How to store and more – All about home preserving
By Hans Wieland
How to store and more – make your garden produce last
Hello fellow gardeners, have you all built your larder yet, cleaned out your freezer, prepared your fish boxes and bought or recycled your hessian sacks? You might think “what on earth is he talking about”? Well I am talking about the vegetables and fruits that you hopefully have and will be harvesting from now on.
In August our gardens should be in full production with a huge variety of vegetables and fruits. You will not be able to eat it all and you are probably not tempted to sell your produce either. So you need to think of ways to keep them or in other words preserve them for later consumption. And the freezer is not always the best option!
Harvesting methods and techniques
Some vegetables will be “pulled”, others “lifted, cut or dug out”. Different crops need different techniques for harvesting, cauliflower for example is cut, sprouting broccoli is picked, onions are lifted, carrots are pulled (if you have loose soil!).
As varied as the harvesting techniques are the methods of preserving and storing the abundance of your garden produce. Using the best method is important in keeping the nutritional value. The members of the cabbage family for example are all different when it comes to storage: Stored cool and moist broccoli lasts a week, cauliflower 2 weeks, Brussels sprouts 3 weeks and firm white cabbage heads 6-8 months. Kale can be kept in the ground till harvest. So freeze broccoli after blanching, pickle or ferment cauliflower or just produce enough for immediate consumption, harvest lower Brussels sprouts first and the higher ones later fresh for cooking, store heads of cabbage cool at around 7-10 degrees Celsius or ferment as sauerkraut.
Many root vegetables like carrots, beetroot and celery store well in lightly damp cool sand in and around 7-10 degrees Celsius and many herbs that die down in Winter are best preserved dried. Oh and tomatoes, only 3 choices really, eat, dry or make sauces!
Very important to know: Do NOT store potatoes and apples together for any length of time. The ethylene gas emanating from your ripening apples will shrink your spuds!
Who are the enemies when it comes to preserving?
Any method of preserving has to fight and control the 4 enemies, namely bacteria, fungi, enzymes and yeasts, which will destroy your food. All methods of preserving deal with our enemies in a different way, namely heat treatment by way of pasteurisation, fermenting by producing acidity, freezing by making bacteria ineffective, drying by removing water without which bacteria cannot grow. Please note due to our mostly damp climate with high humidity and no continuous sunshine drying in Ireland is best done either in the oven or in a dehydrator.
Hot Fill-ins – a great new way of preserving
This method is relatively new and in the absence of a proper English term I have named it after the direct translation from the German term “Heiss Einfuellen”. It has partly substituted the old fashioned sterilisation method and is mostly used for preserving fruit and vegetables, especially tomatoes. It was technically made possible with the invention of twist-off lids.
It is a simple and easy, energy and labour saving method and only a funnel is needed to pour the hot stuff into twist-off jars.
Fruits and vegetables are either heated in their own juice for 1 minute or are preserved whole or sliced in hot vinegar water or salt water. While cooling down a vacuum is created that keeps the preserve for up to 1 year, when ideally it should be consumed. Heat treatment is very short and the nutritional value of Hot Fill-ins is superior to sterilising fruit and vegetables for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Basic method: The 7 magic steps to Hot Fill-ins
- Clean jars and let them air-dry
- Wash fruit, peel and cut or mash
- Sterilise jars in the dishwasher or oven (60 degrees Celsius) or in a pot of boiling hot water.
- Bring fruit or vegetables in their own juice to the boil, fill boiling mixture in hot jars
- Alternatively: Put whole or sliced fruit or vegetables in sterile jars and fill up with boiling vinegar water (50% vinegar, 50% water) or salt water (1tsp of salt for ½ litre)
- Close with twist of lid
- Place upside down on a towel for 1 minute and then allow to cool down
Rumtopf/Preserving in alcohol – make your Christmas presents now!
This is a great way of preserving fruit ideally in an earthenware pot or big 2 litre glass jar. Begin in May/June with strawberries, mix with honey or brown sugar and cover with rum, add all the other fruits in a similar fashion, when in season. If all fruits are added leave another 4 weeks to mature/ferment as the rum-pot needs time so the fruits soak up the alcohol! The 3 basic conditions for a good RUMTOPF are: Immaculate, ripe fruits, first class 54% rum and cleanliness, cleanliness, cleanliness!
Ingredients for 1 rum pot of 2 litres:
500 gms strawberries
250gms cherries (you are allowed to buy them)
250 gms pears (Williams Christ) peeled and cut in strips
250 gms plums/Zwetschgen halved without stones
1 bottle rum 40% – 54% alcohol
400 gms honey or brown sugar
3-4 tablespoons alcohol 96%
Drying Herbs and Flowers
Pick plants in the morning, when it is dry and sunny and they are at their peak, depending on the plant, variety and the part that you are using. Wash plants only when necessary (roots for example). Start drying in a warm dark place indoors. Plants can be hung to dry in a brown paper bag or laid out on paper in a dark place. Most likely here in Ireland you have to finish the drying process in an oven at low temperatures (50 degrees Celsius) or in a dehydrator. Drying is complete when plants are dry and brittle. Store dried plants in dark glass jars, paper, or cardboard boxes, away from light. Label the containers you use to store the dried plants. With every new harvest, discard plants left over from the previous year.
Want to become a Preservista?
If you wish to learn more about the art of storing and preserving vegetables and fruit then our course on August 26th is a good way to start. Hans and Gaby Wieland will demonstrate all methods and display the equipment needed. Practical sessions will include making sauerkraut and jam-making without sugar. Recipes will be given and samples can be tasted.
For further details contact The Organic Centre on 071-9854338 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or www.theorganiccentre.ie