Yes, unfortunately, the end of summer is fast approaching. Daylight fades sooner. The nights become cooler. Soon, the leaves will change, the breeze will become brisk, and eventually snow will fall.
Ah, but you can still take a part of summer with you into those cold, dark days.
For those who have tended and cared for a garden throughout the summer, they can enjoy summer's bounty throughout the winter by tapping their preserved food storage bins.
But of course, food preservation does not only provide the opportunity to take a little bit of summer with you into the winter _ it can also make good economic and nutritional sense.
"I like the sustainability of processing your own foods, nothing artificial, all healthy," Rebecca Hargrave of Norwich said.
There are many methods of food preservation. Commons methods include drying, spray-drying, freeze-drying, freezing, vacuum-packing, canning, preserving in syrup, sugar crystallization, food irradiation and adding preservatives or inert gases such as carbon dioxide. Of course, you can also enhance flavor with some methods, such as pickling, salting, smoking, preserving in syrup or alcohol and curing.
What kind of foods can you preserve? Just about anything that comes from your fruit and vegetable garden. And for you hunters and fishermen out there, think venison and trout.
"I make jams and jellies, pickles, canned fruit, salsas, crushed tomatoes and spaghetti sauce. I also freeze a lot of vegetables and fruit _ strawberries and blueberries so far and still to come, zucchini," Hargrave said.
The methods of food preservation have been passed down (and learned) through generations.
"I find preserved food tastier than store bought _ canned at the peak of freshness," Hargrave said. "Also, it feels a little frontier-like, not having to rely on the grocery store for my food."
Food preservation is the process of treating and handling food to stop (or slow down) spoilage (the loss of quality, edibility or nutritive value) caused or accelerated by micro-organisms. That being said, there are advantages and disadvantages to every method of food preservation.
Certain methods can cause loss of some nutrients. Example: freeze-dried, spray-dried and sun-dried food will retain most nutrients, though thiamin and vitamin C can be lost; as well, blanching vegetables before freezing causes loss of some B-group vitamins and vitamin C.
The trick is then learning what methods work best with which foods.
Betty Clark, program coordinator of Eat Smart New York, learned food preservation methods early on.
"I must give credit where credit is due: my mother taught my twin sister and I all the basics and I'm real glad about that. For me, there's a genuine satisfaction in growing, harvesting and preserving fresh produce," she said.
Those early lessons served her well.
"I did a great deal of canning and freezing when my children were younger and I was a stay-at-home mom. At that time, money was scarce and so I put up 200-to-300 jars of fruits and vegetables and packed the freezer full of berries, zucchini bread, squash and corn, just to name a few."
If you didn't have the opportunity (or maybe you just didn't have the time) to learn food preservation methods from your mother or grandmother, you can still learn these methods from those in-the-know.
Clark is in charge of the Master Preserver Volunteers at Cornell Cooperative Extension, and CCE is planning fall classes on food preservation through the Board of Cooperative Educational Services continuing adult education program. Visit the CCE website at
www.cce.cornell.edu or call your local CCE office for classes near you. You can also contact your local BOCES.
Many other organizations host food preservation classes throughout the year. For other opportunities visit the Schoharie Co-op Cannery at
www.schohariescannery.org or call (518) 677-1662.
OK, so maybe you missed out on preserving those strawberries. But there are still opportunities to preserve fresh food right through the fall. (Think zucchini and squash). And if you start now, you can as well begin making plans for preserving next summer's bounty.