Katy Beskow shares food preservation tips to prolong the produce of the season, reduce food waste, and eat in a more sustainable way all year round
One of the highlights of summer is enjoying an array of vibrant seasonal fruits and vegetables, whether you’ve grown them yourself, or carefully selected them from the shop.
But why limit yourself to just the summer months? Wouldn’t life be better if we could enjoy this bounty of colour and flavour all year round?
Keeping fresh, seasonal produce for longer doesn’t only benefit our tastebuds. It’s also a sustainable way to live, helping to reduce our use of imported food to get our fruit fix out of season.
Also, particularly when you’ve grown your own food, keeping produce fresher for longer can help reduce food waste as it can often be a struggle to use up everything before it goes bad.
So, how can you make the most of this abundance and prolong the flavours of summer? By harnessing the magic of food preservation you can enjoy sun-kissed summer fruits and vegetables through the winter and beyond .
These 8 food preservation methods will make it easy to enjoy your summer produce for longer.
1. Freeze or dry herbs for later
Hang herbs to dry them before crushing and placing into a jar. Or, simply freeze them. Photo © volff via Adobe Stock
Herbs can be preserved in a number of ways so you can use them throughout the year to pack flavour and colour into your home cooking and baking.
Finely chop leafy herbs such as coriander, dill, parsley and mint, and place into ice cube trays. Top up with a little water and freeze, then simply pop out the frozen herb cube into your cooking for a flavour boost.
It’s easy to dry summer herbs too, simply place a handful in a loosely fitted paper bag (press a few small holes into the bag to speed up the drying process), with the stems outside of the bag, and place in a warm area away from direct sunlight. A loft or underused kitchen cupboard works really well for this.
Allow to dry for 2-3 weeks, then crush with a pestle and mortar before placing into sterilised, labelled jars. Both of these methods will preserve the herbs for up to 12 months.
2. Make cordial with summer fruits
Elderflower is abundant in summer, and makes a refreshing cordial to enjoy all year. Photo © Jane Vershinin via Adobe Stock
Enjoy a taste of the summer with a homemade cordial, which is simple to make.
Choose your favourite summer fruit combination, such as rhubarb and ginger, blackcurrant, or elderflower, and reduce in a pan with water and sugar.
Strain the mix and pour into a sterilised bottle or jar. Add a small measure of the cordial to a glass or jug, and top up with ice and chilled water, lemonade, or carbonated water.
Cordial will last for 1-2 months when kept refrigerated, or for 6-9 months when frozen.
3. Preserve grilled vegetables in jars for antipasti
Tender, grilled vegetables preserved in olive oil make great additions to sandwiches and salads, and will keep for up to 6 months. Photo © lena_zajchikova via Adobe Stock
Use the best of your summer produce to make antipasti vegetables, to use in vegan salads, platters and slow-cooked dishes.
My favourite antipasti vegetables are tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and courgettes, and preserving them couldn’t be any simpler. Fire up the barbecue (for the best flavour cook over lump wood charcoal), while you brush the vegetables with a little olive oil.
Grill the vegetables until tender and charred in places, then allow to cool fully. Place the vegetables in sterilised jars, and top up with good quality olive oil before sealing. When kept refrigerated, these antipasti vegetables will last for up to 6 months.
4. Freeze food for smoothie or soup pouches
Pre-portioned bags of frozen fruit or vegetables make it easy to blend up smoothies and soups even out of season. Photo © primestockphotograpy via Adobe Stock
Freezing is one of the easiest food preservation methods, and is a quick and easy way to keep fruit and veg for longer if you have the space. Blending into smoothies means you won’t have to deal with your preserved produce from turning to mush when defrosted.
Chop up your favourite smoothie ingredients, such as strawberries, raspberries, cucumber and spinach, then place portion sizes in zip-lock bags or containers, and freeze to use later.
Add plant-based milk to a blender along with the portion of frozen smoothie mix and blitz for a taste of summer.
This method also works well for soups, including carrot and coriander, or pea and mint, just add stock and simmer until cooked. Label the bags with what’s inside – frozen pouches will last for 6-9 months.
5. Turn your summer veg into crisps
Thinly sliced summer produce can be dehydrated to make a satisfying sweet or salty snack. Photo © oksix via Adobe Stock
Children and adults alike enjoy a crispy snack, perfect for an afternoon energy boost.
Use summer produce to create your own, to use up the glut of seasonal vegetables or fruit. Consider using vegetables such as new potatoes, spring greens, carrots and beetroot, and fruits like strawberries and raspberries.
Use a sharp knife or mandolin to slice the vegetables or fruits very finely, then use a dehydrator to remove the moisture. If you don’t have a dehydrator, the slices can be cooked in a low-heat oven for around 8 hours.
Season the vegetable crisps with sea salt or nutritional yeast, perfect as a snack or as an alternative to croutons on soups or salads. Store in airtight containers, away from moisture and these crisps should last for 4-6 weeks.
6. Pickle your summer fruits and vegetables
Pickling vegetables is a great way to preserve their crunch and add a zing of flavour. Photo © monticellllo via Adobe Stock
Pickling is among the most common food preservation methods. While it can take a bit of expert knowledge and some extra effort to do safely, it’s worth it for the delicious, long-life results.
Tangy, crunchy pickles are great with any slow-cooked dish, to add zing, zest and freshness. Buying pickled veg out of season can be expensive, but they’re cheap and easy to make at home.
Crunchy veg, such as radishes, onions, cauliflower and cucumbers are the most delicious and versatile. Choose from various vinegars, including rice, red wine, or apple cider vinegar to suit your taste, and add tasty extras, such as fennel seeds, chilli flakes and maple syrup.
7. Try Fermentation – the tastiest of food preservation methods
Kimchi is a spicy condiment made with fermented cabbage, and is a delicious way to preserve your vegetables. Image © Poprock3d via Adobe Stock
Unlike pickling, fermenting vegetables develops flavour due to a reaction between the naturally occurring sugars and bacteria. It doesn’t sound delicious at this stage, but the end results are a flavour sensation with added health benefits for your digestive system too.
Kimchi is a traditional spiced, fermented cabbage condiment, but more often than not, the shop-bought varieties include fish sauce, making it unsuitable for vegans. The process of making kimchi is not an easy one initially, but there are plenty of courses online and offline to help you develop this skill.
Depending on the ingredients used, fermented foods can have a variable preservation time, but usually keep well for a few months.
8. Batch cook and freeze meals
Cook large meals with and freeze in portions to preserve your summer vegetables and make winter meals easier. Photo © qwartm via Adobe Stock
There’s a good chance you’re already utilising this handy food preservation method with your leftovers and meal prep.
Cook up your favourite family meals using fresh summer produce, then portion into clean containers.
Freeze these meals for when you have little to no time, and you’ve got a homemade ready meal packed full of healthy and delicious vegetables (and will certainly save you a few pounds on a takeaway!).
My favourite meals to cook and freeze include ratatouille, Puy lentil Bolognese, and cauliflower korma. Homemade ready meals will keep well for up to 6 months in the freezer. Simply defrost and reheat thoroughly.
Want to get even more out of your fruit and veg? Learn how to cut down on waste by regrowing food from scraps
Featured photo © uliab via Adobe Stock