9 Ways to Store Summer in your Pantry: Preserving summer veggies, fruits, and herbs

Updated: Dec 13, 2018

The beauty of summer fades too quickly every year; and just as we wish we could capture sunlight to carry with us into the dark winter days, we also wish to preserve the flavor of cherry tomatoes off the vine and the crunch of a fresh cucumber. Of course these are also a great way of making food last when harvest bears us more than we are prepared to eat. Here are nine ways to store summer in your pantry.

Before you get started with any of these nine methods, make sure you get the right supplies for storage. Mason jars are a staple for canning and for storing dried or preserved foods; but don't over pay for them. We recommend:

  • Wide mouth pint Ball jars can be used for canning and fermenting, or even storing dried goods in. (We also like to use them for drinking glasses: durable, decorative, inexpensive, and easy to find if you need to replace them. No more hunting for discontinued glassware or buying an entire set of glasses because one broke. No joke, I even use them for wine!)

  • 4-oz Ball jars: If you plan to make spices like powdered garlic or peppers, you might try these cute little jars that don't take up as much space.

  • Vaccum Sealer: You might also think about picking up a vacuum sealer so you can toss whole foods into the freezer to preserve them in their raw state with the most nutritional value. This Weston 11-inch Professional Advantage is the most highly recommended by America's Test Kitchen. You can purchase pre-cut bags, or buy a roll of bags to cut at whatever length you choose.

  • Mesh bags are also handy for cured food, and look beautiful in your pantry.

#1 Pickling

Pickling is the most common preservation process, but there are incredible flavors to be had by pickling, so don't sneeze at it. Tons of vegetables can be pickled: cucumbers, peppers, beets, carrots, beans, garlic and more. Wash the veggies, and cover with a brine using 2 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. Leave to brine for 2 days and then drain. Put sugar and white vinegar into a pot to boil and dissolve. Add veggies and can into sanitized jars. You can add pickling spices to the sugar vinegar mixture; or you can add herbs and pickle flavorful veggies together like garlic cucumber pickles, or jalapeno bush beans.

For tons of amazing recipes, pick up a copy of this book we love: "The Joy of Pickling" for just $15. It also has lots of great tips on canning methods.

Book The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich
Pickling can be lots of fun, and super-tasty with creative recipes

#2 Fermenting

Fermenting vegetables and fruits requires a lot more care, but you get amazing foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and chutney. Using a salt, whey, or starter culture, create a brine with purified water. The salt is key in fermenting for flavor and quality. We use San Francisco Salt Co's Sherpa Pink salt. You can get a pound of salt for $7.50, which is a steal for ordinary salt, but this is amazing stuff. Really. If this is the one thing you take from this article I will be happy. It deserves it's own picture. Here it is:

Bag of pink himalayan salt by San Francisco Salt Co
Quality salt is key to flavor and quality in fermenting

Submerge chopped, shredded, or sliced veggies completely in the brine in a fermentation vessel and put it in a cool place to sit. Again, recipes for the brine are important, and it's also really important to know when things go wrong. Just like pickling, if not done properly, mold can result; and you'll need to know what to do. So pick up a book, like "Fermented Vegetables" by Kirsten Shockey, for outstanding recipes and tips, for less than $20.

If you already have some wide mouth mason jars, you can get started with an Easy Fermenter Kit that comes with lids, a vacuum pump, recipes, and a 30-day membership to The Fermenting Club for help.

If you get the chance, try Kanji, a popular Indian pickled carrot drink. Wash a few pounds of carrots and grate into a jar. Add clean water, salt, hot spices, and close lid but leave a tiny hole for gas to escape. Ferment for 7-10 days, strain out the carrots and drink the liquid!

#3 Canning Tomatoes

Wash and remove bad tomatoes. Roma and San Marzano tomatoes are great for this. To remove the skin, score them and blanch them in boiling water, and toss them in a bowl of ice water. Fill a jar with peeled tomatoes, add a little lemon juice or vinegar. Submerge jars in water, boiling for 30-50 minutes and then let cool.

#4 Dehydrating Fruits and Veggies

To make dried fruit and veggie chips, you can find or make yourself a tray. Something that works well is chicken wire attached inside a wood frame. Place the tray with vegetable or fruit chips somewhere warm and elevated to encourage airflow above and below the tray. Turn the chips every day until they are dry. You can dry beans, leaves for tea, fruits, and vegetables. You can also purchase a dehydrator to eliminate the process of turning the chips every day, and keep them safe from hungry insects. The one we use is the Excalibur 9-Tray Dehydrator which we love for not only the quantity of food you can dehydrate at once, but also because the air circulation is excellent, and clean up is super easy.  We've used it for years with no problems. Our favorite dehydrated veggie is seaweed style shredded kale, but it does a bang up job on tomatoes too. Mmmm!