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preserving food

Tis the Season to Preserve!

If you haven’t already been storing food for the winter this summer, now is a good time to start. Frozen vegetables used to not be appealing to me until I learned that many nutrients are preserved when they are blanched. Now I love eating frozen kale, squash, spinach and chard from Cosmic Apple in the fall and early winter.

Blanching is a great way to preserve many different kinds of vegetables, especially greens. Blanching stops enzymes from breaking down the nutrients in the vegetable. Studies show that vegetables that were blanched before frozen retained up to 1300% more vitamin C and other nutrients than vegetables that were frozen and weren’t blanched.

Steam blanching preserves nutrients better than water blanching. Small percentages of water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C and B vitamins are lost during blanching but even fresh vegetables begin losing nutrients the moment they are picked. However, many antioxidants remain in the produce after blanching.

The faster you cool down the vegetables after blanching, the more color, flavor and nutrients they will retain. Drying the veggies before freezing them will prevent freezer burn.

Little nutrition is lost during freezing. Frozen vegetables will keep for 12-18 months in a 0°F or colder freezer.

Home canning is similar to blanching and freezing for nutrient loss. Water-soluble vitamins are most affected.

Making pesto and freezing it in ice cube trays is a great way to enjoy some “fresh” greens mid-winter. Last summer I froze some extra mint vinaigrette I had into ice cube trays and it worked well, too. There’s nothing like a taste of summer when it’s snowing outside!

I wrote about fermenting foods as a preservation method earlier this summer so I won’t elaborate again. Fermenting food is the only preservation method that actually increases the nutrients in food as well as adding beneficial bacteria for your gut.

I store my turnips, carrots and beets in the fridge after I remove the tops and they keep for many months. I’ve had the best luck storing other root veggies like garlic, potatoes and onions in paper bags in a dark kitchen cabinet. Of course, a basement or root cellar is more ideal but an unheated garage can be too cold.

I have come to the conclusion that preserving my produce from Cosmic Apple is far more nutritious than buying vegetables from the grocery store. Getting veggies fresh from the farm and eating them fresh or preserving them for later ensures you get the more nutritious food there is-rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Here’s a recipe for lacto-fermented turnips*:

12 medium turnips, scrubbed well and sliced 1/8 inch thick

2 tsp red pepper flakes

6 cups water

3-1/2 Tbls sea salt

Make a brine by combining the water and sea salt. Set aside.

Put 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes in each of two quart jars. Add the sliced turnips, packing until no higher than 1 inch from the top.

Pour the brine over the turnips and red pepper flakes, pushing the turnips down to release any air bubbles. Make sure brine leaves at least 1 inch of head space in jar. Weigh the turnips down so that they stay below the brine. Place a lid on the jar and secure tightly.

Allow to ferment at a cool room temperature (65° to 80°F) for 3 to 10 days, burping the jar to release gases for the first few days. Move to cold storage.

*Recipe from www.culturesforhealth.com