Preserving Seasonal Foods: Bell Peppers

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Bell pepper season has officially started, and I am pretty excited about it. It’s hard to think of another vegetable I like this much that’s also so versatile (tomatoes might be a close second!). We enjoy eating bell peppers in so many dishes from fajitas to gumbo to grilled panini sandwiches to pizza (as a topping) and even as raw slices dipped in some hummus or homemade ranch. Plus my other favorite thing about bell peppers is that the season feels fairly long compared to other fresh produce. I don’t know about you but I feel like strawberries, peaches, and raspberries are here and gone in a flash. So if you’re one to procrastinate you’ve still got a little time left to stock up and preserve fresh bell peppers before the season ends.
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Preserving Seasonal Foods: Berries

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Frozen strawberries ready to go into a big zip lock bag

Every year readers ask how they can eat fresh, local produce in the dead of winter when their farmers’ markets are closed until May or June. Well, this new blog series entitled “Preserving Seasonal Foods” is your answer. I’ve found that many aspects of eating real food require one to plan ahead, and this is no exception. If you want local blueberries in your granola cereal in December then it’s up to you to freeze enough in the summer to last until the next berry season. This is definitely an area of “real food eating” where I recommend to start small…just pick a handful of items to work on preserving this summer and then try a few new ones each year. And if you really get into it you could even continue into the winter months by preserving leafy greens and other cold weather produce as well.

We started small last year ourselves and blueberries were the first items we tackled. Freezing the berries was actually so easy that I was surprised I’d put it off as long as I did. And the best part was how good our frozen, local blueberries tasted in the middle of December! I honestly couldn’t believe how good they were. Our stash of local, frozen berries was FAR superior to the frozen, organic, packaged blueberries from the store, and likely cheaper as well. The only non-frozen organic blueberries we can get here in the winter are from Chile, which of course come at an expense on both our environment (due to the distance they’ve traveled) and our wallet. So I am going to share some of the things I’ve learned so far, as well as advice from some of my wonderfully experienced readers Continue Reading »

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How to Can Some Jam: A Simple Method Without Pectin or (Refined) Sugar

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Jam Recipe from 100 Days of Real FoodI hope this will be my first of several posts about how to “can” and preserve fresh foods when they are in season. I am a beginner canner myself, but have always been intrigued by and interested in the whole process. So I recently took a “Canning Class” (led by Ashley Eller at Poplar Ridge Farm) and have also been reading through some other resources including the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. Prior to my class I knew absolutely nothing about canning except that I thought it sounded confusing, complicated, and like something that would take an entire day to do (not true!).

From one beginner to another, a few key points:

  • In simple terms, canning food is cooking recipes (which most of us already know how to do) and then “processing” the results by putting them in sterilized canning jars and boiling or pressure “cooking” them for a designated amount of time. It really isn’t as complicated as I originally thought. :)
  • It is important to use canning recipes from reliable sources. Especially as a beginner these are not recipes you want to modify or adapt in any way because each ingredient as well as both the length of time and temperature at which the jars are processed can be key components to ensuring food safety.
  • You must use jars that are in fact suitable for “canning” with two-piece metal lids, which does not include old washed out Ragu spaghetti sauce jars. The most widely used brands of jars for canning are Ball and Kerr, and while the jars and bands (that go around the lid) are reusable you must always use brand new lids to properly can foods. Now I know why I see those packs of lids for sale. Continue Reading »

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