It’s harvesting time, hooray! Berries, squash, tomatoes: it’s time to stock up on seasonal produce at very affordable prices. There are various techniques to help preserve their flavours for months on end. Here are 10 preservation mistakes to avoid in order to maximize your harvests . . . and your savings!
On-a-whim decisions are the number one enemy when it comes to saving. From week to week, arrivals may vary, as may prices. Local fruits and vegetables are generally more affordable during harvesting season. We suggest stocking up when you see them on special.
You save even more if you buy your food in bulk: it can be used in the preparation of canned food or in frozen dishes. This will provide you with meals for months, which will reduce your grocery bill in the long run. Saving money and feasting on delicious home-cooked food . . . it’s a win-win situation!
2. Not planning enough time
We all like to believe in miracles, but jams, marinades, and make-ahead meals don’t just magically appear! You need to schedule time for peeling, cutting, chopping, sautéing, simmering, and so on. If the task seems daunting, why not organize a cooking group? In just one afternoon, you’ll get loads of meal prep done, and you’ll have a blast to boot!
3. Over seasoning
We suggest avoiding adding too many spices to your marinades, purees, and sauces, especially those with more pronounced flavours. Neutral-base preparations are more versatile in the kitchen, which means you’ll be able to use them in a lot more dishes.
4. Deviating from the recipe
Imagination and creativity in the kitchen can be a wonderful thing, often leading to delicious discoveries. On the other hand, when preparing canned goods, it’s important to follow the quantities of ingredients to the letter, as sugar, vinegar, and salt play a crucial role in conserving food.
5. Using poor-quality ingredients
For your marinades or jams, opt for fresh seasonal foods at the peak of their ripeness. Otherwise, your recipe won’t give the expected results, no matter how royally you treat and process your fruits and vegetables. Moral of the story: you want all your ingredients to be bursting with flavour, especially when making this sublime strawberry jam.
6. Forgetting to indicate the freeze date
Not all foods have the same shelf life, which is why you should always write the date of preparation on your containers. While ready-cooked meals can be stored in the freezer for up to six months, pies should be consumed within three months tops. Dishes that stay in the freezer too long can dry out or develop ice crystals. Imagine what a waste it would be if this succulent potato, zucchini, and bacon gratin were to end up in the garbage instead of your belly!
7. Turning food into a block of ice
Before storing whole berries and cut vegetables in the freezer, space them out on a baking sheet and freeze them first. Then transfer to a freezer bag. This will prevent them from clumping together and forming one huge block of ice.
8. Storing food in inappropriate containers
Cling wrap and bread bags are not recommended for storing food in the freezer. Because they’re so thin, they don’t protect food from freezer burn. Instead, opt for containers designed specifically for the freezer (they often sport a snowflake logo).
9. Not having the necessary equipment
In addition to Mason jars, you need to equip yourself with tongs, a funnel, a jar holder (an instrument used to place the jars in the bottom of the pot without them colliding), as well as said pot, of course! We also suggest you get an autoclave to sterilize all preparations with a pH greater than 4.6.
10. Skipping certain steps
Making preserves is not complicated! The only thing is it’s necessary that you follow instructions to the letter to ensure the proper preservation of your food. Sterilizing jars and lids, for example, is a crucial step in the canning process. The best way to do this is to immerse them in boiling water for five minutes.
There are a few steps to follow (and some things to avoid) when it comes to the preservation of fruits and vegetables, but it’s far from rocket science! With a little vigilance and planning, you’ll be able to enjoy your harvest for months to come. Not to mention that you’ll save lots of money when you buy seasonal food at budget-friendly prices!