7 WAYS TO PRESERVE THE SEASON
This past weekend, shopping at my local farmers' market, I noticed that the fall squashes have now arrived. As much as I love the cooler weather, I will really miss the abundance of local fresh berries and summer fruit and vegetables. Funny enough, you can still find a lot of gorgeous peaches, tomatoes, and other summer fruit still lingering. This transition has got me thinking about different ways of preserving, something that's in every culture around the world and has existed for centuries. It's not only a way to enjoy those flavors later in the next season but is also a fantastic way to reduce waste (and save some $ to boot)....
Pickling is always a great way to preserve vegetables (and even some fruits)! I have messed around with pickles from so many different cuisines - from traditional Indian pickles in mustard oil to Italian giardiniera to a quick, spicy Haitian pickled cabbage, called pikliz that I love! I always have a few pickles in my fridge to dress up everything from Sunday eggs to a nice seared piece of fish. If you've been on my Instagram, you are probably over it with my pickled cherry pepper obsession....
Chutneys are another savory way of preserving fruits and vegetables. They have both sweet and sour flavors and are great for those holiday cheese platters, to enjoy with a winter roast or as a condiment to take that sandwich to the next level. Personally, with it still being grill weather, this smoked peach chutney is absolutely to die for on pork chops, with some fromage d'affinois, or on your morning toast.
BLANCH AND FREEZE
What if you want to keep it simple? Easy, just blanch and freeze your vegetables in resealable bags. Think vegetables in the freezer section of the grocery store, only yours are directly from the source! These will make for a much tastier version of stir fry in the dead of winter, I promise you.
Just have a pot of salted, boiling water (should taste like the sea), an ice bath (ice with cold water) and lots of resealable bags ready and you are set. Drop in the boiling water until the veggies are still crisp but that raw taste is gone. Then submerge in ice bath to stop the cooking and keep the vibrant color. Don't hold in the ice bath too long or all the vitamins and minerals (the healthy stuff) will seep out. You just want the veggies to be cold. Drain, dry off, portion in to bags and place in the freezer. Super simple!
If you’re like me and you love having fresh herbs around the house, you are probably wondering how to use up those plants before they start to wilt (and die). There is, of course, the go to method of freezing herbs in ice cube trays (either in broth, butter, water or oil), but another fun way to preserve them is to turn the herbs into salts.
You take a bunch of basil, rosemary or any single or combination of herbs you want and process in a food processor with some kosher salt. Then, transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and dry out the mixture in a low temp oven around 225°F for an hour or two until crumbly. Then back in the food processor to make more fine (only, if you want) and voila! Instant herb salts for your pantry!
Of course, these are delicious on different meats or a roast chicken. But pack some in a little bottle, and you have the perfect hostess gift! Remember to store the salt in an airtight container, and it will keep for about 3 months.
Now, for my favorite fruits which have a growing season of only a month or two, at best: fresh berries and stone fruit! It's the best day of the year when you finally see rows and rows of these at the market, and the saddest day when you realize their season is over...Luckily this year seemed to last longer than last, and my pantry has a ton of jam to show for it. At first it was just a couple jars for me, and then I started thinking holiday gifts!!
People sometimes get intimidated by jam making - have the right ratio of sugar and pectin to set it and give that traditional, jammy texture. But it can be as simple as fruit, lemon juice and sugar like in this Strawberry Preserve recipe from Blackberry Farm. and, don't forget! Jam can also be savory. I created this Chili Jam recipe when I worked for a restaurant, and it went on everything from our lamb burgers to a cheese toast!
Note: If you frequent your farmers market, ask them if they have any bruised or over ripened fruit. This is perfect for jam and also will most likely be discounted!
PRESERVE IN ALCOHOL
Running out of jam ideas? Alcohol is also an incredible preservative.
I preserved my cherries from July in brandy using a simple ratio: for 1 pint jar filled with cherries, fill 2/3rds with sugar and then pour brandy to 1/4 “ from the rim. Shake the jar a bit to dissolve the sugar and store in a cool dark place until you're ready to use. Add a stick of cinnamon or a used vanilla bean for a bit of extra flavor.
These brandied cherries are perfect ladles over a (big!) bowl of vanilla ice cream or poured over a holiday bundt cake. You can also infuse flavors in the alcohol by simmering with vanilla or cinnamon.
Not an alcohol drinker? Simply try this recipe from Bon Appetit which preserves the cherries in syrup.
Shrubs are another, lesser known way of preserving summer fruits, though you can do this with many, other fruits throughout the year too. It's basically a fruit-forward drinking vinegar, that are excellent with some club sode but also make a great cocktail base, year-round. I made one recently with strawberries, peaches and basil.