Storing and Preserving Home-Grown Fruit and Veg Successfully

Part of the Storing & Preserving Garden Produce For Dummies Cheat Sheet (UK Edition)

Here are a few important do’s and don’ts to bear in mind so that you can enjoy your produce at the planning, growing, making and eating stages, which can be several months apart:

  • Clamping and other simple storage:

    • Do use breathable natural materials as containers.

    • Do choose a place where moisture doesn’t lurk.

    • Do store orchard fruits high up in a loft; open the shutters from time to time for a change of air.

    • Do store roots low down in a cellar: dry, dark and cool.

    • Do go through your stored produce from time to time and remove any rotten items.

    • Do work on recognising signs of pests near your stores so that you can eradicate them quickly.

  • Using sweetness for preserving:

    • Do make enough time for the whole process.

    • Do use under-ripe or ‘just ripe’ fruit.

    • Do add water but only for the first cooking stage (if the recipe says so). Boil until fruit is properly soft, add sugar at a gentle heat and dissolve totally before whizzing up the heat to setting point.

    • Do check regularly for a preserve’s setting point.

    • Do pot when warm.

    • Don’t add sugar until your fruit is soft (sugar hardens fruit skins).

    • Don’t over-boil your preserve at the sugar stage (it goes hard).

  • Making good use of vinegar:

    • Do use the right vinegar for the job; let your recipe guide you.

    • Do make sure that your vinegar is 5 per cent acid or more.

    • Do remove moisture, by salting, from ‘wet’ produce before pickling.

    • Do boil chutneys until they’re thick and pulpy, and dragging a wooden spoon across the base of the pan leaves a clear line.

    • Don’t worry if your vinegar grows a natural haze; just sieve before using (vinegar is a living product).

  • Freezing:

    • Do buy an efficient freezer and defrost it at least once a year.

    • Do blanch special foods.

    • Do label frozen food effectively.

    • Do rotate your produce in your freezer. Open freeze or bag up in useful quantities and wrap produce tightly to eliminate air.

    • Do check what’s lurking at the bottom of the freezer and use it or chuck it.

    • Don’t put warm food into the freezer; chill it in the fridge first.

    • Don’t leave your freezer half empty: fill the space with newspaper or water bottles for energy saving and efficiency.

  • Drying, salting and vacuum-packing:

    • Do lay drying produce out in single layers where warm air can circulate and moisture can escape; or use a purpose-made food dehydrator.

    • Do rinse salted produce well and dry it quickly before it reabsorbs moisture.

    • Do vacuum pack in useful amounts: you can’t easily reseal a vacuum pouch.

    • Don’t overlap drying produce.

    • Don’t use corrosive materials near salt.

    • Don’t vacuum-pack sharp objects: they make tiny holes in the pouches and admit air.

  • Making drinks for children and adults:

    • Do make your own cordials free from unwanted additives.

    • Do store cordials in the freezer or refrigerate and use up within six weeks (unless you heat-treat).

    • Do make wines and cider from second-quality vegetables and fruit; it transforms these seconds into something special.

    • Don’t leave home-made cordial out of the fridge.

    • Don’t drink all the wine in one go: it’s probably stronger than you think!

  • Recipes:

    • Do gather recipes from friends and neighbours.

    • Do read and understand your recipe, jotting down any personal experiences or successful shortcuts you discover along the way.

  • Potting:

    • Do pot up your still-warm produce into sterile, warm jars: a vacuum forms when it all cools down, creating a safe food environment for months of storage.

    • Do ensure that lids with pop-up centres stay depressed and cellophane jar closures have a smooth, slightly concave shape.

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Storing & Preserving Garden Produce For Dummies Cheat Sheet (UK Edition)