One of the best ways to deal with an over-abundant foraging session is by preserving. Preserving goes beyond just jams and jellies, including freezing, pickling, vacuum sealing and more.
This is, obviously, the easiest method. Simply wrap up your haul in plastic or tin foil and throw it in the freezer. Fresh produce that is frozen early on will stay good up for to four months. To avoid freezer burn, reduce the amount of air that can get to the product. You can do this by double wrapping and making sure that it is securely tied.
If you don’t have any special canning equipment, and let’s face it, most of us don’t, you can create what’s known as a “quick pickle.” Instead of fermenting the produce, you’re able to let it brine for just a few days before enjoying. To do this, you’ll want to start with about half a pound of produce and then jar it with equal parts vinegar and water as the base brine. Each half pound will fill one pint-sized jar, so make sure you have enough jars to fill up.
From there, you can add your own flavors. Salt, along with a teaspoon or two of sugar, is a popular combination. Whole spices, like peppercorn or mustard seeds, are also common.
After brining for at least 48 hours, open up the jars and enjoy. This method keeps the produce good in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
Vacuum sealing can be a great way to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables from the season. It removes the air surrounding the produce so that bacteria and mold cannot cause freezer burn or decay. With vacuum sealing, you can keep produce in the fridge instead of the freezer, which means less time spent waiting for it to thaw out. While this method requires special equipment, vacuum sealers can be found online for about $40.
To prepare produce for vacuum sealing, make sure that everything has been washed thoroughly to prevent bacteria growth within the seal. Large veggies, like carrots, should be peeled for the same reason. Kill any germs on the produce by blanching it, or cooking in boiling water, then removing the produce and dunking it in ice water. Dry with paper towels and proceed with the vacuum sealing process according to your machine’s instructions.
By using these methods, you can keep produce good for several months at a time. It also allows you to give fresh or pickled foods as gifts to friends and family. Knowing how to preserve can mean the difference between tossing your hard-earned foraged foods in the garbage or enjoying them all year long.