Garden Seasonal

Preserving your summer harvest

Mason jars
Written by Hope Penny

Now that summer is coming to a close and we are seeing the fruits of our labour  (literally! J). It’s time to get to work preserving them for the coming months.

There are many different ways to preserve your foods…pressure canning, water bath canning, freezing and dehydrating just to name a few.

Unbeknownst to me, you can only safely process high acid foods in a water bath canner. I had assumed that you could do all your canning with a water bath, but Sue (our resident Canning expert and Fair winner) has set me straight on the differences of water baths and pressure canners.

pressure cannerSo what is the difference? Pressure Canners can be used for ANY type of canning – fruit, jams, pickles, vegetables and meats. Pressure canners will build up pressure and higher heat, similar to a pressure cooker, to kill off microscopic toxins, botulism and mold. The pressure and weight varies depending on the food product being preserved. Ball has a great canning book called “BlueBook – guide to preserving”. Take a look at the various books and internet information available to see which information works best for you.

Traditionally water baths are used for fruit, jam and pickles (high acid foods and foods containing vinegar). A water bath canner is normally a large enamel stock type pot with a riser on the bottom to raise the jars. The water must cover the tops of the jars by 1”- 2”, so it is important to have a large/deep enough water bath to cover everything properly. This is a tried and true method that has been used since the late 1700’s and has evolved since then, but the principles have stayed the same… boil and seal to kill off the toxins that could be present. If using your pressure canner for these foods, do NOT tighten down the lid of the canner, you just want to keep the lid on to keep the heat in.

Freezing fruits and vegetables is another easy way to keep your harvest. Be sure to blanch your vegetables (boiling for a short given amount of time depending on the vegetable), then cool them (placing them in cold water for example) being sure to drain and then use a freezer bag, freezer container or a vacuum sealed bag to store them. Hopefully you have a freezer big enough for your harvest! J

Dehydrators are another fun and healthy way to preserve and enjoy your food…kids especially like to be involved in this process as it is something they can do on their own with little supervision. With the added bonus of being able to enjoy it in their lunches! Cleaning slicing and loading the dehydrator…it’s as simple as that. You can also do meat (jerky), vegetables, herbs, fruit and fruit leather…pretty much anything from the garden. It’s a wonderful low cost, low effort way to keep your food for the coming months.

Sue came up with a great way to use some of the plums from her daughter’s tree this summer, making a tasty and simple fruit leather that has no added sugar and uses simple ingredients that she had on hand. She was sweet enough to share it with us! J

Sue’s Simple Fruit Leather

Large bowl of Plums

¾ – 1 cup of chopped pineapple (if plums are overripe)

½ -1 cup of unsweetened apple sauce

Method: Pit the plums, and put the fruit from the plums and pineapple in a blender or food processor. Process until well pureed. Add apple sauce, mix well.

Spray the dehydrator tray with a no stick spray and spread the fruit mix over the tray (about an 1/8” thick). Process at about 135 degrees until it feels pliable and leather-like. If desired, you can turn the leather over and process the other side for a short time to eliminate any stickiness. You can roll it and keep it in canning jars or sealed bags.

Sue kept the skins on the plums which will give the fruit leather a bit more texture and keep more of the nutrients.


This fall take a look around your garden and see if you have room for any fruit trees or shrubs. Apples, pears, plums, peaches, figs, blueberries and strawberries are all small enough and yield enough that you could be harvesting your own fruit by next year

Enjoy! J