It is a well-known fact that fruits and vegetables benefit one’s health. From benefits ranging from better eyesight to sources of fibre to antioxidants, having a diet that includes fruits and vegetables can contribute to a better quality of life. Unfortunately, fruits and vegetables are often more expensive than less natural foods. Unlike most processed foods, they have precise expiration dates that make them inedible. A solution to this problem is to practice food preservation. This article will explain different methods of food preservation for fruits and vegetables that one can do at home to prolong the lifespan of these necessary nutrients. Three different food preservation methods will be discussed in this article: pickling, water bath canning, and simple mason jar preservation.
Other than increasing the shelf life, food preservation has many other benefits (MarketEditors, 2021). Depending on the method, it can ensure the year-round availability of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Buying in bulk and saving for later is more cost-effective than frequent purchasing. Preserving food also reduces food waste which is beneficial for the environment. Depending on the preservation method, preserved food can be consumed during emergencies. Another potential benefit is that food preservation methods can change preserved food into a different form. People can use these methods to make jellies and jams or pickle their vegetables using vinegar to change the flavour.
Pickling is one of the most commonly known methods of food preservation. It can be used for various fruits and vegetables, including cucumbers (to make pickles), beets, strawberries, mango, carrots, cherries, and any fruit or vegetable desired (Sacks, 2015).
This method requires household ingredients like vinegar (white or apple cider, depending on the desired flavour), water, sugar and/or salt, your chosen fruit or vegetable, and a mason jar (Bond, 2020).
- After preparing the fruits or vegetables to fit into the mason jar, mix the vinegar, water, sugar, and/or salt (depending on the recipe) in a pot over the stove and continue cooking until the mixture is thoroughly combined.
- Then, pour your freshly made brine into the mason jar over your fruits or vegetables.
- Seal the jar and refrigerate.
Once the process is done, pickled items can last in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks to two months, depending on the food. However, be sure to do some research to ensure your pickling efforts do not go to waste.
Unfortunately, one drawback of pickling is the high salt content due to the food marinating in a salty mixture for an extended period (Krouse, 2020). For those who have to watch their salt content, there may be better methods of food preservation for them than pickling.
Water Bath Canning
This process is more complicated than pickling and simple mason jar preservation as it requires more equipment and precision. Still, it allows the food to be stored in a cool, dry space instead of just in the refrigerator (Timberlake, 2014). The process is only for highly acidic produce because their natural acidic levels work best with boiling water (MasterClass, 2021).
Water bath canning requires a large pot with a lid, a large pot, mason jars, boiling water, something to remove the jars from the water with (like heat-safe tongs or a jar lifter), a spatula to help remove air bubbles, the desired fruits or vegetables to be preserved (EatingWell Editors, 2018). To start:
- Heat the mason jars in boiling water in a large pot to prepare them.
- While those are being heated, boil the water in your other large pot with a lid by filling it halfway with water and letting the water simmer.
- Keep simmering the water while you complete the other steps.
- Take the now clean mason jars out of the water, wipe them dry, and add desired food to the jars, keeping ¼ to ½ inch room from the top.
- Move a spatula along the inside of the jars to ensure no air bubbles.
- Seal the jars, but not too tight, and place them into the simmering water using tongs or a jar lifter.
- Make sure that they are not touching and that they are covered in the water by 1-2 inches.
- Bring the simmering water to a boil and cover the pot for 10 minutes or however long the recipe dictates.
- Once the time has passed, turn off the heat but let the jars remain in place for five minutes before removing them and placing them on a dish towel or newspaper. They cannot be placed on a cold surface, or they may crack.
- Leave the jars to cool, untouched, for 12-24 hours; during this time, you may hear a pop from the top of the mason jar as the vacuum seal develops.
After cooling, remove the ring band around the lid and press down on the center. If the top does not pop up, you successfully canned, and the food can now be stored in a cool, dry place. If it does, you must refrigerate the jar and eat the contents within two weeks, as the process did not take. This method works best for berries, cherries, plums, peas, and tomatoes. To use this process for less acidic vegetables, adding an acid like lemon juice or vinegar works, but you should do some research to see how much should be added.
Simple Mason Jar Preservation
This last method is by far the most simple, which means that there are better methods for long-term preservation (Mila, 2022). It only requires mason jars, vinegar, water, fruits, some vegetables, and refrigerator space (Mila, 2022).
- First, clean the fruit in a bowl of water mixed with 2-3 tablespoons of distilled vinegar.
- Once thoroughly cleaned, rinse the fruit again with just water to eliminate any vinegar taste.
- After letting the fruit dry, place it in a sealable mason jar in the fridge.
This method works best for berries, apples, oranges, carrots, peppers, and mushrooms. It should not be used for tomatoes, potatoes, or lettuce.
On May 25, SCAN (the Sustainable Community Aid Network) will host a mason jar food preservation workshop for Malton residents in the coming week. If you are interested in participating, please use this link to sign up, or if you would like to learn more about our Sustainability on My Mind program, where we run sustainable workshops, use this link here.
These three methods have varying effects on the longevity of the preserved food and the location where it can be stored. While water bath canning is the best method, pickling and simple mason jar preservation are the quickest. These methods are easy ways to ensure that you get nutrients from your fruits and vegetables and that they do not go to waste before you can enjoy them while also limiting food waste and allowing you to be more sustainable.
Bond, S. (2020, April 8). The ultimate guide to quick pickled vegetables. Live Eat Learn. https://www.liveeatlearn.com/quick-pickled-vegetables/
Culinesco, L. L. C. (2022, April 2). 6 ways to preserve food in Mason jars. Culinesco, LLC. https://culinesco.com/blogs/blog/6-ways-to-preserve-food-in-mason-jars
EatingWell Editors. (2018, July 6). 10 steps to water-bath canning. EatingWell. https://www.eatingwell.com/article/15855/10-steps-to-water-bath-canning/
Krouse, L. (2020, August 25). Is eating pickled foods good for you? MyFitnessPal Blog. https://blog.myfitnesspal.com/is-eating-pickled-foods-good-for-you/
MarketEditors. (2021, September 7). Farm to freezer: the benefits of preserving food. Shop Local, Eat Fresh at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market | Food, Crafts, Music in Saratoga Springs. https://www.saratogafarmersmarket.org/farm-freezer-benefits-preserving-food/
MasterClass. (2021, October 21). How to Can Food With the Water Bath Method. Masterclass.com. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-can-food
Mila. (2022, October 4). Storing fruit in Mason jars – make fruit last longer. Make Me Sustainable. https://makemesustainable.com/storing-fruit-in-mason-jars/
Pleasant, B. (2017, August 3). Make pickled vegetables in 4 easy steps. GrowVeg. https://www.growveg.com/guides/make-pickled-vegetables-in-4-easy-steps/
Sacks, K. (2015, June 26). How to pickle basically everything. Epicurious. https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/how-to-pickle-basically-everything-article
Timberlake, S. (2014, October 22). How to process foods in a water bath canner. The Spruce Eats. https://www.thespruceeats.com/guide-to-water-bath-canning-1327461
- Impact of a 1.5° C Increase - May 26, 2023
- Food Preservation - May 19, 2023
- Individual Impact on Climate Change - May 12, 2023