Preserving the Summer Harvest: Drying, Freezing, Pickling and Canning
Video from News Ch. 8’s Good Morning CT Show, July 12, 2010 at 7:48 am with Matt Scott
The summer harvest is producing beautiful and delicious foods for quick summer meals. But sometimes we find ourselves with more food than we can eat and need some strategies for preserving its freshness. Luckily there are fantastic resources available to the home cook to guide us through freezing, drying, pickling and canning the season’s bounty so we can enjoy it throughout the year. And some of these recipes and so simple that even the novice cook will enjoy them.
4 Techniques for Extending and Preserving the Harvest
Dry it: culinary herbs
Freeze it: blueberries & raspberries
Pickle it: cucumbers, carrots, radishes, squash
Can it: jams, jellies and preserves
Dry it: To prepare fresh herbs for drying, wash and thoroughly dry them immediately after picking. Use a kitchen towel or paper towel to remove any excess water rather than treat them too aggressively in a salad spinner. Bundle each spring up into a bouquet and secure with a rubber band, making sure to leave the end slack so it can be hung on a cabinet handle.
Here I’ve prepared some sage and oregano from my garden with recycled rubber bands and adorned them with a piece of scrap ribbon. I wanted them to look pretty because they hang in my kitchen. Find a spot away from sunlight to hang them and when they’re completely dry, put them in a bag or container or break off the leaves and store them in a spice jar and label them with the name of the herb and the date.
Freeze it: Fresh berries are great candidates for freezing. Wash and thoroughly dry the freshest berries possible, then place them in a single layer, without touching one another, on a sheet pan and freeze overnight. Gather the berries and store in a freezer bag with as much air as possible removed or fill a freezer safe container. Be sure to use the fruit within the next 6 months. Try placing a handful of frozen berries in your hot oatmeal this winter or cooking the berries with a little sugar and lemon juice to make a compote for pancakes or waffles.
For a quick pickle recipe that only required refrigeration, I turned to an expert for recipes and advice. Local culinary professional and cookbook author Sherri Brooks Vinton has just published the perfect resource for home cooks looking to learn new ways to preserve the harvest: Put ’em Up! A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook. I found a recipe for Asian Icebox Pickles in Put em Up! that took no time at all to prepare and used pantry staples like soy sauce and sesame oil. They are simply delicious as a refreshing snack or a great addition to an Asian-inspired meal.
Drying, freezing, pickling and canning, this cookbook covers them all and is supplemented by a 7 minute video tutorial on the boiling water method for canning foods on her web site sherribrooksvinton.com. Sherri kicks off her national book tour today at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, NY from 1-3 . Her canning demonstrations are excellent so please visit her site for a complete book event calendar. I found the cookbook comprehensive and easy to use and am grateful it’s printed in soft cover.
I also found some great pickling recipes on marthastewart.com and have been trying them out on the family. The quick pickles with tarragon are quite zesty and refreshing on a hot day. If you have some chiles growing in your backyard garden, the pickled carrots with garlic and chiles are fantastic and only slightly spicy (pictured). Since radishes are still abundant, cucumber and radish pickles are next on my list. Please share your favorite pickling recipe or resource below in the Comments box.
My friend and a contributing writer to the Fairfield Green Food Guide, Elizabeth Keyser, recommended Christine Ferber’s Mes Confitures when I asked about excellent jam, jelly and preserve cookbooks. Christine is an internationally known master patissiere and her jams and jellies are served in some of the most famous French restaurants, including those of Alain Ducasse. Her stunningly beautiful and unusual artisanal jams, jellies and preserve recipes call for nothing more than fruit, sugar, lemon juice, honey, and spices – no fruit pectin or complicated techniques.
After finding red gooseberries at the Westport farmers’ market, I crossed my fingers that she’d have a recipe for gooseberry preserves. I was in luck. These are decadent and beautiful and I could easily see them on the table of a four star restaurant. I’m now inspired to hunt down some rhubarb for her Rhubarb Jam with Acadia Honey and Rosemary recipe.
Tip: Save any jar with a wide mouth for making pickles. Sterilize them before use and be sure never to reuse the cap of a two part canning jar lid, just the ring.
If you’d like to watch a preserving pro in action and have the opportunity to ask a few questions, attend the free Jamming and Jarring Class with Bonnie Shershow at Whole Foods Market Westport from 12-2 on Wednesday, July 14.
Join Bonnie Shershow and learn to make jams as they were originally produced in the U.S. and Europe with just enough sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to perk up the flavor of ripe fruit and without the unnecessary addition of pectin and extra sugar added to commercial jams. Bonnie makes her jams with the memory of the taste from her childhood growing up in a California orange grove surrounded by all sorts of fruit trees and berry bushes.
Be sure to thank all the farmers who provide us with the excellent CT Grown produce and fruit that we’re enjoying now and preserving for months to come by voting for your favorite farmers’ market in the 2nd Annual America’s Favorite Farmers’ Market Contest sponsored by American Farmland Trust. Just click on the contest icon in the right margin of this site to cast your vote.