Fruits and vegetables have many health benefits, so how do you keep those nutrients long-term?
Wash fruits and vegetables before canning
Use the salting process to preserve the quality of the vegetables
Prepare excess fruits for drying or dehydrating
Freeze fruits to retain their nutrients
Pickle vegetables in vinegar to make them last up to a year
Eating fruits and vegetables have many health benefits, as they are the primary source of important vitamins and minerals our body needs to combat diseases and strengthen our immune system. During winter, pickled vegetables, dried fruits and preserves are a great way to continue eating some of your favourite produce when it’s out of season. As such, you may want to preserve some of the readily available and cheaper fruits and vegetables during summer. The best part is that you can buy produce in bulk, preserve them at home, and have a steady stock of fruits and vegetables all-year round.
Here are five ways to preserve fruits and vegetables:
1. Wash fruits and vegetables before canning
Most preserves available in the supermarket are a product of canning, which can be done with a machine or with the use of boiling water. Although it is called canning, it actually involves airtight jars. Marmalades, jelly, and jam are good examples of the canning method. To can fruits, you just need to wash them thoroughly and then place them in sterilised jars.
Cover the fruit with boiling water and leave about an inch of space at the top in case the fruit expands. To ensure that the jar is airtight, submerge the jars in water and bring the water to a boil until the lids are no longer popping. Close the jar tightly with a threaded lid and store the fruit preserves for up to 12 months in a cool dry place.
2. Use the salting process to preserve the quality of the vegetables
Salting is usually used to preserve fish and meat, but it can also be used for vegetables. The most common examples of salted vegetables are kimchi, sauerkraut, and corn kernels. Kimchi and sauerkraut use 2% to 5% salt concentrations when layering the vegetables. A low amount of salt promotes fermentation and will have a tangy taste. Corn kernels, green tomatoes, and other vegetables may use between 20% to 25% salt concentration. The vegetables will not ferment, but they will have a slightly salty taste. Curing is done in two weeks and cured vegetables could be stored for up to six months inside the refrigerator.
3. Prepare excess fruits for drying or dehydrating
Dehydrating or drying is the process of removing the moisture from fruits and vegetables. Once moisture is removed, bacteria and moulds can no longer survive. You would often see dehydrated vegetables in instant noodles and packed spices. Tomatoes, cherries, apples, and herbs are usually dehydrated. On the other hand, dried fruits like grapes are sometimes sun dried for three to four days to produce raisins. The downside of dehydrating fruits is that aside from the moisture, nutrients are also lost in the process.
Other dehydration processes involve a dehydrator or a conventional oven. You can store dehydrated produce on a kitchen shelf for a year.
4. Freeze fruits to retain their nutrients
Freezing is best for fruits that you intend to use in smoothies or for baking. You may also freeze vegetables that you intend to use in the next month or so. It retains the nutrients, texture, colour, and flavour of vegetables for up to 12 weeks. For vegetables like corn, carrots and peas, you will need to blanch them first after cutting and before freezing them.
After blanching, pat them dry to prevent ice crystals from forming. For fruits, you need to cut them into smaller pieces. If you feel strongly about the blackening, you may soak the slices in water with a little lemon for 10 minutes before patting them dry and packing them.
5. Pickle vegetables in vinegar to make them last up to a year
People always associate pickled vegetables with vinegar. Whilst you may pickle vegetables in salt brine, some people still prefer vinegar. Aside from the obvious choice of cucumber, you may also pickle carrots, onions, peppers, and tomatoes in 5% distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. The quickest way is to place the vegetables in a jar and then fill the jar with a boiling mixture of vinegar, salt, water, and sugar. Pickled vegetables will last for up to a year and are best refrigerated once opened.
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