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close this book Homemaking handbook for village workers in many countries
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close this folder Section II - What you will teach
close this folder Food storage and preservation
close this folder Preserving and storing fruits and vegetables
View the document Field storage
View the document A cool, dark place
View the document Drying
View the document Canning
View the document Bottling fruit juices
View the document Bottling tomato juice or tomato puree
View the document Salting or brining vegetables

Preserving and storing fruits and vegetables

The chapter on gardening points out the value of growing fresh fruits and vegetables as much of the year as the climate permits. Fruits and vegetables fresh from the garden taste much better than those that have been preserved or stored.

However, it is not always possible to have a continuous supply of these essential foods. For this reason, some method of keeping them when they are out of season is important. Various methods of preserving and storing include:

storing in the field

storing in a cool, dark place such as a cellar, pit, or cave


salting and brining


Field storage

Certain greens such as collards, kale, leaf mustard, and some others will stand quite a lot of cold and frost. In some areas, they will stay green in the garden for a long time. Root vegetables such as carrots, sweetpotatoes, cassava, beets, celery, kohlrabi, and turnips can often be left in the ground and used as they are needed. How long they can be kept without being dug will depend on the amount of rain, drainage conditions, etc. With too much rain they would rot quickly.

A cool, dark place

Dry onions, pumpkins, cabbages, and root crops such as potatoes, yams, carrots, beets, turnips and others can also be kept in a cool, dark place. Some of these, especially potatoes, will sprout quickly in warm areas. To retard sprouting, cover the vegetables with sand.

Various types of storage can be built for fruits and vegetables. They should be:

cool and with little or no light

slightly damp so vegetables will not dry out

ventilated to carry off odors and to help regulate the temperature and amount of dampness

insulated-the walls and ceilings should be protected with straw or other material to keep too much moisture from forming and dropping onto the vegetables and also to help regulate the temperature

well drained.

Your agriculturist can help you with recommendations and instructions on building storage facilities.


Vegetables and fruits may be dried in the sun in warm, sunny climates, but not in rainy or damp weather. It is a suitable way of preserving such vegetables as green leaves, cabbages, green beans, green maize, potatoes, sweetpotatoes, pumpkin, cassava, and carrots, and such fruits as apples, peaches, apricots, figs, etc.

To dry fruits and vegetables:

1. Wash the food.

2. Cut it up if it is big.

3. Steam it until it is thoroughly hot.

4. Spread the food on a clean surface in direct sunlight until it is brittle and dry. Foods can also be dried on racks over a kitchen stove or they may be dried in an oven.

5. Protect the food from dust, dirt, and flies by covering it with thin, loosely woven, clean cloth or wire screen.

In Iran, a successful drying program helps families have a more varied diet. Here the specialist trains village workers in the steps to follow for proper drying. She is showing them how to make racks that will keep the food clean while it is drying and make a better product.






Spinach and other green leaves

Select young, tender leaves. Wash. See that the leaves are not doubled over when they are placed on trays. Cut large leaves crosswise into several pieces to hasten drying.

Steam 4 minutes or until thoroughly wilted.

Dry until the leaves are brittle.


Select tomatoes of good color. Dip them in boiling water to loosen the skins. Chill them in cold water. Peel. Cut them into pieces not over " square. Cut small tomatoes in half.

No steaming.

Dry until the pieces are leathery.

Green chili or peppers

Use full-grown, bright green pods. Peel and split the pod, remove the seeds.

No steaming.

Dry until the peppers are crisp, brittle, and a medium-green color.


Remove the outer leaves. Cut the head in quarters. Remove the core. Cut the quarters into shreds about 1/8" thick.

Steam 5-6 minutes until wilted.

Dry until the shreds are tough or brittle.

Green peas

Select young, tender peas. Shell.

Steam them immediately for 10 minutes.

Dry until the peas are hard and wrinkled. They will shatter when hit with a hammer.

Green beans

Remove bad pods. Wash the good pods and remove the strings. Split the pods lengthwise.

Steam the pods 15-20 minutes.

Dry until the pods are brittle.

Green maize

Select tender maize. Husk.

Steam 5-15 minutes or until the milk is set. The maize can be cut from the cob or dried on the cob.

Dry until the kernels are brittle.


Select crisp, tender carrots. Wash, Trim off the roots and tops. Peel. Cut into slices or strips about 1/8" thick.

Steam 8-10 minutes.

Dry until the strips are tough and leathery.


Look the berries over; remove bad ones. Wash.

Steam 1/2-l minute.

Dry until the berries are hard. Test by crushing a few to be sure all the moisture is removed.

The steaming helps to retain the protective value in these foods and gives them a better color and flavor. It also reduces the time needed for soaking the vegetables before cooking them later. Tomatoes, onions, and green and red peppers do not need to be steamed, but otherwise the process is the same.

When they are drying food in the sun, remind villagers to keep racks off the ground and away from animals. The food needs to be turned two or three times each day so it will dry as quickly as possible. Drying will take several days. Test for dryness by squeezing some of the food in your hand. There should be no apparent moisture.

It is a good idea to keep the dried food in a large container for 8 to 10 days before packing it into small containers or bags. If bags are used, seal them in a large container to keep out air and insects. Store them in a clean, dry, dark, cool place.

All dried vegetables should be soaked in water before cooking to reduce cooking time. Use just enough water to cover them, and use the same water for cooking. It will contain the protective values of the food. Dry green maize should be rinsed quickly in cold water and put to soak for several hours in a small amount of water. It should be cooked slowly in the same water. Add more water as it is needed.


A number of problems must be met before home canning is practical, safe or even possible in many countries. One is the lack of suitable canning containers and equipment.

Canned foods must be sealed airtight and free of germs if the food is to be safe. Almost all foods must be heated to a very high temperature if they are to be safe after canning. This requires a pressure canner in which steam under pressure produces a much higher temperature than boiling does. The high temperature kills the germs. It is important to remember that for home canned meats and vegetables to be safe they need to be cooked again until hot all the way through before they are eaten.

Often, even if glass jars with tops that seal are available, they are not the kind to withstand high temperatures. In some countries, the cost of glass jars and tin cans is so great that most village families cannot afford them.

As you think about the need to preserve food in your area and the possibilities of canning, discuss the problem with your agriculturalists. Are glass jars or tin cans manufactured anywhere in your country? If so, are they suitable for use in a pressure canner? Does the quality need improvement? What are the possibilities of manufacturing glass jars or tin cans for sale at a price practical for the average village family?

Even if containers are available, the average village home is not equipped for home canning. Could small community canning centers be developed where equipment could be used cooperatively and the canning be done under supervision ? Are pressure canners available at a practical cost?

Are there commercial plants in your area that can either fruits or vegetables? If so, a visit to such a plant would be useful. You will need to study and investigate all phases of canning before making any attempt to introduce this method of preserving foods in the average village. In some areas, canning may not be feasible for many years.

Bottling fruit juices

This is a practical method of preserving fruit juices and fruit purees used in many areas. Wine bottles or soft drink bottles are available in most countries and are within the means of most families. New caps for such bottles must be purchased, but they are not expensive. A small mechanical capping machine is also necessary. Families might join together to buy a capping machine to seal the bottles.

Water bath canner-For bottling juices and purees a water bath canner is needed. This can be any large metal container. It must be deep enough to have an inch or two of water over the tops of the bottles. It must have a cover and a rack to fit in the bottom. The bottles must not touch the bottom or they will break. The rack can be either wood or wire. A water bath container should have a loose-fitting cover on it during the processing time.

Lack of low-cost containers that could be properly sterilized and sealed was a major problem that had to be solved before Pakistan and Greece could start food preservation programs 1

Lack of low-cost containers that could be properly sterilized and sealed was a major problem that had to be solved before Pakistan and Greece could start food preservation programs 2

Select ripe firm fruits such as grapes, berries of all kinds, cherries, etc. Clean the fruit of any trash such as leaves, small sticks, insects, etc., and then wash it in safe water. Heat the fruit slowly to a simmering temperature without water. Simmer it until the fruit is soft. Strain the juice through clean cheesecloth or other thinly woven cloth which has been boiled for 10 minutes. Add sugar if desired-1 cup to a gallon of juice. Reheat juice to boiling.

Wash the bottles and caps with soap in clean hot water and rinse them well. Then put the washed bottles and caps in a container, cover them with hot water and boil them for 2 to 3 minutes. Fill the hot bottles with hot juice to within 2 inches of the top. Place the cap on and seal the bottle with a mechanical bottle capper. Place the filled bottles in a container of boiling water so that water covers the bottles. Keep the water boiling 5 minutes. Remove the bottles, cool them, and store them in a dark, cool place.

Prepare fruit purees by running washed fruits through a sieve or food mill. Heat the puree to boiling. Add sugar to taste. Fill hot bottles with hot puree to within 3 inches of the top. Place the caps on and seal the bottles. Process them in boiling water that comes over the top of the bottles for 10 minutes.

Bottling tomato juice or tomato puree

Use ripe juicy tomatoes. Wash them well. Remove the stem ends and any bad spots. Then cut them into pieces, leaving the skin on. Simmer the pieces until they are soft. Put the pulp through a strainer or sieve. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to each quart of juice or puree. Reheat it to boiling. Fill bottles with the hot juice or puree. Leave 2 inches from the top for juice and 3 inches for puree. Put caps on and seal. Process the bottles in boiling water for 10 minutes.

Salting or brining vegetables

Salting and brining are good methods to use in preserving foods in either warm or cool countries. It was a popular method in the early food preservation programs in the United States.

Vegetables preserved by salting or brining are very popular in some areas. People like their flavor. Sauerkraut, made by salting cabbage, is well known and widely used in many countries.

Salting or brining may be a practical method of preserving vegetables in your area and one which you will want to recommend. The process is not difficult. It is inexpensive and requires little equipment. The vegetables preserved in this way retain a fair amount of vitamins and most of their other food values. Vegetables properly preserved with salt or salt and vinegar will keep for many months in a cool climate. They will keep a much shorter time in a warm climate unless they can be sealed and heat processed when the brining is finished.

For any method of preserving vegetables to be practical there should be a surplus, more vegetables than the family can eat when they are in season. Remember, in areas where there is a year-round growing season, having a continuous supply of fresh vegetables in the family garden is better than preserving.

Before trying to teach salting or brining, study any methods of preserving vegetables already being used in your area. Are people now salting or brining vegetables? If so, are they successful? Is the product of good quality? Do families like vegetables preserved this way? Do they fit into their food patterns? Do some methods give better results than others ? Do families grow enough vegetables to have a surplus for preserving? Can they get the salt? In some countries salt is expensive. Do they have large containers suitable for salting? Could you yourself try two or three vegetables, using the different methods of salting and brining, before you try to show how they are done? You will want to be thoroughly familiar with these methods and the results before you start teaching them to others.

Equipment and Supplies Needed

1. Containers such as crocks, glazed pots, or kegs or pails of hard wood. If containers of soft wood are used, the food will likely have the taste and odor of the wood.

2. Cover-may be a solid lid made from hard wood, a latticed wood cover, or a heavy plate-whatever cover is used must fit inside the container so that it can be weighted down to keep the vegetables under the brine.

3. Weight-can be a clean stone or brick which should be covered with melted wax, or a glass jar filled with water.

4. Clean white cloth or clean leaves such as cabbage.

5. Wooden spoons, a sharp knife, and measuring cup.

6. Pure salt and household vinegar.

7. Scales for weighing (when possible).

Three methods of salt preservation are described in this handbook. Certain vegetables like peas, corn, and lima beans contain considerable starch. They require more salt than vegetables like cabbage or turnips. Adding vinegar to the brine for some vegetables insures a better product.

Several different vegetables are listed under each method. This does not mean that those vegetables would be mixed together for salting or brining. Each would be processed separately. For a few vegetables there is a choice of methods.

For fuller instructions and additional information on salting and brining, you may wish to refer to Homemaking Around the World.

Observe these precautions for good results:

1. Follow directions carefully.

2. Weigh salt and vegetables if scales are available. If not, measure both salt and vegetables as accurately as possible.

3. Use clean, fine salt.

4. Use only clean, safe water for washing vegetables and making brine.

5. Be sure containers and all equipment are thoroughly clean.

6. See that brine covers the vegetables at all times to prevent the top layer from spoiling.

7. Keep the top of the brine free from scum and insects.

8. Boil all salted or brined vegetables except those pickled in vinegar for 15 minutes before eating to prevent any danger from botulism.

Method I. For Light Dry Salting

Vegetables for which this method is recommended: cabbage, turnips, rutabagas, and tender snap beans.

Preparing: Wash all vegetables thoroughly in safe water. If you are using cabbage, remove the outer leaves and core, and then shred the rest with a sharp knife or cut with a cabbage cutter. If using snap beans, cut off the ends and break the rest into short lengths. Scald the beans in boiling water for 5 minutes. Cool them quickly. If using turnips or rutabagas, trim them well and shred or slice thinly.

Salting and Packing: For each 10 lbs. of cabbage, turnips, or rutabagas, allow -lb. or -cup of salt. Mix the salt well with the shredded vegetable. For each 10 lbs. of snap beans, allow -lb or 1- cups of salt and 8 ozs. or 15 tablespoons of vinegar. Mix the salt thoroughly into the beans, then add the vinegar and mix again.

Pack the vegetable firmly into the container. Lay a clean white cloth or clean leaves over the top of the mixture to completely cover it. Then place a fitted cover of hard wood or a thick plate over the cloth or leaves, and weight it down with a stone or other suitable weight. Tie another clean cloth over the top of the container to keep insects out. Set the container in the coolest place possible.

In a short time water will be drawn from the vegetable by the salt. It will form a brine that will rise above the cover. Every day or so take a look at the brining process. When the brine begins to get low, more will need to be added. It is very important to keep the vegetable well covered with brine at all times, otherwise the top layer will spoil. Make more brine by dissolving 1 tablespoon salt to 1 quart of safe water.

The salted vegetable will soon start bubbling. This means fermentation has started. Soon a white scum will form on top. This should be removed every day so. Lift off the weights and the cover of cloth and leaves. Carefully remove the scum with a spoon or cup so that it does not get mixed with the brine. Wash the cloth or leaves and the weights in safe water, add more brine if needed, and weight the vegetable down again. It will take about 2 weeks for the bubbling to stop. Then it is likely the fermentation is over. The vegetable then is cured and can be used.

It should be cooked for 15 minutes before eating. To keep cured vegetables for a longer time, repack them into smaller containers that can be sealed. These then are heat processed in a boiling water bath 25 minutes for pint containers and 30 minutes for quarts. If it is not possible to heat process the cured vegetables, keep the container in as cool a place as possible, and keep the scum removed until the product is entirely used up. Remember if the weather is warm, a cured vegetable may only keep a short time unless it is heat processed.

Method II. For Heavier Dry Salting

Vegetables: Corn, shelled peas, shelled lima beans, celery, okra.

Preparing: Select fresh tender vegetables of good quality. If you are using corn, remove the husks and silks. Boil it 10 minutes to set the milk. Cut the kernels from the cob, but not too close. If using peas or lima beans, shell and scald them in boiling water for 5 minutes. Cool them quickly. If using celery or okra, wash the vegetables in safe water. Cut them crosswise into short lengths. Scald celery in boiling water for 5 minutes and cool it quickly.

Salting and Packing: Use 1 lb. or 3 cups of salt for each 5 lbs. of vegetables. Mix the vegetable well with salt. Pack it firmly into the container, cover with a clean cloth or clean leaves, and weight down following the directions in Method I. Be sure to watch the process and keep the brine over the top of the vegetable. To make additional brine for these vegetables, use 7/8-cup of salt to 1 quart of safe water.

Fermentation may continue with these vegetables for a month. Repacking and processing in hot water is not necessary because of the heavy salting. These vegetables will be quite salty when finished and will likely need to be drained and soaked in water overnight before cooking. However, the salted vegetable might be added directly to unsalted soup stock without soaking. Use -lb. of salted vegetable to 2 qts. of soup. All these vegetables should be cooked at least 15 minutes before eating.

Method III. Weak Brine Plus Vinegar

Vegetables: Beets, carrots, cauliflower, snap beans, turnips, beet tops, mustard greens, and turnip greens. Note that snap beans and turnips can also be preserved by Method I.

Preparing: Select tender good quality vegetables. Wash well in safe water. If you are using carrots or beets, trim the tops. Leave the carrots whole without slicing or cutting. Snap beans can be cut into pieces or left whole. Scald them in boiling water for 5 minutes. Cool them quickly. Cauliflower should be cut in pieces. Greens must be washed several times to remove grit.

Brining and Packing: Pack the vegetables firmly in clean containers. Cover them with a clean cloth or leaves and weight down as outlined in Method I Then pour over them a brine made by dissolving -cup of salt in 1 gallon of safe water and 1 cup of vinegar. Be sure the brine comes up over the weighted cover. Store the containers in a cool place. Watch and remove scum as it forms. Add more brine when needed.

The fermentation period is about 10 days or 2 weeks. Vegetables preserved this way will keep longer if they can be repacked in smaller containers, sealed, and processed in boiling water as outlined in Method I.

Before cooking for table use they need only to be rinsed with water. They will not need soaking.