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Well, here’s the last of my food series from GNMParents (now archived at ForeverParenting.com). I’ve written boatloads about various fruity ideas for the past 3 weeks, today I want to finish the series by discussing some ways to preserve summer vegetables.

Common ways to preserve veggies are canning and freezing. Drying is also a good method; however I have no experience with drying foods so I will leave that to people who actually know what they’re talking about.

Okay, on to canning and freezing. Canning vegetables can be a more serious effort than jam. It’s important to know whether you can just use the water bath process or if you need to use a pressure cooker. Vegetables have low acid and need to be pressure cooked in a steam canner. This protects you from dangerous bacteria like botulism and salmonella. Here is a great guide to pressure cooking.

The biggest reason I freeze vegetables is cost. Vegetables in season are incredibly cheap, the price can triple at other times. Onions, herbs, and peppers are very easy to freeze: just wash, dry, chop, and freeze. They’ll work great in any cooked recipe, taste as good as fresh, and are quick and easy to use since you’ve already chopped them up. A few vegetables (squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes) should be fully cooked before freezing. The rest should be blanched to help retain crispness and color. Ochef has a comprehensive guide to blanching here. Once you’ve prepared your vegetables, simply put them in the appropriate container and freeze.

Oh, that reminds me! There’s an important thing to know about freezers. If you have a “frost-free” freezer, foods will go bad a lot faster then in the “manual defrost” version. The reason is that a frost-free unit has a variable temperature. It will go down just below freezing for a while, then cycle a few degrees up to melt any frost that may have formed on the contents. The melted water is given time to drain and the temperature goes back down again. The constant cycle of freezing and (slight) thawing can more quickly lead to what’s known as freezer burn: that nasty metallic taste that ruins your meal.

If you have a manual defrost freezer it’ll stay at the same temperature and your food will keep much longer. I’m not suggesting you go out and buy a new freezer or that your life is ruined if you have the frost-free unit. You just need to adjust the amount of time you keep things in the freezer, and extra care in packaging food to keep out air will also help.

A few years back I purchased one of those vacuum sealer units and have been very pleased with it. If I want to keep food for several months, I use the FoodSaver. If I’m only planning to have something in the freezer for a matter of weeks, I stick with the heavy duty freezer bags (which are easily rinsed and re-used). I also use the freezer bags for my monthly meal freezing and have had no trouble with freezer burn in my manual defrost freezer.

As always, if you’ve got more ideas and suggestions I’d love to read them. I’m all about learning new things.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to cook and preserve vegetables.

This week at ForeverParenting the topic is volunteer experiences with your children. Have you any stories/wisdom/suggestions to share?