Preserve It: Saving Spring Produce

by in Healthy Tips, June 23, 2011
Strawberry Thyme Jam
Strawberry-Thyme Jam

Spring may be officially over, but never fear: You can savor the flavors of spring produce year-round! Preserve your goodies with these tips and recipes for freezing, drying, canning and more.

Strawberries

  • Freezing: Strawberries can be frozen plain or with sugar or syrup. Before you begin, wash strawberries and remove caps. For sliced, crushed or whole strawberries, add 3/4 cup sugar to 1 quart (about 1 1/3 pounds) strawberries. Stir until most of the sugar dissolved or let it stand 15 minutes. Pack into freezer-safe containers, being sure to leave about an inch of space between the cover and berries.
  • Drying: In a food dehydrator, strawberries take between 24 and 36 hours to dry.  You can also create your own dehydrator with Alton’s tips. Another easy way to preserve them: homemade fruit leather.
  • Canning: Turn fresh strawberries into jam (pictured above), jelly, syrup, or preserves.
Macerated Cherries
Macerated Cherries

Cherries

  • Freezing: Sweet cherries freeze well packed in a 40 percent syrup. To make,  dissolve 2 3/4 cups sugar in 4 cups of lukewarm water.  Chill the syrup before using.
  • Drying: Whole or cut and pitted cherries can be dried in 24 to 36 hours in a dehydrator. They can also be used to make fruit leather.
  • Canning: Create a cherry jam or jelly or can using boiling water or a pressure canner. They can also be  macerated in alcohol.

Herbs

  • Freezing: To freeze herbs, wash, drain and dry well with a paper towel. Wrap several sprigs or leaves in freezer wrap, then place in freezer safe bag (be sure to remove leaves from the stems before freezing). Seal, label and freeze. Defrosted herbs may become limp when thawed and are best used in cooked dishes. Finely-chopped herbs also freeze well and are easy additions to soups and sauces.
  • Drying: Fresh herbs can be dried in a dehydrator within 1 to 4 hours. Some less tender herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme, and parsley are easier to dry without a dehydrator. Tie them into small bundles and hang to air dry. Check out  how Alton Brown likes to dry his herbs in this video.
Fresh Peas
Farm-Fresh Peas

Fresh Peas

  • Freezing: Blanch shelled peas for several minutes, then cool on ice and drain. Package in freezer-safe container, leaving about 1/2 inch of space between the peas and top of the container.
  • Canning: Peas can be home canned using pressure canning method. Be sure to follow instructions carefully in order to prevent spoilage from bacteria.

Rhubarb

  • Freezing: Wash, trim and cut rhubarb to fit freezer-safe packaging. In order to retain color and flavor, cook one minute in boiling water and cool immediately in cold water. Rhubarb can then be dry packed in a container without sugar, leaving space between the food and container lid. It can also be packed in 40 percent syrup (same combination that was described for cherries).
  • Canning: Rhubarb can be home canned using pressure or hot water canning methods. Be sure to follow recipe instructions carefully to prevent spoilage.

Recipes to Try:

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

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How do you preserve spring produce? Tell us in the comments below.

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