Time-Saving Tips for Preserving Produce

There's no question that it's incredibly satisfying to pull preserved food from your freezer, fridge or pantry in the winter. It's the most delicious (and nutritious) way to eat in the months when there isn't as much local, fresh produce around.

And, when it's food that you've preserved yourself - the satisfaction level is bumped up a couple notches. You know the quality of the ingredients, exactly what's in those packages or jars, and you had the foresight to plan ahead for a time of need when there was a time of abundance.

But...

The catch is that it takes time to preserve food, when life is so busy in the summer.

So, here are a few tips and techniques for preserving food in a minimal amount of time.

1. Choose a method that's not time-intensive

For many fruits and vegetables, there are multiple preservation options. You can choose a method that's very time-consuming, or choose a method that can be finished quickly.

For example, tomatoes. As much as it's worth it to make batches of salsa or canned tomatoes, maybe you don't have a day to spend in the kitchen.

The time-saving method: cut tomatoes in halves or quarters; drizzle them with olive oil and salt, and roast them in the oven (around 300F) for 1 - 1.5 hours.

It doesn't take long to cut up a roast pan's worth of tomatoes (just fill it half-way). Then, it's hands-off until they're finished cooking, aside from maybe stirring them once or twice.

Then, once they cool, simply package them up for the freezer.

One benefit of this method is that the tomatoes are a blank slate - you can add your choice of flavours when you use them, in everything from soups to stir-fry's to pizzas.

2. Cook extra to freeze

Here's a great tip for saving time: when you're cooking a meal that includes corn or roasted peppers or other freezable summer vegetables... cook a bunch of extra veggies, and freeze them. 

This takes a minimal amount of time, and you'll be rewarded with a growing stash in your freezer.

3. Make double (or triple) batches

It takes about the same amount of time to make a single or triple batch of pesto or romesco sauce or zucchini noodles.

So, while you're at it, portion some out for today's meal, and freeze the rest for the winter. With this habit, you can easily build up a stash of summer goods for the cold weather!

4. Make smaller batches, more often

This seems to be opposite advice to the point above - but really, it's just for different kinds of preserves.

It's a lot more feasible to spend 20 - 30 minutes making a batch of sauerkraut once a month, than it is to spend a half day making crocks of kraut.

Once you have the method down pat, it's quick to put together a batch of ferments, or slice & freeze a box of peaches, or roast a pan of plum jam)

5. Preserve when the crop is in abundance

This way, you can tackle one or two crops at a time, working your way through a wide variety of crops as they ripen through the season... instead of suddenly trying to preserve everything at the end of the season.

Stashing away a bit of food every week through the summer and fall = an abundance of delicious and nutritious food for the winter!

6. Freeze fruit to process later

This tip works best for any kind of berry or stone fruit (such as peaches, cherries, etc). Maybe you love jam, but don't have time to make jam in the summer.

So, freeze fruit when it's in-season, and thaw your fruit on a cold winter day (when you're looking for a good way to warm up the kitchen), and make a fragrant, delectable batch of jam.

There you have it: a few time-saving tips for preserving food for the winter.

What other tips do you have? Leave them in the comment section below!