By Vina Medenilla
Adding value to agricultural products is a practical way to prolong their shelf lives and to reduce agricultural losses. In an episode of the AgriTalk 2020, Gloria Morris, an ATI-LSA coordinator and owner of MOCA Family Farm tackled different ways to process and preserve fruit and vegetables that everybody can practice.
During the talk, Morris enumerated the steps in processing produce from proper handling up to various food preservation techniques.
Before processing any type of food, the first step is making sure that the materials you’ll be using are safe and clean. Used or unused bottles and glass jars must be sanitized and sterilized from lid to bottom. Wash and keep your cooking pot, steamer, or rice cooker, and glass holders dirt-free before sterilizing. Wear clean cooking gloves before handling the items you’ll use.
When sterilizing, make sure all your glass containers and lids are submerged in the boiling water for five to ten minutes. Let them dry, set aside in a clean space, and proceed to the next step.
Various ways to prepare and preserve food
Here are some ways to preserve food. The finished products can be stored in a home pantry or sold as part of a small business.
- Brining. This refers to the process of soaking food in a salt and water solution. In this technique, you’ll only need water and salt for the solution plus the food you’ll be preserving.
Morris and Karen of MOCA Family Farm used sliced garlic for demonstration. Put the sliced or minced garlic in your sterilized glass and then make your brining solution afterward. Morris adds that there must be at least 20% salinity in your brining solution. For instance, per one liter of water, you’ll need 200 grams of salt. One can use the internet to calculate salinity if necessary. Pour the salt and water into the pot, heat it, and stir until the salt has fully dissolved.
Pour the brining solution immediately into your glass jar (with your garlic in it) while the mixture is still warm. Hot temperature helps in fighting the remaining harmful microorganisms in the food. Cover the glass with the lid and you’re done. This can be stored for a few months up to a year, depending on their shelf life.
Morris says that in every raw material, you can experiment and make different value-added goods out of it. For example, if you have a small business, you can sell garlic in two ways: sliced or crushed garlic, Morris expounds.
- Pickling. For the pickling solution, prepare two-thirds of vinegar and one-third portion of water. As per Morris, water can be decreased, but not for the vinegar as it is a necessary element for the food to be properly preserved. Boil the pickling solution in a pan and while it’s hot, pour it into the glass bottle where you’ll be preserving your veggies or fruits.
Veggies such as carrots, sayote, green bell pepper, and red bell pepper can be mixed in one container. Slice the veggies according to the size of your glass bottles to make sure that they fit. Spices such as garlic, coriander seeds, peppercorn, and rosemary can also be put in the mixture for an added flavor.
- Sugar concentration. For this technique, the solution only consists of half-liter water and two cups of sugar. Since different types and brands of sugar differ in the level of sweetness, you can also opt to use a refractometer to determine the sugar content. Once the syrup or the sugar solution is formulated through boiling, you can now pour the solution into the glass bottles. When filling the bottle, do not forget to put a headspace, just enough to fully submerge the produce into the solution.
- Freezing. Preserving food can be lengthened, especially if stored in cool areas like the refrigerator or freezer. An example of this approach is an ube ice cream. Ingredients for this include a cup of ube, 300ml of condensed milk, chilled all-purpose cream, and a piece of banana. First, whip the chilled all-purpose cream into an electric mixer for five minutes at a maximum speed. Empty the condensed milk, followed by the ube and banana then mix it for about two minutes. Transfer the ice cream mixture from the mixing bowl into a freezable container. Chill this overnight and serve it the next day with toppings like sprinkles, chocolate syrup, or even an edible flower as a garnish.
With these techniques and principles, food preservation can be explored and carried out using your own creativity. One can combine various fruits and vegetables in different food preservation methods to create new products. Morris emphasizes that by doing this, you do not just extend the shelf lives of the food, but you also contribute to food security by alleviating food waste through food preservation.
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