By Marlys McCurdy
Green Right Now
Summer and fall are the seasons of abundance. Fruits and vegetables abound in backyard gardens, farmer’s markets and stores.
Sometimes, like when your own garden is peaking, and the farmer’s markets are replete with everything from avocados to zucchini, that abundance can be overwhelming. Then it’s time to preserve, freeze and can, so you can seize Mother Nature’s gifts while they are at their best. Don’t throw out that entire container of strawberries because a few molded. Savor and secure the ones that survived by freezing them, or turning them into a jam.
It’s the healthy, and greener, thing to do.
Here are a few ideas, assembled from many sources and countless hours in the kitchen, that will help you capture that summer spigot of fruit (we’ll deal with veggies next time) by properly canning, freezing or drying your favorite produce.
Most berries can be stemmed and frozen whole or sliced on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Once they are frozen, transfer them to containers. Zipper-locking bags are nice because you can “suck” out the air and then seal them. Just zip the bag almost closed and insert a straw into the hole to suck out the air. Or just suck it out. Air in frozen food leads to ice crystals and diminished quality food. Freeze quickly so that bacteria do not have a chance to grow.
Fruits that are frozen will be soft when thawed, but the nutrition and taste will be largely preserved for enjoyment after berry season. Use frozen fruit in smoothies, salads, and sauces. Freezing them individually allows you to grab a few from your freezer bag without having to use the whole batch. If you only use a partial sack of fruit, remember to suck out the air when you put it back in the freezer.
Some fruits, the hard berries like blueberries and cranberries, can be frozen on a cookie sheet without even washing. Wash them when you thaw them. You can just scoop out what you need and reseal the bag. Great convenience for adding to other dishes or muffins.
Another even simpler option for that extra fruit is to make “freezer jam”. Follow the directions found on the pectin box that you get at the grocery store. Pectin is used to make fruit gel into jams and jellies. Box directions will include “freezer jam” recipes so you can just freeze your jam in a glass or plastic container. No processing is necessary, but pay attention to shelf life. These jams must be refrigerated upon opening. Fill the jars or containers following instructions on jars or pectin boxes. You need some room for expansion and as little as possible for spoilage and crystal formation. Great taste, looks, and easy small batches make this a favorite type of preservation for the first timer.