The best part of summer is the unbelievable variety of local, high quality produce ripe for the taking. When summer’s over, we often feel let down by the limited options. You can extend your produce by getting it at its height and preserving it for future use.
In the last 5 years, pickling has become incredibly popular as a preservation tool, and as a means of taking slightly boring vegetables and adding strong, vibrant flavors to them. Pickling comes in two varieties: Quick Pickling, a fast bath of salt, vinegar, and spices added to fruit and vegetables a few hours before serving, and the traditional method of Pickling, which involves heating a brine, sterilizing containers, and waiting at least 8 weeks for the final result. Pickling adds depth of flavor to dishes, necessary acidity to items like pork tacos, and a counterpoint to dishes which might be gamey or fatty.
We’re all familiar with the sticky stuff you buy on the shelf, but “Freezer Jam” (jam made without cooking the fruit, less sugar, and a special type of pectin) is a great way to get the true taste of fresh fruit on your plate in the dead of winter.
Freezing your fruits and vegetables seems obvious, but there are many methods of freezing. Consider rhubarb: You can cut rhubarb into small pieces and freeze in a freezer bag, or you can make it into a freezer jam, compote, or puree and freeze it, even adding other fruits to it.
Don’t forget herbs! Herbs are at their best in the middle of summer, and if you’ve planted them, by July, you’re usually over run with them. You can freeze them flat, or place herbs in ice cube trays and cover them with a layer of olive oil. Freeze these cubes, and put them in a bag in the freezer. Remove one at a time while cooking.
If you like making smoothies or ice cream in the fall and winter, consider freezing all of your ingredients in small freezer bags, so you can pull them out, and quickly add them to your recipe.
Some vegetables need to be blanched before they can be frozen. These include beans, corn, peas, squash, root vegetables, beets and cabbage.
While not necessary, if you’re planning on freezing a lot of fruit and vegetables, you might want to invest in a vacuum sealing machine, which makes the frozen result last longer and retain more freshness
Freezing Complete Recipes
A great rainy day idea is to make big batches of tomato sauce, pureed vegetables, roasted vegetables and soups. This way, you lock in the flavor of the dishes at their height (and when you’re in a mid-winter funk, and don’t want to cook, your work is nearly done.
It’s easy to get carried away with fresh fruit and vegetables thinking that the season will never end, but a little bit of thought and planning and a bit more elbow grease can help you eat like summer all year long.