I've been buying a lot of vegetables lately as the prices go down, some always seem to go to waste. When is it less expensive to preserve them yourself rather than buy them prepared? What is the best way to preserve them i.e. freezing, pickling, canning? Are there any good sites for this?
There are many ways to preserve vegetables. You can freeze, can, dry or pickle them. University web sites and state or county extension sites are a good resource for instructions. There are also many great books on food preservation.
Freezing is one of the best ways to preserve vegetables and keep them tasting as fresh tasting as possible. Here are two sites with good information on freezing.
Simple guidelines for freezing a variety of vegetables commonly grown in home gardens.
Virginia Cooperative Extension:
Information about blanching and freezing vegetables.
Vegetables can also be canned but this is only the best option when you don't have freezer space and you are buying large quantities of one kind of fruit or vegetable. If you choose to can them, make sure to follow canning instructions for each type of food.
Drying is another way to preserve vegetables. If you don't have a food dryer, food can be dried in a very low temperature oven or outside on drying screens. Here is a site with more information on food drying.
Michigan State University Extension:
Drying, general information.
When it comes to vegetables that cannot be preserved like lettuce and radishes, buy only what you can use within a few days. If you do need to throw out vegetables, make sure you throw them in a compost pile.
Two more things you can do with leftover veggies
besides canning freezing or drying: Put veggies of various kinds in a pot with some herbs & spices and water & boil. You will have veggie stock which you can freeze or can for later! Roast them first & the flavor is nicer!
If you eat meat, you can throw in some bones or
meat scraps. And don't throw out scraps of veggies; Compost them!
- Alekscat the frugal feline in Richmond, VA
Two more things you can do with leftover veggies besides canning freezing or drying: Put veggies of various kinds in a pot with somes herbs and spices with water and boil. You will have veggie stock which you can freeze or can for later! Roast them first & the flavor is nicer!
If you eat meat, you can throw in some bones or meat scraps. And don't throw out scraps of veggies; Compost them! - Alekscat the frugal feline in Richmond, VA
Some vegetables are pretty cheap year round because they store so well. In some cases, these vegetables are not worth buying in quantities that require you to preserve them. However, I still buy some of these, if the price is very low, and make them last for a week or more, because I have found it convenient to do things in batches. Other vegetables and fruits are quite expensive most of the year, and may well be worth the trouble to prepare and preserve for year-round use.
I've found a good way to extend the storage of radishes and turnips. I slice them very thinly, and then I cover them in either saved pickle juice, or a mix of vinegar and salt. I like to use red wine vinegar for this, because it produces an attractive pink color. I can keep them for a week or a little longer. I put this out with all meals until it is gone, and then I can make another batch. No, I can't give you an exact measurement for the salt, I just sprinkle it on each layer of radish or turnip as I fill the container. Store covered in the fridge. You can probably do this with other root vegetables and with cabbage.
You can keep eggplant a bit longer if you slice it thinly, sprinkle the slices with salt, and then drain away the excess liquid twice daily. After two or three days, chop it finely, add finely chopped onions, and use as a bread spread. I think a tiny bit of olive oil improves the flavor. It does turn brown, but it does not decay as quickly as it would just sitting there. And as a sandwich filling, it can be used up quickly -- don't we all love the convenience of sandwiches?
Cucumbers can also keep longer by a similar cold-pickling. I slice them somewhat thin, add some onions, and I make a salad dressing of pickle juice and mayonaise. Mix well, and store covered in the fridge. These were the first raw pickle I learned, and my children call them "not-yet pickles". (I wanted to make freezer pickles, didn't have a recipe, and didn't want to wait that long anyway to eat them.)
Lots of fruits and vegetables can be grated or chopped finely and added to breads, cakes, muffins, cookies or pancakes. An added benefit is that many recipes of this sort use less fats than the non-veg and fruit versions. For plenty of recipes, look for The Muffin Book, the Pancake Book, etc.
Some vegetables can be kept failry well by storing them in damp -- not wet -- sand. A good way to do this is to layer the sand and the vegetables in a five-gallon bucket. Carrots can be kept this way, if stored in a cool, dark place. If the sand is allowed to dry out completely, the carrots will become flexible and wrinkled. They can still be eaten, but you would want to cook them.
Other vegetables keep better in other ways, such as packed in sawdust, wrapped in newspapers, or hung up to dry. Green beans can be dried by stringing them on thread with a needle; later, you reconstitute them with lots of boiling, producing a dish called leather britches. Corn can also be dried and reconstituted. I learned a lot of these methods from the Fox Fire Books, and other records of folkways. Another book with useful information is How to Make Your Summer Garden Last all Year. (I'd give you more information, but my copy is currently on loan to a friend.)
Also, look for information about making sauerkraut and kimchee. Both of these preserve cabbage; one is a German method, the other is primarily Korean. - Rose B, mother of three, in NC
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