Vegetables are a large part of most of our diets. They are full of nutrients, and vitamins that help us stay healthy, they are also easy to grow, and preserve.
Freezing, Drying, Pickling, Canning, Fermenting, Oil Jarring, and Dry Salting are all ways that you can preserve vegetables at home. Simple methods with Long lasting results, to help you keep your vegetables going for longer.
The Benefits of Preserving Vegetables & Why We Should All Be Doing It
Vegetables are by far the easiest, most accessible ingredient for food preservation. Packed with nutrients, they are a staple product in all our diets and ones we will continue to crave in times of emergency or when food supplies may be limited.
It’s a given that we are all trying to reduce our carbon footprint and the impact that the way we live has on the world around us. The shipment of vegetables from the other side of the globe is a huge area of concern when it comes to the damaging effect such operations have on the environment. It is however something that we all have the ability to affect and control. We are all consumers and thus we are all in the driving seat when it comes to that key term ‘supply and demand’. In short, the supermarkets and grocery stores will only supply what there is demand for. If there is no demand or a significant reduction in demand for a product, the supply of that product and it’s future production will be a pointless or profitless task.
Similarly, we need to focus on seasonality. In growing, eating and preserving vegetables seasonally, grown in our immediate climate, on our own doorstep and not from the other side of the world, you’re not only going to save money (think of the markup that has to be added to the shipped produce) but also make a valiant effort towards reducing the impact that your consumption has on the environment.
What Are The Methods For Preserving Vegetables
We’re going to concentrate here on the methods for preserving your vegetables that will provide you with the best results both in quality, nutrient content and taste:
This is by far the easiest method of preserving vegetables (and fruit for that matter). Once picked or harvested, the sooner your vegetables are frozen the better in order to lock in and retain their quality and nutritional content.
- Prepare your vegetables by giving them a good wash to remove any dirt before cutting or preparing them in the way you wish to consume them eg. chopping a broccoli head into florets, thinly slicing runner beans or shelling peas from their pods.
- Blanch the vegetables by dropping them into a large pot of boiling water for a minute or two.
- Remove the vegetables from the pot and drain them under cold running water. You can also plunge them into a bowl of ice water which will help to reduce their temperature and stop any further cooking. Spread the vegetables out on a kitchen towel and leave them to dry completely.
- As soon as the vegetables are dry they can be packaged and put straight into the freezer. Zipper topped food bags are a great option as you can fit far more of them in your freezer than a solid plastic tupperware for example. If you do use food bags, make sure you squeeze out as much air as possible before you zip them up. Whatever container you use, don’t forget to label them with the contents and date. It’s also worth packaging your vegetables in portion sizes, both for your own ease and to avoid constant exposure to the open air if you freeze and pack the vegetables in one bulk container.
Quite possibly the oldest method of preserving food. Drying will dehydrate and remove any sign of moisture from the vegetable which in turn removes any chance of bacteria, mould or yeasts surviving and so preserving the vegetables and prolonging it’s shelf life. The removal of water not only changes the flavour of vegetables, often making their flavour more intense but also changing their texture.
- As you would when freezing vegetables, wash them thoroughly before blanching.
- Pat them dry to remove any excess water.
- Dry them in an oven or food dehydrator. Evenly spread out with no overlapping.
- They will take anything from a few hours (eg. herbs - See Drying Herbs for Storage article) to 24 hours (eg. tomatoes)
- Store in airtight containers eg. mason jars, zipper bags.
An easy and delicious way to preserve vegetables. An acidic ‘pickling’ solution is made from vinegar, salt, sugar and optional seasonings and poured over jarred vegetables. The acidity acts as a preservative, keeping any bad bacteria at bay.
A brief guide to this simple method:
- Sterilize the jars and lids.
- Prepare the vegetables; chop, grate or slice them into similar sizes and put them in the jars.
- Make the pickling solution by mixing 2 cups vinegar (white, red, apple, rice), 2 cups water, 2 tbsp salt, 5 tbsp sugar (or to taste) in a pan to dissolve over a gentle heat.
- Add optional seasoning to the jar; dill, garlic, peppercorns, chilli.
- Pour the pickling solution into the jar, fully covering the vegetables.
- Leave to cool before putting on clean lids.
- Store in the fridge and consume within a few months.
The phrase ‘canning’ is a bit misleading. When carried out at home, canning doesn’t actually involve the use of what we might think of as ‘tin cans’ but instead, tends to use glass jars. In essence, vegetables in airtight containers are heated to create a vacuum seal using one of two methods;
- Water Bath Canning - Simple at-home method with no special equipment required. Suitable for vegetables with a high acid content eg. pickles, relishes, tomatoes.
- Pressure Canning - A specialist machine that uses higher temperatures than water bath canning. Suitable for plain vegetables with a low level of acidity.
For a Step by Step guide on Canning & Jarring See our article - Canning and Jarring Food for Long Term Storage
Good bacteria known as lactobacillus is present in all vegetables. Vegetables release their natural juices when grated or sliced and mixed with a salty solution, creating a brine. This briney environment causes the lactobacillus to grow and multiply which breaks down the vegetables, turning the sugars contained within them into lactic acid. This is what gives fermented foods their sour taste and also what prevents the growth of bad bacteria which would otherwise cause the food to spoil.
Kimchi and Sauerkraut are some popular examples of fermented vegetables.
See our article on Fermenting for more information - Fermenting Food at Home
6. Oil Jarring
Another wonderful way to enhance the flavour of your vegetables and so easy to do yourself. Think of what you see at your local deli counter; Roasted or Sundried Tomatoes, Roasted Peppers, Olives, Artichokes, Grilled Aubergines and all the ways you can use them; in salads, pasta, sandwiches, antipasti platters….
The vegetables must be cooked before they are jarred, be it grilled, blanched or roasted. You can use any oil you like and even add seasoning with herbs or garlic for example.
7. Dry Salting
Possibly one of the oldest methods of food preservation. We all know what effect eating too much salt has on our own thirst and the same notion applies with the salting of foods. Microorganisms in food dehydrate and deactivate through the salting process, which in turn prolongs the food's shelf life. Dry salting involves submerging vegetables in a brine solution, leaving them refrigerated in the brine for a week or so before draining the solution off and covering the vegetables with salt and leaving them in a cool, dark place to fully dry out.
When To Preserve Your Vegetables
Summer is the best time to preserve your vegetables, when availability is high and quality at its best, be it in the shops or your garden.
Preserving vegetables when they are in their most fresh and flavoursome state is key to locking in their goodness for future consumption, both in nutrients and taste.
If you’re reading this, you may also be interested in our seed article - How to Store Seeds at Home for Long Term Storage
Also See our Full Article on - Sterilizing Jars for Jams, Pickles, Fermenting, and Canning
Other articles in Food Preservation
Ian Hunter - Father of three, based in Southern Sweden. Author and Co owner of EU Preppers and Unprepared until I started this website. See my full About Page here.
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Co written with Hannah Bramley, a Private & Virtual PA and Lifestyle Management Consultant based in the UK. With a background in managing and ensuring the organisation and preparedness of others, Hannah is now a freelance Personal Lifestyle & Business Consultant, with the ability to turn her hand to any task. Self Sufficiency being just one of her new found interests since the events of early 2020. She is a fitness guru, an ardent foodie, a social media wizard and entrepreneur, with a passion and natural flare for organising, bringing people together and making things happen.