There is quite the stellar week of produce in store for you all. Expect the following in your shares this week:
Lettuce Mix (prewashed and bagged)
1 bunch Tatsoi
1 bunch Chard
1 bunch Carrots
Tomatoes by the pound
Herbs: various basils, regular basil, parsley
Extras: there will be some extra items in the extra bin this week including Red Amaranth and small red cabbages
Preserving the Summer Harvest
For those who enjoy eating local produce as often as you can, preserving your own food can be a rewarding experience. The best advice I have on home food preservation is slow and steady wins the race. While getting a large quantity of one type of vegetable and preserving it all at once can be productive, most of us don’t have time for this on a regular basis. Every week I hope to give out a few simple food preservation techniques.
To begin preserving food, make sure you have the right tools. We use freezer bags, Ball jars and lids, a food mill and a food processor the most often. We also own a food dehydrator for fruits and tomatoes.
This week I will focus on freezing methods and flavored vinegars.
If you freeze produce in freezer bags, I recommend clearing out a spot in your freezer so that you can lay the bags flat. If you lay the bags flat they will freeze into nicely shaped flat squares that will take up less space in the freezer when stacked.
Label everything clearly with ingredients and the date. You may think you will be able to recognize everything, but once frozen somethings are indistinguishable, such as peaches and winter squash. You should also date your preserved produce because while the freezes preserves well, it does not preserve forever.
Tomatoes can be frozen in various states. Use either the tomatoes you are unable to eat in the week or damaged and over-ripe ones. Slice off any unappetizing spots and proceed.
Raw: Chop raw tomatoes, throw them in a freezer bag and place them in the freezer. This can be done with any quantity. To use: Tomatoes can be added in their frozen state in soups or stews. Not recommended for making tomato sauces because there will be a lot of liquid.
Roasted: Roast quartered tomatoes on a sheet pan at 350 until the liquid separates. Drain the liquid (you can freeze the liquid as well to be used as a stock). From here, you may either freeze the roasted tomatoes whole, or mill them in a food mill to make tomato sauce. Use either freezer bags or freezer proof wide mouth ball jars. This method requires 4-5 pounds of tomatoes to make it worth while. To use: Frozen, roasted tomatoes can be used in any recipe calling for canned tomatoes, whole or sauce.
Herbs can be frozen exactly how they are, chopped and placed in a small freezer bag.
As for basil, you can make pesto. We do not put cheese in our pesto, but if you do, omit it when making a batch for the freezer. I have found that one bunch of basil makes at least 1-1/2 cups of pesto, which fits nicely into a quart-sized freezer bag. Place the pesto in the bag, seal it and lay it flat as described above. In several months when you are ready to use it, simply break the sheet of pesto into quarters and use the desired amount, returning the remainder to the freezer. You may add cheese once it is thawed, if desired. (You can also process the basil with olive oil and freeze the mixture as described.)
Summer Squash should be frozen raw. The best way I have found to freeze summer squash is to grate it first, then place it in a freezer bag or container. To use: Add the grated summer squash frozen to soups or stews or thaw it in a colander and use it in zucchini bread or muffins.
Greens should be quickly blanched (placed in boiling water for 30 seconds, then placed in ice water to cool), then squeezed dry and chopped before freezing. Place the prepared greens in a small bag and definitely date them. Frozen greens should be used with in 3 months. After that period of time they begins to loose flavor and any nutrients.
Herb Infused Vinegars
Another great way to enjoy the flavors of the summer in the cooler months is by making herb infused vinegars. The method is simple.
Fill a jar loosely with the leaves of an herb.* Cover herbs with vinegar, use a mild vinegar, either white wine or apple cider. Place a lid on the jar and put jar in a cool dark place, such as in a cupboard. If you think of it, shake it once a day. Leave for about 6 weeks to get the optimum flavor. Strain the herb out and place in a bottle or jar for use. To use: Use in dressings, stir-fries, soups and stews.
*I highly recommend making herb infused vinegars with the wonderfully flavored basils we are growing this year. You can also use the flowing tops for this purpose. Lemon basil infused vinegar, yum!
Have a great week.