Summer garden produce is great fresh — but it preserves well and can provide splashes of sunshine all winter long. Here’s a look at a couple of methods you can use to save veggies and other foods at home.
Preserving quality foods can be an important part of overall nutrition.
This method of preserving is unique, as vegetables are submerged in a saltwater solution, salty enough to kill harmful bacteria.
Lactobacillus, a beneficial bacteria, thrives in these salty conditions. They begin converting the sugars in the vegetables into lactic acid.
The lactic acid created preserves the vegetables and provides a terrific tangy flavor.
There are a few tips worth following for successful attempts.
Make sure you use the right amount of salt and don’t use iodized table salt. It has too many additives, so try canning or high-quality sea salt instead.
You should use purified or distilled water. Chemicals in tap water, like chlorine, can harm the lactobacillus, leading to poor fermentation. You should also use fresh, washed vegetables. But don’t use any antibiotic cleaners as they may kill the lactobacillus.
If mold forms on top of your brine, you can skim it off and continue. If mold grows within the brine, you have to throw it out. Fermenting in a container with an air-tight seal can help prevent mold growth.
There are reasons to try it, like improving gut health through beneficial probiotics, it doesn’t require many supplies and it’s easy to tell if it didn’t work — funky taste, look or smell.
But there are reasons it could be tricky, like taking longer, always salty, it requires cooler temperatures for storage and the flavor is constantly changing, with more variability from batch to batch.
This method is also known as “fresh-pack,” and it again can help you save vegetables. It uses vinegar, and you can create the desired flavor by combining vinegar, salt, sugar and spices.
You have to sterilize the jars before you fill them. You should also process cans and jars after filling to ensure all bacteria and enzymes have been destroyed.
This method has no fermentation.
There are several tips for successful pickling.
You should use canning or pickling salt. Iodized table salt will cause your pickling liquid to be cloudy. And you must use vinegar with an acidity of 4-6 percent. Cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar are popular.
You must sterilize jars and screw bands in boiling water. The flat metal lids don’t need this step, but you cannot reuse them.
Ensure you leave an appropriate amount of headspace — the space between the top of the jar’s filling and the lid. You’ll want to use about a quarter-inch for jams, jellies, juices, pickles and relishes. A half-inch headspace is best for acidic foods, such as tomatoes and fruit. You must have a full inch of headspace when canning low-acidic foods, such as meats and most vegetables.
There are good reasons to try vinegar pickling like it’s stable at room temperature until opened, requires less salt, and easily creates consistent flavors.
But it can be tricky as it doesn’t have probiotics, and some vitamins are destroyed in processing. It also requires many supplies and has smaller batches. Another tricky aspect is botulism, the most common contaminant, which is flavorless and odorless.
Learn more about nutrition and your health by contacting Avera Heart Hospital of South Dakota Dietitian Lauren Cornay, RD, LN.