April - A Great Time to Prepare for Fresh Food Preservation

Adair Hoover,
Home and Garden Information Center

South Carolina is THE place to be if you are interested in home food preservation. It ranks near the top nationally in several categories of fruit and vegetable production; often second in the nation for peach production; and near the top nationally in fresh market production of leafy greens such as collards, kale, turnips, and mustard. In addition, items such as tomatoes and watermelon consistently rank in the top ten each year for overall production.  Now is an ideal time to get organized for the upcoming produce season. A little research and preparation will help make your preserving projects fun and productive!  Consider the following tips and ideas:

What are you preserving? Determine what foods you are going to preserve and when they will be at the peak of ripeness. A list of farms and markets in your area that harvest or sell fresh produce can be found at the South Carolina MarketMaker website: http://sc.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/. To estimate when you will be preserving, the South Carolina Department of Agriculture offers a produce availability chart. For a downloadable copy go to: http://agriculture.sc.gov/UserFiles/file/PDFS/harvestcalendar1108.pdf

Which preservation method should you use? Canning, freezing and drying are the three main methods of preserving food. Method selection depends on the type of foods you are working with, desired storage time, and the amount of time and money you plan to spend.  Once you have chosen the method, confirm that you have the necessary equipment, tools and storage containers and verify that they are in good working condition.

  • Canning – Requires a boiling water canner for most fruits or a pressure canner for most vegetables. Check with the manufacturer of your canner for upkeep and yearly maintenance. An inventory of canning jars and lid rings should be completed and carefully inspected for cracks, rust or other imperfections. Replace any jars and rings that are not perfect. If you are new to canning check out Carolina Canning on Facebook for upcoming canning classes.
  • Freezing – To prepare for freezing, check your freezer’s storage capacity, defrost if necessary and check temperature. A thermometer should be used to confirm that your freezer has a temperature of 0 °F or below. Determine which type of freezer containers are most suitable for the type of food you are freezing, take inventory of what you have and purchase more if needed.
  • Drying – Foods can be dried in the sun, an oven, a food dehydrator or in a warm room.Once you have determined the method of drying, you will need to establish which equipment is needed and service previously used equipment to ensure it is in proper working condition. Check your packaging materials including: vacuum-packaging system, canning jars with Ball lids, kitchen scissors, heavy-duty freezer bags or freezer containers.

Do you have reliable recipes? Updated and tested recipes such as those on the Home & Garden Information Center website are essential for safe and successful food preservation. Once you have chosen a recipe, take time to carefully read the instructions and make a list of ingredients. You can purchase nonperishable items such as pectin, ascorbic acid and sulfite dips in advance. This will minimize the work needed when preserving day arrives.

Planning ahead can help guarantee that once produce season arrives you are ready! For detailed information on preserving refer to the Home & Garden Information Center and follow us on Facebook and Twitter:

Sources:

  1. South Carolina Department of Agriculture, http://agriculture.sc.gov/
  2. South Carolina Market Maker, http://sc.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/
  3. DeLong, Deanna, How to Dry Foods, Penguin Books 2006

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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.