for a certain food, contact your local Extension office for detailed preservation instructions. • Assemble freezing or canning equipment early so you will have everything you need before your produce arrives. Also make sure your canner is in good working condition. If you have a dial gauge pressure canner plan to have it tested for accuracy. Contact your local Extension office or manufacturer of the canner for information on how to have this done. • Schedule enough time to finish your food preservation projects. Trying to preserve too much food in a small amount of time can be overwhelming. Be sure to read and follow reliable food preservation methods for the food you are storing. Set aside a realistic amount of time to work with and process the foods you are preserving. • Take a food preservation class. This is a great way to meet other people with an interest in home food preservation and to learn the latest techniques and requirements for safe preserving. Check with your local Extension office for class schedules or the latest publications. • Check these links for more information on home food preservation.The National Center for Home Food Preservation Penn State Extension Home Food Preservation Website

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