Food Preservation – Easier Than You Might Think!

Food preservation is a great way to enjoy local food as the abundant variety of crops changes with the season. With the fall harvest upon us, winter and the holiday season will soon be here. Don’t miss your chance to stock up on the wonderful flavors and nutrition available now for your enjoyment in the coming colder months.  

From drying, smoking, fermenting, brining, canning, and more, cultures around the globe have preserved their harvest for thousands of years. While the need our ancestors had to preserve food for survival is not the same for us today, preserving the bounty of our local harvest is a great way to help ensure we have stocked kitchen shelves even when supply chain issues or other disruptions occur. And who out there wouldn’t enjoy treating their tastebuds 365 days a year to the rich flavors and nutrient-dense foods grown throughout Washington? 

Photo courtesy of L. Bergman

While you and your family will enjoy local goodness months from now, you will support our local farmers, our local communities, and our local economies today. Some of our farmers have had quite a challenging year. From a long, wet spring, to rising prices and labor shortages, our local farming families will appreciate being able to round out the season having their abundant fall harvests get into the hands of consumers like you. A great way to help them out is to purchase bulk amounts of fruits and veggies to preserve for your winter enjoyment! 

Photo courtesy of Port Townsend Food Co-op

There are so many fun and delicious ways to save food for future consumption. From pickles to relish, jams to chutneys, dehydrated chips to fruit leathers, simple frozen fruits and veggies to decadent soup recipes, you are sure to find lots of ways to eat local throughout the year. 

New to storing the season’s harvest for the future? You might find it is easier than you imagined, especially with so many techniques for preserving food. The key to preserving is to stop or slow the bacteria that cause food to spoil once it is harvested. Some methods like fermentation not only limit harmful bacteria but increase beneficial bacteria providing health benefits to your diet. Whatever method you choose, it is important to use the proper techniques, equipment, and recipes to ensure your preserved food is safe to consume. 

As with any food preparation, food-borne illness can occur with improper processing or handling, so learn the proper techniques and use tested recipes. Take time to explore and learn from the wealth of researched information and recipes available and then embark on the delicious, nutritious, and enjoyable journey of food preservation. 

Whether you need to start with the basics or are ready to learn more advanced techniques and recipes, The National Center for Home Food Preservation and Washington State University (WSU) Extension are two great places to start your learning journey. Also, be sure to check with your local County Extension office for in-person, no to low-cost classes they may offer as well as pressure gauge testing if you plan to try your hand at canning. And some WSU Extension offices have a certified consumer food safety and preservation advisor on staff to answer specific questions you have.

Not yet ready to jump in and preserve your own food? No worries – some of our local farmers and producers create delicious preserved foods from their harvest to make it super easy for consumers like you to eat local the whole year through. 

The WA Food and Farm Finder makes it easy to search for locally preserved goodies. Check out Spring Rain Farm & Orchard with their small-batch jams and pestos made from their own organic fruits and herbs like nettles, lemon-basil, and arugula. Looking to try some fermented foods? Read our 2022 Superfoods story to learn about Washington farms and businesses crafting local kraut, kimchi, cultured chili sauce, fruit shrubs, Kvass, kombucha, and more.

And when you think of preserved foods, don’t forget flowers and herbs and how much they can add a hint of summer to a chilly PNW day. Behold locally grown lavender from Lavender Connection dried and added to locally crafted chocolate bars and hot chocolate mix.  

Photos courtesy of Amy Nash, WSU Clallam Extension and NODC 

Veggies and fruits aren’t the only things you’ll find preserved! We’re lucky to be surrounded by an abundance of seafood and a variety of ways to enjoy it year round. Try some canned salmon from Sea to Shore Seafood Co. or some smoked canned oysters from Hama Hama Co. Or better yet, gift them to your favorite seafood-loving friend!

And don’t forget to sip local first too. With so many of Washington’s bountiful fruits turned into sparkling ciders and wines, and locally grown grains turned into beer, you are sure to find the perfect compliment to any meal or upcoming holiday gathering. 

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Photo courtesy of Sea to Shore Seafood
Photo courtesy of Klickitat Canyon Winery

So, whether you’re looking to do some preserving of your own or want to support a local business to do it for you, look no further than the WA Food and Farm Finder. You are sure to find many diverse ways that the bounty of the growing season can be with you throughout the entire year!  Some farmers markets are open year round and many local grocers stock these tasty value-added goodies as well.  

Tip: While exploring the WA Food and Farm Finder, try searching our “Locally Made” category using the “Preserved Foods” filter option to discover farmers, producers, and fishers offering ready-to-eat preserved foods in your area.