5 Ways to Preserve your Local Ontario Produce

Preserving fresh fruits

Many of us are doing our best to eat local Ontario produce, but one of the major difficulties in the Canadian climate is how to continue this throughout the year. Whether you’re buying your fruits and vegetables from farmers markets in Ontario or you’re growing your own, preserving the nutrient-rich produce is a concern. Try your hand at food preserving this year, and read on to find out our top five ways to preserve your food.

Fresh Food Storage

The easiest way to store you local produce is by fresh storage. All that this straightforward option requires is a cool, dark space such as a root cellar, basement or garage. Produce such as onions, garlic, root vegetables and apples last a long time in conditions like this.

Fridge Food Storage

Using your fridge is a similar storage option to fresh storage, but the temperature and moisture levels are lowered. Food items like carrots and beets do very well in this manner of storage. You can place them into large freezer bags and eat them as you need.

Freezer Food Storage

Freezing your local produce is a great option that will preserve the closest flavour and texture to fresh. If you are planning on using this option often, it is recommended that you use a chest freezer because it doesn’t have the usual defrost cycle of a kitchen freezer.

Some vegetables will require you to blanched or steamed first to stop the enzyme action (which will cause loss of flavour, colour and nutrients), but others can be stored raw. Foods such as peppers and kale store great in freezer bags or containers.

Pickling or Fermentation Storage

This is a little more of an involved storage option, but one that can help foods last for over a year in fridge storage. Fermented foods retain a lot of their nutrients in storage, more than canned foods, and has the added benefit of bacteria that is excellent for your gut health. Pickling options that work the best are cabbage, onions, carrots, eggs, and cucumbers.  

Canning Storage

The final, but most complex storage option is canning. Using a large stockpot with a lid you’ll cover your jars with water to sterilize them. You can use this method to preserve your fermented foods longer, as well as jams and jellies, or tomatoes. You can use a pressure canner for lower acid foods such as carrots, beans, sauces, broths and soups but you will need to purchase one specifically for this.

Local Produce is the Best Reward

Keeping your fresh foods as delicious as the day you brought them doesn’t have to be a difficult as you might think. Choosing which storage option appeals to you most can make this process easier and thus more likely for you to continue. Being able to eat your home grown foods in the depths of winter will be a satisfying reward for your hard work. We’re looking forward to seeing you back on the farm in the spring.

Savour the Taste of Fresh Ontario Produce – Making Dill Pickles

Yummy-Dill-Pickles-from-Fresh-Ontario-Produce

Preserve your favourite fresh Ontario produce with pickling. This long-forgotten tradition originated in India, but has found roots globally. Before refrigeration was possible in Canada, most people pickled and canned their produce to ensure that nothing went to waste.

Now that we have freezers and refrigerators and virtually any food you want can be purchased at the grocery store, this practice has gone by the wayside. But perhaps it should be revived.

While store-bought pickles will do in a pinch, the homemade version is even better. In addition to using local farm fresh produce, you can also control the ingredients, making a healthier version without extra salt, sugar or preservatives. That makes this one guilt-free, low fat, low-calorie snack.

Pickling cucumbers are a favourite fresh Ontario crop, and for good reason. They are refreshing and cool to eat during the summer months.  But when paired with dill and vinegar, the cucumber is transformed into a crunchy, salty, delicious addition to your pantry or refrigerator.

Pickled Fresh Ontario Produce is Good for You

Thanks to pickling, the goodness of your food is preserved. You can still get essential vitamins, as well as electrolytes.  In fact, pickle juice is touted as the perfect post-marathon drink for runners, as it quickly replaces salt and minerals lost in sweat, reduces muscle cramping and speeds recovery.

How to Make Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Refrigerated dill pickles will last several weeks in your fridge, and because they aren’t processed in a hot water bath, they won’t lose their crunch. You can experiment with flavours, although traditionally dill pickles are flavoured with garlic, dill, and salt.

  • Bring water, vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil in a pot until salt and sugar are fully dissolved. Cool completely.
  • In a large glass container, add cucumber spears, garlic cloves, and fresh dill, and pour over the vinegar mixture.
  • Seal the container, refrigerate for a minimum of 3 days, and then enjoy!

Your dill pickles should last about 4-6 weeks in the fridge.

You can find the full recipe here.

Once you discover how easy it is to make pickles, you can experiment with other veggies, including beans, carrots, pearl onions, beets, asparagus. You can also try making pickles from around the world, like spicy Korean Kimchi, which is made of cabbage.  

Whether you love the salty tang of pickles or not… there’s one thing you can love about the process of preserving Ontario’s fresh produce.  That’s the experience you get from eating farm to table: buying from local farms in Barrie and preparing healthy and delicious food with your family at home.