Last week I Instagrammed that picture up there ^^ and I got so many questions about the process, that it jump-started me into finally writing this post that I’ve been meaning to write for forever and ever.
Right now we’re enjoying the glorious days of summer, and all the bounty that those days bring. But soon . . . too soon . . . the world will be cooling down again, the piles of produce will begin to wane, the sky will open back up and the rain will wash away the berry stains from our fingers.
We must keep this in mind, my fellow urban homesteaders. Because unless we want to be eating canned beans and brown rice all winter, NOW is the time for food preservation! Now, when the crops are at their peak and the prices at their plummet, now is the time to capture the charity of the season.
But not with canning. Because this is the Internet and there are literally tens of thousands of recipes and blog posts already out there related to canning, and there are also like literally hundreds of books and cookbooks written about canning, and also I just don’t really like canning. It’s not my bag, I don’t like what it does to my food (usually, sweeten and soften it). So canners, I don’t worry that you’ll be able to find some amazing inspiration elsewhere. But here, I present: A Few Of My Favorite Food Preservation Techniques
Freezing is probably my favorite preservation method, and so underutilized! In Portland, when I had more time and energy to put towards such things, I bought an entire stand-up freezer off a guy on the side of the road for $50, and we wheeled that thing home and stuck it in the garage, and I stuffed it full of so many summer fruits and vegetables.
Freezing fruits and veggies is simple, and the protocol is almost always the same.
1. Wash the food. Prep the food.
I used to spend all day berry picking on Sauvie Island with Waits, and then as soon as he was asleep I’d tromp downstairs to wash and trim like, 7 pounds of strawberries or whatever. Yes, it’s a time investment. But those strawberries made the BEST smoothies that winter, and man they saved us a lot of dough.
2. Freeze the food.
Don’t freeze it in tupperware or in bags! If you do, you’ll just end up with a big old solid mass of frozen food, and you’ll have to thaw the entire thing all at once and obviously, that totally defeats the purpose. So what you need to do is lay out some baking sheets spread with parchment paper (or non-stick Silpat mats, if you have those). Then spread the food over the trays and freeze it like that.
2. Bottle or bag the food.
Once frozen, you can transfer it to glass jars or tupperware or freezer bags or whatever you prefer. This way, you’ll be able to take out as little or as much as you like, each time.
Berries are great for freezing because they can go right into smoothies and oatmeal and pies and whatever else you want. But veggies are also awesome, so experiment with your favorites. I always do broccoli and bell peppers, but I have friends who do everything from carrots to kale. Just remember to prep your food first – so bells and carrots get chopped, kale gets torn, etc. Some hardier veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc, should be blanched before freezing.
When it comes to vegetables, previously-frozen foods will need to be served cooked as opposed to eaten raw. So, no massaged kale salads from your frozen kale. But, lots of kale in soup and kale in stir fry and all that good stuff! We ate fajitas all winter long using my summer bells, and man were they delicious!
And back to that picture up at the top there, the one that sparked this whole post?
Pesto! I love to buy basil (or this year, get big bags of it in my CSA) when it’s in season because it’s just bursting with flavor! But it’s only around for a short window, so I always try to stock my freezer with perfectly summery pesto.
I make a triple or quadruple batch, then freeze it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, I transfer the cubes to an air-tight container to prevent freezer burn. You can do this with any seasonal sauces – like heirloom tomato marinara or fresh herb chimichurri (I like mine with cilantro!). The cubes are great because you can just grab 1, 2, or 3 whenever you need, depending on how much food you’re making and how you’re using the sauce.
I was going to include my other two favorite forms of food preservation, but dang if this post isn’t epic enough already. So, you’ll just have to wait until next Monday for those. Which means – stock up at the Farmer’s Market this weekend!