Put It Up – Then Eat It Up by Mary Lowe

Mary Lowe, a longtime Central Oregon resident, and food preservation enthusiast will be sharing her knowledge, experiences, and resources for all things food preservation in this new article focused on using food preservation to stretch the tastes of summer and one’s budget. Follow along as Mary describes the various methods of food preservation, how she first started canning, and links to her favorite OSU Extension websites and recipes. 

Put it Up – Then Eat It Up

By, Mary Lowe

Today I canned a small batch of Watermelon Rind Pickles. I love watermelon, especially Northwest watermelon, and it’s one of those things that is only available in the summer. I plan to take a few jars of these treats to a family reunion and save a couple of jars to enjoy in December to remind me of summer.

There are many ways to preserve food from methods that are easy to those more difficult. The easiest is drying. Take some fresh herbs, either homegrown or from the store, wash and stem them and then dry them by laying them out on a towel on the countertop. The result is less waste and you don’t have to spend more money to buy more herbs later. Just pull out a jar of your home-dried oregano or basil and add some to a soup. Quick and easy.

Pacific Northwest Watermelon rinds sitting in brine, waiting to be put in mason jars Photo by Mary Lowe.

Freezing can also be quick and easy. If you purchased a large quantity of chicken that was on sale and can’t use it all at once? Just drop the unused chicken into freezer bags, squeeze out the air, label and put in your freezer. You can freeze herbs, meats, and, with a couple more steps, you can freeze vegetables and fruits. The only thing you really need is proper freezer containers, a reliable freezer and a reliable source of electricity to keep things frozen.

Canning is the food preservation process that takes a little more time, some expense for proper equipment and tested and up-to-date recipes from reliable sources, and some practice. I began canning foods in my forties when I wanted to make something delicious for my aging and ill father. I purchased a current copy of the Ball Blue Book and followed the directions and was able to make some beautiful canned peaches. I didn’t really try to can anything else until I was in my fifties.

Now, at age 71, I am a trained and well-practiced food preserver. I have canned meats and vegetables in a pressure canner, fruits, and pickles in a water bath canner, and I have helped to train many others in learning the processes of canning, freezing and drying, and also fermentation and smoking. I love food preservation in all its forms.

Finished watermelon rind pickles. Note the slight difference in color once the rinds absorb more of the salt, sugar, and vinegar of the pickle brine. Photo by Mary Lowe.

Now, at the end of summer, 2022, I encourage you to try some food preserving. It’s harvest time for many of the best of the year’s produce. Preserve to extend your budget, to preserve what you grow in your garden, or to make something beautiful and delicious or just for fun. Give it a try.

The best way to start is by doing a little research. I recommend going to the Oregon State University Extension Website. Then pick up or purchase some up-to-date recipe sources. On the OSUEx website, you will be able to download and print some publications, find some online or in-person workshops, and ask questions about what publications are the best.

You may fondly remember grandma’s pickles but, please don’t start your food preservation experience using an heirloom recipe. Food preservation is a science. Research and methods are changing and updating all the time. That’s to keep us safe.

I am going to save a jar of my Watermelon Rind Pickles to enter in the 2023 Deschutes County Fair. Will I see yours there?

Mary Lowe is a Master Food Preserver with the OSUExtension Master Food Preserver Program. She can be reached at mlaurisl@aol.com

Additional Resources:

Master Food Preserver program


Preserve at Home course


Ask an Expert


Publications and other resources


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