Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Preserving the Bounty

Full on harvest time is definitely here!

There are two zucchinis for a dollar at the market, swiss chard leaves as big as elephant ears, bushels of peaches just begging to be turned into pies and chutneys.

I am feeling a bit of a struggle to keep up and preserve all this lovely food, while also remembering to relax enjoy it at its freshest!

Over the past few weekends and evenings I have done a little bit of preserving at a time.

Fresh zucchini has been lovely grated and served with spicy sesame noodles and cooked egg. It's so good fresh, and really doesn't freeze or can well.

I was at a loss for the best way to preserve zucchini until I came across this post by the amazing Hank Shaw at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook about how to sun-dry zucchini and preserve it in oil.

That's our first batch above in the top photo, and you can click on the link to Hank's blog to get his recipe. I'll have a separate blog post dedicated to our homemade solar dehydrating system soon.

What are some of the other ways to preserve?

Last Thursday was time for canning peaches... and I hope to have many more quarts canned over the next few weeks. Plum-ginger jam is also on the list of things to make. Somehow I'll find the time?

Canning in simple syrup isn't the only way to preserve fruit. I also made up a few batches of real maraschino cherries.

Yes, those popular bright red sugar bombs that show up in your Shirley Temple or Manhattan were once made with real fruit soaked in a glorious alcohol to preserve the fruit year round.

Maraschino is actually a "bittersweet, clear liqueur flavored with Marasca cherries". Luxardo is the most most popular brand of this type of liquor, which happily the Wine Source had in stock!

Chowhound has a really interesting forum discussion where people debate how good cherries soaked in Luxardo actually are, and various recipes and methods.

I'll post the results of my own experience soon!

Canning can get pretty exhausting, so sometimes it's nice to just freeze a baggie of fruit. Simple and easy for once!

Freezing tip: to avoid having your fruit freeze into a solid block, lay all of your berries or fruit slices flat on a tray to freeze. Then once the individual pieces are frozen, you can move the bag around in the freezer as needed.

With all this preservation of food, when it comes time to eat actual meals I just want a simple summertime meal without any cooking or minimal oven use.

A big batch of potato salad made on Saturday hit the spot for days. Tasty, hearty, and cooling!

Special thanks to my friend Kara for homemade mayo... the salad was originally part of a fundraiser for the Boone Street Garden but it was so hot the market was quiet. More salad for me!

A few slices of cantaloupe, grated fresh zucchini tossed with a little oil, vinegar, and spices, and you've got a fresh, easy, and very cheap summertime meal.

Oh, and don't think I've forgotten fermenting as a way to keep produce longer... two experimental quarts of peach vinegar are fermenting in the mini-fridge as a way to use the peach skins and other bits leftover from canning.

I just mixed the fruit odds n' ends with water and inoculated it with some Bragg's raw apple cider vinegar from OK Natural Market. Cap the jar with some cheesecloth or fabric to let in air, and stir daily. Supposedly this should turn to vinegar in a month. I'll let you know how it turns out. Anyone out there made their own vinegar before?

Also I couldn't resist buying cucumbers at the market and couldn't eat them fast enough, so I sliced them into spears and tossed them in a pan-asian chili blend of korean gochujang chili paste and sriracha. Can't wait to eat them just like I've been eating the grated zucchini, on cold sesame noodles with cooked egg! Yum.

Sun-drying, canning, freezing, fermenting... am I leaving something out?!

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