This article appears also at Sustainable Dakota Digest
In the past few years, there has been a renewed interest in home gardening and home food preservation – canning, dehydrating, freezing and pickling or fermenting.
These days it is not necessary to grow a garden in order to have fresh produce for preserving.
Nor is it necessary to preserve huge quantities of produce.
A new trend is small batch canning. Preserving just four or five half-pints of strawberry jam or a half dozen jars of salsa are two examples of small batch canning.
Persons without a garden can purchase fresh in-season produce at the local farmers market or directly from the farmer or grower.
Ten pounds of tomatoes would make about a half-dozen pint jars of salsa. A bushel of tomatoes, weighing about 54 pounds, will yield 15 to 20 quarts of whole or chopped tomatoes, or 12 to 15 quarts of juice.
Freezing tomatoes is an easy preservation method. Wash, remove the stem, and place the tomato on a cookie sheet. Put the cookie sheet into the freezer for about a half hour or until the tomatoes start to firm up. Place tomatoes in a zip lock bag and store in the freezer.
To remove skin from a frozen tomato, put the tomato in a pan of cold water. When the skin splits, use a knife to peel the skin from the tomato.
Twelve to 15 tomatoes plants in a garden will yield 15 or 20 quarts of canned tomatoes.
A 48-pound bushel of 3- to 4-inch cucumbers will yield 16 to 24 quarts of pickles. A bushel of 1- to 2-inch cucumbers will yield 35 to 40 quarts of gherkins.
Refrigerator dills are easy to make. Place sliced onions, garlic and dill in a jar. Add cucumbers to the jar. A mixture of vinegar, water, sugar and spices are poured over the ingredients in the jar. A lid is placed on the jar, and it is stored in the refrigerator. It will be ready to eat in about two weeks.
About a dozen cucumber plants will yield enough cucumbers for those 16 or so quarts of dill pickles.
Two pounds of fresh green beans will yield one quart frozen beans. Snip off the ends, cut in one-inch pieces, blanch and place in a quart-size freezer container.
A dozen green bean plants in a garden or containers will provide plenty of beans for freezing.
One word of advice for both gardening and food preservation: start small, learn the basics and go from there.
The size of the garden can increase as you gain skills.
The amount of food preserved can likewise increase as you gain confidence in your skills.
Fruits and acidified foods (pickled items) are safely canned with a boiling water bath canner. Other foods – vegetables and meats – require a pressure canner.
Plenty of information about gardening and home preservation is available online or in print.
One of the best online sources for home preservation is the National Center for Home Food Preservation, http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html.