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Storing Methods

Growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs, will eventually lead you to the wish to store some of them. Since much of your garden crops will become ready at the same time, in the summer and autumn, most of them will go to waste without proper storage. Storing your garden crops may also be a pleasant activity, especially it you are going to create your own by-products or some specific ingredients for later use in the kitchen.
Every crop needs a specific method of storing. Some of the methods are old, passed through many generations using traditional tools and storage equipment.Other methods are relatively new; like automated harvesting tools and storing the crops in a metal building. If a crop can be stored by multiple methods, you will be able to choose the one that suit you best.
Choosing the proper method of storage is important to obtain good results, but you also need to harvest the crops that you are going to store, when they are in their peak condition, they are healthy, without any damage or sign of rot. You will have to handle the crops carefully to not bruise them. You will also need he know that some varieties store better than others.
Never store your crops near strong-smelling substances or hazardous chemicals and always label any stored produce with a description of contents and the date of preserving or storing. Check your stored produce regularly to remove any that is rotting. Only store crops that you and your family like to eat.
You should also take into consideration the fact that the best storage technique is to have them fresh. Thin means that you will have to extend the growing season as much as you can, using a greenhouse, a polytunnel or a cold-frame. This way you will be eating fresh produce for longer and you will also be able to grow a wider range of varieties.

Jams and Jellies

Jams are a good way of storing surplus fruits for the winter. The preservation works by a combination of the boiling stage and the high sugar content of the product. Boiling kills micro-organisms and de-activates enzymes and sugar inhibits the growth of bacteria that may contaminate the jam later. You can also make low sugar jam but it will be runnier and will need to be kept in the fridge and will not store for so long as the one with a higher level of sugar.

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Relishes, Ketchups and Sauces

In general, relishes are very similar to chutneys except they are usually more finely textured and may resemble a chunky sauce. Ketchups and sauces are often sieved to obtain a creamy, lump-free consistency. The difference between ketchups and sauces is that ketchups have one predominant flavor like tomato or mushroom or anything you like while sauces have a larger number of ingredients.

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Fruit butter and cheeses

Fruit butters are made by cooking fruits until they become a paste. Fruit butters have lower sugar content than jam and thicken without the need for pectin. Fruit cheeses are basically butters that have been cooked further until they are of a more solid consistency and can be sliced.

Fruit butters and cheeses can be frozen but is more commonly to jar them up just like jams. They will keep for few months but should e refrigerated after opening. Many improve in flavor if left for few weeks before eating. Most common fruits used for butters or cheeses are: apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, grapes and blackcurrants. You can also add spices to them if you like. You can use cinnamon, ginger or allspices. Some fruits will need a little water, juice or cider added whilst cooking.

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Fermenting

Fermenting is the alcohol produced during fermentation that inhibits the growth of micro-organisms which could spoil the product, allowing us to store brewed drinks for many years. These include home-made ciders, wines and beers. The general idea to obtain these drinks is that yeasts grow and multiply using sugar and produce alcohol as a result. Cleanliness is vital at all stages to prevent fungi and other micro-organisms from spoiling the end product. All equipment and bottles must be sterilized by boiling or by washing with chemical sterilizing solution before use.

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Pickles and Chutneys

There is a difference between pickles and chutneys. Pickles are pieces of vegetables or fruit stored in vinegar. Chutneys are mixtures of chopped vegetables and fruits cooked in vinegar. In both cases it is the acid conditions produced by the vinegar which inhibit the actions of spoiling micro-organisms.

Most pickles and chutneys improve their flavor if left to mature for a few months, and will keep for several years if unopened. If you open a jar of pickles or chutney keep it in the fridge after you open it.

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Bottling

Bottling or canning, using glass jars is a method of storing that is not only highly used but it is also an attractive way of storing. What can look better than rows of glass jars in the kitchen, full of brightly colored and good-looking preserved fruits and vegetables?

The method consists in heating to a high-enough temperature for a certain time the food in the bottles or jars, to kill the bacteria, yeasts and fungi and to stop enzyme activity. As by this method the jars are sealed at this high temperature there should be no reintroduction of spoiling micro-organisms.

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Salting

For many centuries preserving food by salting was an important method of storing food. Salting it is best known for preserving meat and fish but can be used on some vegetables also. But you must know that table salt is not suitable for preservation due to the extra chemicals it contains. For preserving food by salting you must use sea salt or rock salt that has no additives.

As a general rule of preservation food by salting you will need roughly 1 kg of salt per 3 kg of vegetables. Salting vegetables for preservation consists in layering them with salt in glass jars or earthenware pots, starting and ending with a layer of salt.

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Vacuum-Packing

Keeping produce in a vacuum can prolong the storage time considerably. This is happening because most of the airborne contaminants such as fungal spores or bacteria will have been extracted along with the air and the exclusion of air eliminates food degradation by oxidation. The vacuum-packing method has been used …

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Drying

Drying food is an effective method of storage, as it prevents the action of bacteria and fungi that need moisture to develop. Well-produce has a long storage life and often an intensified flavor. The choice of whether to dry, freeze or use some other techniques may depend on your intended future use for the produce.

For drying crops you need a warm, dry and airy place. An airing cupboard may do but it will take few days until the produce is dry. In a warm oven (45-55 Celsius degrees / 110-130 F) will only take few hours. Herbs can be hung in bunches or laid out on a baking sheet. Once dried, the produce must be stored in airtight jars. If you want to dry your produce using a specific technology, you can use solar dryers or food dehydrators or even home-made drying boxes.

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Freezing

Freezing is a method that has relatively recently revolutionized the storage of crops. It is a quick, easy and very effective method. As freezing dramatically slows down the action of enzymes which occurs from the moment the food is harvested, the food frozen shortly after picking will be among the healthiest of stored produce. Many crops can be stored in a deep-freezer for up to 12 months. Cook or eat food as soon as possible after it comes out of the freezer.

For good results you should freeze the food as quick as possible after harvesting. Freeze only the best, young and tender crops. Only store by freezing crops you enjoy eating, if you don’t like them fresh, be sure you won’t like them freeze either.

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