Arbor Update

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Can, Freeze, Dry: Home Preserving in A2

4. October 2008 • Nancy Shore
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I was at the Farmer’s Market this morning just blown away by all the fresh produce and I thought this would be a great time for a post on home preserving.

As the colder weather starts to move in, home preserving is a great way for us in the Ann Arbor area to store something tasty for a snowy winter’s day.

And apparently, there are lots of folks taking up home preserving out there. I recently heard that canning supply sales are up 40% at the Ace Hardware store on Stadium.

So here’s a rundown of where to go and what to do related to home preserving in Ann Arbor. I hope this post becomes a place for others to share what they know as well.

One great place for books on canning and freezing is actually the Ann Arbor District Library . There are about 16 books on canning and preserving there including some jems like a canning book from the Joy of Cooking Folks and the fabulous Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Lots of used book stores also carry canning books, but be careful with older canning books, as methods have improved over time.

If you want to buy canning books, Downtown Home and Garden has a great selection.

Canning Supplies
Once again, Downtown Home and Garden has pretty much anything you’d want for home preserving, especially canning. Ace Hardware on Stadium also has great supplies. Since canning jars don’t really go bad, you can also get them used at the Ann Arbor Kiwanis and at Recycle Ann Arbor. Just make sure the jars are free of cracks or other imperfections.

Good things to can this time of year
During this time in the season, Apple Butter and Pear Butter are great and easy foods to can. Not only are butters tasty, but they also make great local gifts.

Apple Chutney is also a great thing to make this time of year. I like adding chutney to a wrap filled with grilled onions, peppers, cheese and some form of protein (seitan, chicken, or otherwise). And what’s great about this dish is that all of the items can be purchased locally.

Pickled peppers are also a favorite of mine, as well as salsa and tomato sauce.

Good things to Freeze this time of year
Pretty much anything you can can, you can also freeze. I like to make big batches of pesto with basil from my garden (also lots available at the Farmer’s Market) and, omitting the cheese, freeze in ice cube trays. Then I just pop them out, put them in bags, and use them later. I also love to freeze tomato sauce. You can just make regular old tomato sauce with all local ingredients, pop it in freezer bags and you’re ready for the winter!

With all of the great pumpkins and squash at this time of year, nothing is better than making up a batch of roast pumpkin soup to freeze for later. Or just freeze some pumpkin or winter squash puree for sauces, to add to pesto, etc. during the winter.

Also try grabbing some greens, onions and garlic from the Farmer’s Market, beans, stock and protein from the Co-op, and make up a batch of soup for now and to freeze for later.

You can also slice up peppers, set them on trays to freeze in the freezer, and then store them in freezer bags to use in dishes later in the year.

Little hot peppers are great items to get from the Farmer’s Market these days to string up and dry. Not only can you use the dried peppers in cooking, they also make beautiful fall decorations. Also, with the abundance of apples and plums, now is a great time to dry fruit, which makes a great local snack in the winter months.

Both Growing Hope and Project Grow have offered preserving classes in the past, but they might be done with that for the season. But no fear . . . any good home preserving book can provide you with many of the tools you need to get started.

Think home preserving is too much work? Well, just think of this. You come home on a blustery January evening, open the freezer, take out a bag of pasta sauce, thaw it on the stove and cook some pasta. And you’ve got a great, local meal in about 30 minutes. That’s what I love about preserving. Another idea is to hold your own home preserving party to help spread out the work among friends.

Please share your thoughts on home preserving in Ann Arbor.

  1. Peppers and onions can be chopped up and frozen as is—no need to blanche or anything. The peppers are great and the onions are good enough to be worth it in January and February (they thaw slightly watery and they will scent up the freezer so be aware).

    We bought a bushel of broccoli today to freeze (just $30 for probably 35 finished quarts of broccoli). Just cut it up as you would normally use it, boil for three to five minutes, cool in icy water, drain, pop in bags and toss in the freezer. I started freezing broccoli the year I realized that the organic frozen broccoli I was buying was shipped from China. This is way cheaper, we know what is in it, it is better for the planet, has a lower carbon footprint, and it tastes great. It takes a few hours, but it is kind of fun to do and well worth it through the winter.

    Makielski’s still has raspberries to pick and they are great frozen or in jam. Raspberry jam is some of the easiest to make and with the acid of the berries and the sugar (I use Michigan’s Pioneer Sugar), you don’t really have to worry much about it going bad if jamming makes you nervous. We also freeze raspberries on a cookie tray, sprinkle with a bit of sugar and then put in bags when they are frozen. They thaw almost like fresh raspberries and at $3.00/quart, you can’t beat the price.

       —Juliew    Oct. 5 '08 - 12:25AM    #
  2. Juliew,
    Thanks for posting (I knew you would!). Love the idea about the broccoli. I’m going to have to try that, too.

       —Nancy    Oct. 5 '08 - 05:08AM    #
  3. I froze a bunch of blueberries (and strawberries), too. Just throw ‘em on a cooking sheet and freeze overnight. Then put them in little bags. My hope is to make strawberry shortcake for my 1950s party in March!

    I am quite in love with the local celery that I’ve found at the market, so I’ve been chopping and freezing that as well. I have a bag waiting for my Thanksgiving turkey stuffing, in fact!

    I would recommend that folks invest in a freezer. And have Homeless Dave deliver it to your house! :)

    The plan is to can peaches as soon as my cold goes away. I’ve heard that I can put lemon juice on them to preserve their color—does anyone know is this is okay? The guy at Downtown H&G recommended this, and I do trust them, but still.

    Happy preserving :)

       —TeacherPatti    Oct. 5 '08 - 05:14AM    #
  4. To prevent peaches from getting brown when I cut them, I use water and lemon juice – just lemon juice changes the flavor. Then when you are ready to preserve or freeze them they won’t be brown. I hope this works for you.

       —Leah Gunn    Oct. 5 '08 - 10:44PM    #
  5. I have a freezer full of pesto made from ramps and yellow dock leaves, gallons of berries – blueberries, black raspberries, service berries, red raspberries. I have a couple gallons of applesauce made from wild picked apples (they are all over the city), pear and apple butter, and now freezer bags full of ratautouille (spelling?) or just summer squash cooked up. I hope to finish a root cellar this week to store more apples, Jerusalem artichokes (I get over 20 pounds from my garden), onions, winter squash, and homemade cheese.
    I also buy quantities of peppers at the farmers market, take out the seeds, and cut them up and freeze in ziplock bags. Perfect for home made pizza or any other cooking in the winter. They’re cheap now, and won’t be for long.
    I also dried a lot of sumac berries and hope to explore using them as a different sort of seasoning.
    By combining my garden, wild harvesting, produce from the Co-op and the farmer’s market I’ve ended up with a lot of food put away. Most of it is frozen, but I’m slowly exploring the more traditional methods as well.
    My favorite quick meal in mid winter is to put rice and water in the rice cooker, put the cooked and then frozen summer squash on top, and come back in about 45 minutes for a perfect one pot meal of rice and veggies.

       —Linda Diane Feldt    Oct. 6 '08 - 02:07AM    #
  6. Thanks, Leah. That’s what I did and they look “peachy” in their little jars, as they sit on my counter.

    Now I just have to can applesauce and I think I’m all set.

    But seriously folks—buy a freezer and have HD deliver it.

       —TeacherPatti    Oct. 6 '08 - 03:43AM    #
  7. On his bicycle? I want to be there to see that!

       —Leah Gunn    Oct. 6 '08 - 04:45PM    #
  8. On freezing peaches: Alton Brown just had an episode on freezing peaches within the last couple months. To prevent the peaches from browning and getting slimy from freezing, he recommends using ascorbic acid (e.g. crushed vitamin c tablets) and sugar mixed in with the fruit before freezing. The Food Network web site has his recipe here.
    I think you could leave the paprika out without any ill effect.

       —Lane Maiden    Oct. 7 '08 - 06:31PM    #
  9. You can find information about safe canning at this address: I have the old, book version of the USDA guide that I got in the days before downloading. Canning vegetables is a little scary and requires some equipment, so freezing is a lot easier. Anything that requires purchasing equipment is attractive to me, though.

       —Joan Lowenstein    Oct. 7 '08 - 11:27PM    #
  10. What about that alleged conflict of interest in that high-rise development? And how much will it cost?

       —$700 billion    Oct. 7 '08 - 11:29PM    #
  11. Slightly OT, but for Leah and others… you can see a picture of this stunning event:

    I hope HD doesn’t mind me doing this!!! :)

       —TeacherPatti    Oct. 7 '08 - 11:30PM    #
  12. One interesting thing about canning these days is that our produce isn’t being grown to can. For example many of the tomatoes now are low acid tomatoes that you have to be more careful about. It used to be tomatoes were pretty foolproof because of their high acid levels. Now you have to search to find those tomatoes or can tomatoes as if they are a low-acid vegetable.

    Another few comments about preserving. The first should be obvious, but I know I have made this mistake: don’t preserve anything you wouldn’t eat now. Make sure you get rid of the brown spots, the seeds, the pith, or anything that is bad or just doesn’t look appetizing. These things don’t just magically disappear when you freeze or preserve stuff and you don’t want to be looking at that black spot on your frozen pepper in January thinking “do I really want to eat this?”

    Also, don’t let the threat of frost scare you off. Not all vegetables and fruit die off in a frost and many will get even better for the next month or so.

       —Juliew    Oct. 8 '08 - 01:46AM    #
  13. I recently got the canning bug – never done it before. Seems that the few tomato plants I got for my wife’s pleasure (can’t eat em myself – allergic) over-produced in a big way. I’ve made a few recipes with green tomatoes (relish, pickle, mincemeat) and red tomatoes (salsa, picante, sauce, soups of many varieties) and just plain tomatoes, and put up 15 quart jars and 20 pint jars, as well as lots of frozen. It’s a lot of work!! But worth it, if I still get a ‘thanks’ in April from this fall’s harvest.

    As an increasingly committed ‘locavore’, I’d like to see some sort of group effort (formal or not) in canning, preserving, etc. to capture the local harvest (not just our own individual efforts). Seems like it will be more important in tough economic times and high fuel prices.

       —Pete S.    Oct. 13 '08 - 05:24PM    #
  14. I haven’t made the canning leap yet but this is my third year for freezing local berries. I bagged up two lugs (20 lbs.) of blueberries and about 5 quarts of strawberries. I washed the strawberries and removed the caps, but didn’t bother with the blueberries. I spray them with a fruit/veggie wash and rinse before eating. That also has the effect of thawing them sufficiently for adding to yogurt or pancakes.

    I also experimented with some of the basil I got from my CSA share and bagged the leaves with some olive oil (just enough to coat them), squeezed out all the air, and popped them in the freezer. I don’t have a food processor, so my hope is that they’ll keep until I do and can pull them out and process them with the other ingredients for pesto. I welcome thoughts on whether this will or won’t work (or other possible uses short of pesto.)

       —Steve Bean    Oct. 13 '08 - 06:01PM    #
  15. Pete S.—-I love the idea of a canning version of Locavorious
    I don’t see any reason that there couldn’t be several in the area—freezing, canning, etc.—tho I guess there are probably more inspections and health/safety issues around canning that might make it harder for a little co-op or CSA to take that on…

       —Aki    Oct. 13 '08 - 06:24PM    #
  16. I agree with Pete and Aki—super idea! I’m new to it too and my fingers and toes are crossed that I did everything right. I canned two pint jars of applesauce in October…one turned out fine, the other had mold on top :(

       —TeacherPatti    Oct. 14 '08 - 01:53AM    #
  17. Steve,
    Just FYI: That should work fine for pesto.

       —Marc R.    Oct. 20 '08 - 04:18AM    #
  18. Canning applesauce takes some work but makes for a fabulous treat later in the year. We bought two bushels from Plymouth Orchards (seconds – only $18/bushel) and got 44 pints out of it.

    As with anything, the right tools make all the difference. For apples, get a hand crank peeler/slicer/corer. A jar lifter is a necessity. A canning rack (to lift jars in and out of pots) means you’re much less likely to dip fingers in boiling water.

    Here’s a great resource I found this year while remembering details of the steps.

       —Seth    Oct. 29 '08 - 05:32AM    #
  19. If you’re looking for free,step-by step canning, freezing and drying directions, complete with photos for each step, see The recipes are based on the USDA’s National Home Preservation Centers recipes to assure their safety and quality! You can also find local sources (pick-your-own farms and farm markets) listed on the website.

       —Blake    Jan. 17 '09 - 04:07AM    #