ANSWER: Good question! There are so many ways to preserve food and I am by no means an expert on this subject. But I can tell you what I know and what I have done.
I personally love to can. So before I talk about other ways of preserving I must talk about it for a minute. I grew up with the canning process and if you want to do it, then it is worth the investment of the equipment. I have great yard sales in my area & was lucky enough to get all of my canning equipment at yard sales over a 2 year period about 8 years ago. Canning is easy once you get the hang of it. My main canning love is applesauce, but I also have canned peaches, apple pie filling, apple butter, pears, corn, salsa, and tomatoes.
If you want to stay away from canning there are other options for preserving your produce. It obviously depends on what you want to preserve so here are some loose guidelines.
- Freezing. You can freeze almost anything. Last year I had a HUGE abundance of tomatoes but I didn't want to can them. I used my Food Saver to freeze them in 2-3 cup amounts. With tomatoes you can freeze them whole or cut up. They are mushy once thawed so you don't want to use them in recipes where you want nice tomatoes. They are best used in soups, stews, spaghetti sauce, etc. I have also frozen spinach leaves, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, peaches, pineapple, corn, squash puree,(yellow & zucchini), pumpkin puree, etc......you get the idea. Basically, you can freeze anything. I would just recommend you use a Food Saver or another method similar to make sure you get the excess air out of your food. It makes it last much longer. You can even freeze cheese, gogurts, milk, butter....so many things! If you have a question on freezing a specific item, post and I will answer it.
- Dehydrating. I posted about this last year, and dehydrating is a great way to preserve your extra produce, and its easy too. Dehydrators are also a good emergency preparedness item to have in my opinion. They suck the moisture out of food so they last much longer. I'm sure you have eaten dried bananas before. But do you know the difference between dried bananas you do at home vs. the ones at the store? BIG difference! Same with anything you dry at home. Plus, if you have a Food Saver with the mason jar attachment you can dry your stuff, seal it air-tight with the Food Saver in a quart jar and preserve it that way too. HERE is some great info on dehydrating different foods.
How do you preserve your extra food this time of year?