Pros and Cons of Canning and Freezing Fruits and Vegetables
For those of you who grow your own vegetables, fruits and herbs, and if you’re like us, you grow much more than you need. Some you give to family and friends, but consider preserving some of your harvest for the colder months. When summer comes to a close, or in the peak of a particular food’s season, lots of folks turn to canning and/or freezing to preserve produce. Aside from wasting good food, there are other benefits to canning and freezing.
If you buy your food in season from local farmers or take advantage of supermarket sales, you can produce large quantities of high-quality canned food for little money. Dried beans are a good example – a 2-lb bag of dried beans for $2, cooked and canned, produces 4 to 6 pints of canned beans. A pint is a bit more than a commercial can, making your efforts well worth it.
Taking advantage of seasonal, local foods saves money, too. Many vendors at open air markets will sell boxes of “canning fruits” or “canning vegetables.” These can be very reasonable, producing more than their worth in canned or frozen goods.
When you can and freeze food yourself, you know exactly what went into the jar. If you prefer less sugar or salt, you can simply use a recipe with less. Glass jars are also a very safe material for food preservation; no metals leach into the food.
There is a much shorter processing time when you can and freeze at home. There are no long transport times; you can get your food from garden or market to can in a matter of hours. This helps retain the foods’ nutrients.
Another note on health – foods you can yourself do not have added preservatives, artificial colors, or artificial flavors. There is no high fructose corn syrup either, or any other dubious chemicals and additives that may be of concern.
In the middle of winter, nothing beats opening a jar of fresh-tasting berries, frozen or canned at the peak of their flavor; and few pleasures equal fresh-tasting corn and tomatoes in January. During cold and flu season, you and your family can be enjoying nutrient-rich, healthy foods that may help ward off illness.
Receiving fresh fruit or veggies from a relative or friend is great, but have you ever received homemade jam or an herbal vinegar as a gift for the holidays? These are specialty crafted gifts that you can’t get in a store. Frozen or canned goods make excellent holiday gifts, and they are inexpensive to make and well-received.
As for canning and freezing methods, you may wonder which is better? Good question; there are advantages and disadvantages to both methods of food preservation. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Some people are surprised to find out the variety of foods you can freeze. You can freeze tomatoes, for instance, and bell peppers.
Pros of Freezing Produce
- Equipment You don’t need much special equipment for freezing – just zip top bags, a cookie sheet, wax paper, and a freezer. You can also freeze foods in Mason canning jars.
- Simplicity Freezing does not require as much “fuss” as canning, generally speaking. There is no sterilization of containers or long cooking times.
- Safety Pressure canners and long boiling water baths for jars make freezing a safer alternative, especially for those with pets and children.
- Longevity Frozen foods are virtually immune to spoilage as long as they are in the freezer. Freezer burn can happen, but the low temperatures stop bacteria growth.
Cons of Freezing Produce
- Texture There’s no doubt that freezing produce affects its texture. This is because water swells when it freezes. Plant foods are made up of mostly water, so when you freeze them the water inside the plant’s cells expands and causes the cell walls to burst. The result is “floppy” produce.
- Space If you don’t have a separate freezer, storing the harvest in your home freezer attached to the fridge can take up a lot of space.
- Electricity If the power goes out for a length of time, you could lose your frozen produce.
Pros of Canning Produce
- Customization Canning your own foods means you can choose how much and what combinations of foods to can. You don’t have to go to the store and get a can of corn, tomatoes, and green beans if you have a home-canned quart of these vegetables mixed already.
- Storage You don’t need a special receptacle for canned goods as you do for frozen. If the power goes out, your canned goods will be just fine in the pantry or cellar.
Cons of Canning Produce
- Nutrients Some sources point out that cooking and heating destroys nutrients, whereas freezing tends to preserve them.
- Equipment A pressure canner is pretty much essential for canning any low-acid food, and pressure canners are not necessarily cheap. You also need quality glass jars, tongs, and a wide-mouthed funnel.
- Precautions You do need to take special precautions when canning, and you need to go to great lengths to ensure that everything is sterilized and the heat is high enough and applied long enough.
Given particular advantages and disadvantages of each method, you should be able to chose one that fits your needs and is sustainable in your current environment.