This thread is currently a work in progress. I'm updating it and organizing it as I have time. In the meantime, hopefully the information presented is helpful to all Mustachians of the homesteading/radical homemaker stripes.Introduction
In 2014 there was this thread
about preserving the harvest. While this thread isn't technically throwing down a gauntlet, both its predecessor and the well-frequented gardening thread
are in this subforum, so I'm putting it here for now. Mods, feel free to move it if you see fit.
What I hope to accomplish is presenting a guide to the best
way to preserve the local bounty of fruits and vegetables, organized by type. I'm a big believer in trying to live within my own bio-region as much as possible. Even if you rely heavily on things imported from outside of your region, nearly every fruit/veg has a "peak" season where price is lowest and quality is highest. Learning to preserve and store food at its prime is an excellent hobby. It won't necessarily save a ton of money, but the quality of food heading into the lean winter months will blow your mind. For me, this is something I tally up on my emotional balance sheet
more than my financial one.
Okay, let's get into this (again, sorry for slow updates) Post #0 will be Best Methods for FruitApples
You have two main options here. First is to dry slices and make chips. If you don't have a dehydrator, I highly recommend the large Excalibur models. They're pricey but well worth it if you plan to preserve many things. Remove any bruises/blemishes, core, then slice 1/4" with a chef's knife. (Mandolines don't work very well because of the skin.) An apple corer can also cut ring slices quite effectively.
The second choice is canning applesauce. I'll get into the details further as I update.Apricots
No personal experience preserving these but store-bought dried apricots are awesome, so I'd start there. Unless you're incredibly patient, after removing the pit they need to be sliced thinner.Bananas
Not in my bio-region so I don't buy them, but if they were I'd dry them (1/4" slice).
Frozen bananas (hello Arrested Development
) are an excellent treat.Blackberries (and other large-seeded berries like muberry and raspberry)
Freeze in single layers on baking sheets to avoid clumping, then pack into bags for storage.
Blackberry jam can be canned. You can use a food mill to remove the seeds.Blueberries
Freezing is your best option to preserve a fresh-like taste.
Canning can work.
Dried blueberries sound
like a good idea but I find them very disappointing taste-wise. Cherries
The main bottleneck here is pitting. I'm lucky enough to have a local orchard that allows you to run them through a high-speed mechanical pitter for a nominal fee. Once pitted:
Freezing works well. To prevent clumping, lay out on baking sheets in a single layer, place in freezer for at least an hour before packing into freezer bags.
Drying is also a good method. Unless you want them to take forever
in the dehydrator, you will have to halve the pitted cherries.
I'll let others chime in about good canning recipes.Citrus
Your main option is to preserve the peel for future flavoring. You can dry the peel plain, candy it, or preserve it in salt. Recipes abound.
Our own Erica has this handy guide. It's specific to lemon (ideally Meyer lemon) peel but many of the same principles apply: http://www.nwedible.com/ways-to-use-lemon-peel/Currants
Canning them in preserves and jellies is well-known.
Personally, I'd dry them, at least based on the taste of both options I've had from the store. Dates
No personal experience. I'm guessing drying is the best option.Figs
Figs: drying is good, but it depends on the variety. Some have a thicker outer skin before the juicy seed cavity and these don't dry as well as the varieties with a thinner skin, in my experience. Up here, Desert King is a common variety, and these don't dry as nicely as something like Black Mission. Grapes
All figs make superior jam (but are borderline acid, so add some lemon juice), chutney, and sauce. Their flavor is particularly well paired with balsamic vinegar, cherries, thyme, or black pepper.
If you grow your own, or live in a growing region, you could experiment with making your own raisins or grape jellies. I have no personal experience. The only vineyards here are exclusively for wine production.Kiwi
No personal experience. Melons
be dried or frozen, but honestly? I wouldn't bother. Enjoy them as the late summer, early fall local delicacy they are.Nectarines
I haven't tried preserving these. From eating preserved products, drying, freezing, and canning are all equally good options. The first two will preserve more nutritional value.Papaya
Not in my bio-region. Supposed to be good for drying.Peaches
I haven't tried preserving these. From eating preserved products, drying, freezing, and canning are all equally good options. The first two will preserve more nutritional value.Pears
I haven't tried preserving these. From eating preserved products, drying, freezing, and canning are all equally good options. The first two will preserve more nutritional value.Persimmons
No personal experience. From what I've read, the challenge is getting ones that are dead ripe. Persimmons have a way of going from bitterly astringent to candy-sweet overnight.Pineapple
Not in my bio-region but if they were, I'd dry them.Plums
Cooking down into a plum or sauce is a VERY versatile condiment all on its own, or as a base for many sweet-savory Asian or BBQ type sauces and glazes.Rhubarb
Culinarily, this is typically classified as a fruit. Typically I've chopped rhubarb and frozen it.
If I had enough of a harvest that freezer space looked a premium, I'd dry the slices. Rhubarb is excellent in jams/jellies/preserves but I find the taste is best when the sauce is fresh, not after it's been canned. YMMV. Strawberries
Dried strawberries are worth the price of a large dehydrator alone.
For a basic strawberry jam, I really like the one printed in the book "Canning for a New Generation". With really prime, local fruit I have found very little sugar is necessary.