How to preserve healthy foods to enjoy all year long

As we approach and celebrate the end of the harvest season, I always encourage you to undertake the time-honored tradition of preserving some fresh, organic produce so you can enjoy the healthy foods of summer throughout the late fall and winter. Plus, stocking up on freshly canned, organic produce will make it much easier to avoid all of the processed grocery goods.

Pickling is one of my favorite ways to preserve summer’s bounty. And more people than ever are trying it—especially now that they’re spending so much time at home and preparing meals.

Of course, most people think of cucumbers when we talk about pickling. But you can pickle just about any kind of fresh produce—even fruit. Here’s how it works…

Pickling 101

  1. Make a basic brine. Traditional pickling brine features equal parts vinegar (apple cider, white, or red wine) and water. But you can adjust the proportions to taste. You can also make your brine savory or sweet, with salt or a little bit of sugar. Of course, I prefer to omit the sugar. Instead, you can try adding honey, sliced ginger, cinnamon sticks, and oranges for natural sweetness. I also like to add clove, cardamom pods, and star anise. If you prefer a more savory taste, you can also try adding bay leaves, celery seeds, chili peppers, dill, mustard seeds, peppercorns, sage, or thyme to your brine.
  2. Simmer your brine for about 10 minutes. This process will dissolve the salt and spices and release the herbs’ and spices’ essential oils.
  3. Pour the mixture into sterilized jars filled with tightly packed veggies or fruits. Just make sure to leave about half an inch to an inch of empty space below the rim of the jar.
  4. Seal the jars and put them in the refrigerator. Remember, it takes about 48 hours for the pickling brine to finish its work preserving most vegetables and fruits.

Voilà! After 48 hours, you have some healthy, natural, pickled produce that you can keep in the refrigerator for up to six months…or in the freezer for years. You can also stock your pantry with any canned goods that you’ll be using within the next months.

Now, let’s move onto some of my favorite foods to pickle at this time of year…

My favorite pickled produce

Beets. Simmer scrubbed beets for 45 minutes until tender. When cool, peel the skins and roots, and dice the beets to fit your jars. Then, place the beets in sterilized jars, fill with pickling brine, and seal.

Blueberries and blackberries. I often discuss the benefits of eating berries. But they don’t stay in-season for very long. So, to capture their goodness, consider pickling them. Prepare a brine with some extra cinnamon, ginger, and touch of salt. Then, place the fresh-washed berries and brine into sterilized jars and seal. I find the pickled berries pair quite well with charcuterie (smoked meats) and cheeses.

Cranberries. Pickling cranberries works a little differently than it does with other berries. First, start with fresh-frozen cranberries and drop them into boiling water. Next, add cinnamon, ginger, and diced oranges (with the peel) to sweeten the taste. After 10 minutes on a simmer, cool the mixture, pour it into a jar, and seal. I find pickled cranberries go well with just about any holiday meal. And especially on leftover turkey sandwiches!

Pearl onions. Peel and sprinkle the pearl onions liberally with salt. Let sit for one day in a bowl. Rinse off the salt with fresh water and pat the onions dry with a towel. Pour the dry onions into jars and top with your favorite brine. Onions take a little longer (about a month) to pickle. So, start them now in order to add them to your Christmas feasts in December. You can also drop a few pickled, pearl onions into some gin and dry vermouth to make an elegant Gibson martini cocktail with a Japanese umami taste.

Watermelon. When it comes to pickling watermelon, you might be surprised to learn you don’t use the sweet, pink flesh you’re used to eating during the summer. Instead, you use the rind. So, cut the white-green watermelon rind into strips and soak for a day in a brine that contains 3 to 4 ounces of salt and 4 cups water. After 24 hours, drain and rinse the rind, place it in a pot filled with fresh water, and boil for 20 minutes. Then, drain the water, retaining the rinds, fill the pot with pickling brine, and simmer for 15 minutes. When the rinds look translucent, take the pot off the heat and allow to cool. Last, place a few rinds into each jar with the cooled brine and seal. I find pickled watermelon pairs well with savory meats.

Other popular foods to pickle include asparagus, eggs, squash, and just about anything permeable you can fit in a jar. And, of course, there’s always vitamin C-rich pickled peppers, which you can pickle by the peck!

This holiday season, I encourage you to cook at home—and use your special, pickled produce to complement your tasty, nutritious meals.

P.S. In addition to pickling, you may also want to make your own roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin purée for a healthy, nutritious, satisfying snack! Learn how in the current issue of my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter. Not yet a subscriber? Click here now!