Simple Fruit and Vegetable Preservation - A Quick & Easy Recipe Guide / Chris Kornman

Folks are cooking at home more than ever, now, but there's always a risk of spoilage if you're keeping too many fruits or vegetables on hand. I've recently entered the pickling and fermenting phase of adulthood, and in lieu of a personal anecdote this week, I'm going share with you a few easy tips for beginner preservation.

Let's start with the basics.

If mold is apparent on your fruits and veggies, it's too late. You've got to anticipate a few days before it's visible, but wilty or overripe is perfect!

You're going to need some vinegar, and my strong recommendation is to get one that still has a bit of the cloudy "mother" in it. Apple cider vinegar is probably the most versatile. Wine vinegar works well, too, but don't use the "white" vinegar that most commercial brands have sterilized.

The other stuff you'll need is sugar (any old kind will work) and salt, but non iodized is best. You can get away with Tupperware, but a glass mason jar or similar non-reactive container will be your best friend.

For fruit that's overripe, try making a shrub. It's a lightly fermented syrup that you can use for a soda or cocktail base.

Cut your fruits into bite-size chunks, toss into a container, cover in sugar generously, about equal in volume to the fruit, and then pour in some vinegar and submerge... just enough to cover the mixture. Put it in the fridge and shake or stir once every two or three days. Keep an eye out for mold on the surface, you should be fine as long as the solids stay submerged and you're shaking/stirring regularly.

After two or three weeks (longer for stronger), strain out the solids (the fruit and undissolved sugar) and keep the liquid in a fresh jar in the fridge. It ages really well, so keep it around in the fridge for a few weeks to three months. Use just a splash for a fancy beverage: 1oz shrub to 10oz sparkling water for a soda or some booze (vodka, gin, tequila, mescal, etc.) and ice for a juicy cocktail.

For veggies, you've got lots of options. The easiest is to pickle in the fridge.

This works great for carrots, cucumbers, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, cauliflower, and onions. Chop into long strips or keep whole and toss into your container and grab that vinegar and submerge your veggies. Add some whole peppercorns, fresh dill for the cucs, or other fresh herbs or spices that you're into. Limit your extra ingredients to just one or two for best results. I love pickled red onions with peppercorns on tacos and salads, and it's so easy. They're ready in about 24 hours and almost impossible to mess up. They'll keep for a long time, and if you let them pickle for at least a week or more they can get fizzy and carbonated for extra flair.

Another super easy preservation method is to turn your wilted veggies and unwanted bits (ends of onions and zucchinis and sweet potatoes, broccoli and kale stems, carrot and pepper tops, and anything else you'd usually chop off and compost) into stock. Save 'em up in the freezer in a bag or bin, and when it's full just drop them in a pot.

Get some water, about double the volume of the veggies, and a dash of salt and all your scraps and bring the pot to a boil. Turn down to a moderate simmer, cover, and leave for about 2 hours. Strain out the solids and keep the liquid in the fridge for up to two weeks or in the freezer for a few months.

Use the stock instead of water for rice, quinoa, or any other beans or grains that will soak it up, or use it as a soup base and toss in some noodles and fresh veggies for a hearty alternative to the canned, mass-produced stuff.

You can make a bone broth using the same method - save any of your chicken or beef or pork bones in the freezer and boil. The collagen is healthy and makes the stock extra brothy.

These are a couple of very simple ways to preserve the scraps that would otherwise end up in a compost pile or landfill. There are lots of others, but you need almost no equipment to employ the techniques above and they'll really surprise you with how they can turn your tacos, salads, grains, beans, soups and stews into something extraordinary.