What to Pickle and Preserve Right Now

September 27, 2014

There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: Put a lid on warm weather produce to get you through the winter ahead.

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Some of the best produce is still in abundance at the farmers market -- tomatoes, stone fruit, peppers, and eggplant -- but these days are dwindling. Now is the time to get the last of the season, before all that’s left are months of root vegetables and winter greens.  

The best way to hold onto a taste of these warmer months all year long is by preserving them. Food52er Julie is planning to spend the weekend pickling and preserving these goodies and turned to the Hotline for some community inspiration. Whether you prefer traditional canning or like to make use of your freezer, the has community has suggestions:

  • Freezing herbs is one of our community’s preferred way to preserve them. Jamcook freezes basil pesto without the cheese, then adds in the cheese when she defrosts it, while Meaghan F is using the last of her fresh herbs in compound butter, which freezes well too.
  • Aargersi likes to start her holiday prep early and cans a variety of jams and jellies, like fig, grape, and cherry. Next up she plans to make apple butter, as well as plum and port jam.

More: Prepare your kitchen for a weekend of pickling and preserving with these tools.

  • It can be tricky to figure out the best way to preserve produce if you live alone or in a small household, knowing you might not make it through large batches. Sfmiller tackles this problem by turning to small batch refrigerator pickles like jalapeños or fermented pickles like sauerkraut.
  • There’s nothing worse then a mealy January tomato, which is why our community is preserving late summer tomatoes in all shapes and sizes. Susan W has particularly gone crazy for them -- freezing fire-roasted tomatoes, containers of Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce, and whole grape tomatoes.
  • And finally, jamcook sends a friendly reminder that while preserving is enjoyable, it’s also time-consuming, so in order to avoid frustration, she recommends not attempting to cram all your preserving projects into one weekend: “You want this to be a pleasure and not a chore. There is almost nothing more satisfying than hearing those jars go "ping" at the end.”

What are you preserving this year? Tell us in the comments or join in the conversation over on the Hotline!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Matilda Luk
    Matilda Luk
  • tupperbear
  • em-i-lis
  • Jan Weber
    Jan Weber
  • Susan
Sheela Prakash is a food and wine writer, recipe developer, and the author of Salad Seasons: Vegetable-Forward Dishes All Year and Mediterranean Every Day: Simple, Inspired Recipes for Feel-Good Food. Her writing and recipes can be found in numerous online and print publications, including Kitchn, Epicurious, Food52, Serious Eats, Tasting Table, The Splendid Table, Simply Recipes, Culture Cheese Magazine, Clean Plates, and Slow Food USA. She received her master's degree from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy, holds Level 2 and Level 3 Awards in Wines from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), graduated from New York University's Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, and is also a Registered Dietitian.


Matilda L. September 29, 2014
Canning 6.5 lbs of fruit for plum-raspberry-rosewater jam. Amazing on yogurt.
tupperbear September 28, 2014
20 lbs of green beans turned into Been using this recipe for 15 years & receive many thanks.
em-i-lis September 28, 2014
Right now I'm making spiced rhubarb-apple butter and Amanda's roasted tomato jam. A few days back it was apple chile chutney and brandied peaches. I have been busy!!! Freezing raspberries too.
Susan September 28, 2014
Mmmmm! I'm too far south to grow rhubarb and I miss it terribly.
em-i-lis September 28, 2014
I would miss it too!!! In DC we get it for a good run but it's time is soon coming! I grew up in Louisiana and had never even had rhubarb until I moved "north." :)
CarlaCooks September 29, 2014
I would love your recipe for apple chili chutney! I'm about to get 5 lb of apples from my CSA box this week, and I still haven't gone through all the apple butter I made last year!!
em-i-lis September 29, 2014
You got it! Ginger Golds work best but most any apple will be great!!!
Jan W. September 28, 2014
I've been pickling the Bordeaux/Korean radishes I've been getting at the Union Sq Greenmarket here in NYC. One I did in a quick-pickle/refrigerator style with some kombu and dried chilies for flavor, and now I'm doing another batch that will be fermented in brine.

Also would like to pickle some cherry peppers so I can stuff them later.
Susan September 28, 2014
Jan, if you have freezer space, you should consider freezing the whole peppers (no need to blanch) or (depending on your choice of stuffing) stuffing then freezing.
Susan September 28, 2014
Early fall is the time for me to wrap up the remains of the gardens. In the past week I've put up salsa verde made with green tomatoes, sent several pounds of okra and eggplant to the freezer, picked a bowl of cayennes that are destined for the dehydrator, turned part of a big bag of fall pears into pear-chocolate jam (which is as sublime as it sounds), and as soon as the rest of the pears ripen, I have plans for more cinnamon-pear jam. In the meantime, there are sweet potatoes to dig and field peas to pull and thrash. I feel like a squirrel. :)
Susan September 28, 2014
Oh yeah: a great big batch if pesto went into the freezer too. I freeze it with the cheese and have never had a problem. Maybe it's the amount or kind I use?
Susan W. September 28, 2014
Susan, I always freeze pesto with the cheese. I don't even know what the problem would be.

I froze eggplant this year. I chunked and baked it first. Sort of a par-bake really. They thaw just the way they went in. Do you freeze yours raw or cooked?
Susan September 28, 2014
I freeze mine raw, just chunking up in using sizes. I only grow Japanese style eggplant and try to pick the young. They're neither bitter, tough, nor seedy and as a consequence don't need to be blanched. I do like the idea of roasting them first. What a time-saver that must be! I think I'll give that a whirl with the next picking.
Susan September 28, 2014
I'm glad that I'm not the only who freezes 'complete' pesto! I love having it on hand. The one thing I did start doing this year is to package small amounts of the frozen pesto (I freeze it in blobs or in ice cube trays) in vacuum bags. Previously I dumped them all into a large ziplock and had a problem with frost.
Susan W. September 28, 2014
I did my mom's version of vacuum bags..stick a straw at the end of the ziplock and inhale. I used qt size ziplocks and just flattened the pesto so I can just break it off. So far, it's working well and takes up very little space in my tiny apt freezer. Hopefully the frost won't be a problem, but if it is, I'll invest in a vacuum sealer for next year. First..I need a separate freezer. I no longer have room for good deals on meat.
Susan September 29, 2014
Hahaha! I've been thinking about a bigger freezer too, and I'm a vegetarian! Mine is stuffed to the gills with this season's produce, ditto the pantry with the canned goods. So what do I do this morning? I order four more fruit trees: two apples, a plum, and another fig.