Before summer’s bounty is gone, do yourself a favour and put some up for the long winter ahead. Chef In Your Ear star Craig Harding offers his tips on preserving at home.
It All Boils Down To
“Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene,” says Harding, of the most important thing for beginner canners. “All along the way.” Since the idea of preserving is preventing bacteria from spoiling the food, extra care is worth it. This means submerging all canning equipment in boiling water, ensuring your hands are scrubbed and that the rims of the jars are clear and clean when you seal them.
“Invest in a few little pieces,” he says. “Get a metal rack so your jars don’t touch the bottom of the pot when you’re boiling them. Get a pair of the tongs made so you can grab the jars out of the boiling water, and a funnel made for jars with a very wide opening, which protects the rim from getting anything on it.”
Jars That Pop
“If I do 24 jars, there’ll be four jars or so that don’t pop, that don’t get that vacuum seal. I just put them in the fridge and eat them within four weeks. Everything else can stay over the winter.”
“Drying opens up preservation to a whole new style. You can do just as many creative and interesting flavours with drying as you can with canning,” says Harding, dispelling the assumption that dried fruit always tastes like, well, just dried fruit. “You can sprinkle spices on it rather than just dry fruit in its natural state. I like to dip them in a light syrup. The possibilities are endless.”
Blast freezing may be all the rage in high-end kitchens, but bringing that technique home requires some adapting. “Blast freezers are incredibly expensive machines. A home freezer accomplishes nearly the same result—blueberries in your own freezer will soften just a little bit before hitting that deep freeze. Freezing naturally without additives preserves food closest to its natural state. You need to can with heat, so that changes the food. Freezing, you can thaw the food and treat more closely to if it was fresh.”
Cold and Alone
Harding offers a great tip for storing fruits and veggies in your freezer. “Lay them out flat on a tray with a enough space between them to freeze solid separately so they don’t clump together; then store them together in a Ziplock bag. But there is a shelf life to a frozen product: After about six months because of the moisture in the product it’s inevitable that you’ll get that freezer burn.”
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