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When you preserve food, you are taking action to stop it from breaking down, as it does naturally. You are killing or preventing the growth of microorganisms.

Today, we will explore how you can preserve some of the fresh produce you buy or grow. By following a few easy steps, you can still eat those tasty fruits and vegetables when they are out of season.

You can preserve late-summer fruits and vegetables in four basic ways. These include freezing, canning, pickling and drying or dehydrating.

Freezing is the simplest way to save produce. It is important to freeze the produce as quickly as possible, and to do so in freeze-grade bags or other containers.

Eugenia Bone has written books about food and nature. She notes that you should cool down food before you freeze it.

One problem to avoid is freezer burn, which can affect the taste and feel of food. To prevent this, use plastic bags, wraps or containers designed for the freezer.

Good late-summer produce to freeze includes green beans, cabbage, apples and plums.

There are two main ways to can produce: boiling hot water baths and pressure canning.

A boiling water bath involves putting food in glass canning jars and then heating the jars in a pot of boiling water. The heat forces air from the glass jars and frees the food from bacteria and microorganisms.

You can then seal the jars. This method works best with naturally acidic foods like fruits.

Pressure canning food requires a pressure canner. The pressure canner you use should be based on the kind of cooking equipment you have and the amount of food you plan to can.

Whichever method you use, always test the seal that keeps out fresh air.

Good late-summer fruits for water bath canning include apples, berries, cherries, figs and peaches.

Good foods for pressure canning include carrots, corn, okra and bell peppers.

There are many methods of preserving food in vinegar, salt brine or a similar mixture.

You can pickle whole vegetables, like green beans or okra. Another possibility is to make chutney or relishes. This is done by adding salt, pepper or other seasonings to small, cut pieces of vegetables.

Good late-summer foods to pickle include cucumbers, hot chili peppers, watermelon rinds and eggplants.

A final way to preserve food is by drying it. Whatever food you are drying should be just ready to eat and not have bruises.

When drying, try to find specific directions for each food to ensure quality and safety. Drying methods include air drying, oven drying and using a dehydrator.

A dehydrator is probably the best choice. If you think you will be drying foods regularly, think about investing in an electric dehydrator.

Good late-summer produce to dehydrate includes apples, mushrooms, grapes and hot and sweet peppers.

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