Preserving what you grow

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Fri, Dec 7, 2012 - 5:35pm

Let's be cost-effective when preserving our food. (FYI: I come out against CSAs here.)

  1. Learn to can, but be mindful of cost. A water bath canner is currently less than $20 at Walmart. Think of that as not only an investment in food security but a way to save money on things with a high acid content like tomatoes and tomato sauce (my homemade sauce costs 30 cents a pint), fruit, jellies/jams/preserves and pickles. Nowadays I shake my head at how much salsa, relish, pickles, jellies, pie fillings, and canned fruit cost in a conventional market.
  2. Bad harvest? Try a farmer's market. Sometimes I have not figured out how to grow something correctly yet, or bad weather affects my yields. I can preserve some foods cost-effectively when buy locally, at a farmer's market. I know everyone loves CSAs—community sponsored agriculture—but I cannot afford them. So when our peach tree disappointed us last year and the Kirby pickling cuke vines all died, we went to the local farmer's market and loaded up. Things at our farmer's market are one quarter the price of the same items in the supermarket. Or we can go to the local flea market where they have a produce area and things are half the cost of the supermarket.
  3. Dehydration. Frankly, I love drying food for many reasons. If you dry them via the sun there is no energy expenditure. Dried foods take up less space. And sometimes the dried foods taste better than the fresh ones (figs, sun-dried tomatoes.) So far we have had amazing success with the aforementioned sun-dried tomatoes and figs, but we've also had success in drying herbs, sliced mushrooms, green beans (pull the strings off first), and seeds.
  4. Pressure canner. We already spoke about a water-bath canner, but then next level is a pressure canner; a canner that gets things to higher temperatures using pressurized steam. Pressure canning will safely preserve meat and low acid foods like green beans, peas, pearl onions, beets, and carrots. There are some marvelous videos on how to can on the internet, most notably by the Southern Belle Prepper. Here is her YouTube channel. A good pressure canner costs between $80 and $130, but will pay for itself if you never have to buy canned green beans, canned beets, or canned peas again.
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