Tag Archives: canning

Fall Harvest: Storing & Preserving Root Crops

Whether you’re on a mission to grow as much of your own food as possible or just love cooking with homegrown vegetables, putting up root crops for winter can be an easy way to keep the winter pantry full. Beets, carrots, fall radishes, rutabagas, and turnips can last several months if stored properly. 

In some cases, root crops can be stored right in the ground. In areas where the ground doesn’t freeze, crops that are maturing just as the growing season ends can be mulched in and harvested throughout the winter. However, this isn’t always possible, and there are other ways to store and keep your root vegetables fresh. To begin:

  1. Harvest carefully.

    It’s best to harvest root crops during a dry period and before any hard frosts. To avoid damaging root crops, you may need to use a garden fork to help loosen the soil.

  2. Brush them off.

    You don’t want to scrub the skin off but you should try to gently rub off as much soil as possible. It’s best not to wash them.

    Any damaged or bruised roots that you find should be set aside to be eaten immediately.

  3. Trim the tops.

    Rotting tops can quickly spread rot to your root vegetables so it’s best to trim them. Using a sharp knife or shears to trim leafy tops to 1/4 to 1/2 inch about the root. Don’t trim root ends or hairs, this invites rot!

  4. Find a place to store them.

    Root vegetables should ideally be stored somewhere cold and moist. Temperatures between 33° and 40°F are preferred. If you’re fortunate enough to have one, a root cellar is ideal, but other options exist. 

    If you don’t have too many roots, you can use the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Alternatively, a cool corner of a basement or garage will work. You can also use an outbuilding or storage shed in parts of the Southeast as long as you can keep out rodents and you don’t have temperatures below freezing. 

    If you need to store many vegetables and are interested in a DIY project, you can create a root clamp

  5. Place them in appropriate containers.

    If you’re storing roots in your refrigerator, it’s best to use perforated plastic bags. Try to set the bags in so that the roots in each bag are in a single layer.

     Roots being stored in a root cellar or other cold room can be stored in various containers, including plastic totes, waxed cardboard boxes, 5-gallon buckets, and or even an old cooler. It’s best if there’s some airflow, so avoid putting the lid on tight, and you may even want to drill some additional holes in the container. 

    In these containers you want to keep your roots from touching the container or each other. To do this you can layer them in damp sand, sawdust, or even old leaves.

  6. Check on and eat your roots!

    You should check all the root crops you have in storage every week or two and remove any that are beginning to soften or rot. The smallest roots generally don’t store as well and should be eaten first. 
Amber Globe (Yellow Globe) Turnips

Other Preservation Methods

If you don’t want to store your root vegetables fresh or are short on space, there are many other ways to preserve them. These include fermentation, pickling, canning, and freezing. These generally take more time and effort upfront but are great for having vegetables that are quick to prepare or even ready to snack on throughout the winter. 

Fermentation

Lacto-fermentation is a simple, safe, and ancient method of food preservation. All you need is clean, sliced vegetables, a mason jar and lid, a clean rock or weight, salt, and water. You simply ferment your vegetables and any desired spices in saltwater brine. You can substitute sliced root vegetables for the cucumbers in this recipe.

You can also grate them up and add them to other ferments like kimchi. The book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz is an excellent resource for those looking to get started or expand their fermentation techniques. 

Pickling

Pickling is a bit more involved than fermenting, but it’s still a safe, easy to preserve root vegetables, even for beginners. Pickled vegetables are canned in highly acidic vinegar, so they can be safely processed in a simple water bath canner. 

There are many recipes available online if you’d like to browse others. Note that any labeled as “quick pickles” are designed to be refrigerated not canned.

Pressure Canning

Without the addition of vinegar, root vegetables are not acidic enough to be safely water bath canned. This means if you’d like to can plain root vegetables you’ll need to use a pressure canner. It’s not as scary as many people think!

PennState Extension has instructions for pressure canning vegetables here. Always follow the instructions that came with your canner.

Freezing

If you have room in your freezer, this can be a great way to keep root vegetables. They generally freeze well and maintain good texture and flavor. 

Like other vegetables, you must blanch root veggies before freezing; otherwise, they will get mushy. You can find directions for freezing all kinds of vegetables over at the Pick Your Own website. 

Canning Garlic Dill Pickles

Arkansas Little Leaf Pickling Cucumber

Enjoying something you grew at home months after the garden season is over is a satisfying part of being a gardener. If you’re new to food preservation canning pickles is a great place to start. They’re easy to make and are highly acidic meaning that they’re safe to process in a water bath canner rather than a pressure canner. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 12 quart-sized canning jars with lids and bands
  • water bath canner
  • about 20lbs of pickling cucumbers
  • 12 cups of water
  • 12 tbs of canning salt
  • 6 cups of vinegar (5% acidity)
  • fresh dill or dill seeds
  • fresh garlic
  • optional: other spices and pickle crisper

Preparation

To begin you’ll need to sanitize your jars and rings. Boil them in your water bath canner for 10 minutes. I’ve found it helpful to tie a cotton string through all the rings so they’re easy to retrieve from the water.

While that’s happening wash and slice your cucumbers. I usually do spears for dill pickles but you can cut them any way you’d like. Bring the water, vinegar, and salt to a boil, stirring it until all the salt is dissolved.

Packing Jars

Pack each jar with 2 fresh dill sprigs or 2 teaspoons of dill seed and 4 cloves of garlic (I like to mince mine but you don’t have to), and cucumber slices, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. You can also add other spices like mustard seeds, red pepper flakes or even a fresh hot pepper to each jar depending on your taste. If desired you can also use a product like Ball Pickle Crisper to help ensure your pickles stay crunchy. It can be added to jars at 1/4 tsp per quart.

Pour the hot brine into the jars, covering the cucumbers, and leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the jar rims with a clean cloth and place new lids on, securing them with sanitized rings twisted finger tight.

Canning

Place your filled jars into your water bath canner (you may have to do several batches), making sure they’re covered with water. Bring them to a boil and process them for 15 minutes (adjust for altitude). Turn off the heat, remove the lid and let them stand for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and check their seal after 24 hours. The lids shouldn’t flex up and down in the center when pressed. 

Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used up first. The rest can be stored out of direct sunlight for use throughout the coming year. 

Enjoy your pickles!

 

Pickled Peppers

In later summer and fall massive amounds of produce can start to overwhelm any gardener. It’s exciting and wonderful but when the neighbors start avoiding you because they really can’t take any more summer squash it’s time to preserve the harvest.

For peppers one of the easiest, tastiest things to do is to pickle them. Water bath canning is surpisingly easy and safe. It requires only basic equipment and is a great way to put up your homegrown harvest.

My favorites are jalapenos or banana peppers but you can use whatever you’ve got.

Sweet Banana (Long Sweet Hungarian) Pepper

Here’s what you’ll need:

Water bath canner (large pot, lid, and rack)

Canning jar tongs

Canning jars, new lids, and rings

5-6lbs of peppers

12 cups of white vinegar (5% acidity)

4 cups of water

*Optional*

Pickle Crisp – follow directions on package for crisper peppers

To begin harvest and wash all your peppers. Slice into rings or small pieces and place in a clean bowl. If you’re using particularly hot peppers you may consider using gloves and safety glasses. Hot pepper juice in your eyes is not fun.

You’ll need to sanitize your jars and rings. Check all the jars for nicks and then boil them and the rings. Keep the jars hot until you’re ready to fill them.

Combine the vinegar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. While the brine is heating pack your peppers tightly into your hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace .

One the brine has boiled it can be poured over the peppers leaving 1/2 inch headspace in each jar. Slide a rubber spatula around the outside of each jar to release any air bubbles the wipe each rim with a clean rag.

Place new lids on all the jars and put on rings, turning them until they’re fingertip tight. Using the jar tongs place each jar in a boiling water bath canner and boil for ten minutes.

Ta da! You’ve got peppers that will keep safely without electricity for over a year. They’re are great tossed on subs or baked on homemade nachos or pizzas.