The following is a guest blog post from Theresa Loe, a garden writer for television, print media and video; and producer for Growing a Greener World.
Garden-fresh flavor is very seasonal. We are given just a small window of time to enjoy things like vine-ripened tomatoes, honey-sweet berries and juicy, drip-down-your-chin peaches. They may be short, but these seasonal moments are one of the reasons many of us grow our own food. We want to not only savor these moments, but also capture them to enjoy later or share them with friends.
Well that’s where canning and preserving can help!
With a few simple techniques, we can save a bit of our garden and essentially create a little time capsule of flavor. Later when the growing season is long over, we can go to our pantry or freezer, open that time capsule and be taken back to that delicious season in an instant.
But many people are unsure about preserving or they feel intimidated about trying. Well, I’d like to change that! I am life-long canner and also one of the producers of the national public television gardening series, Growing A Greener World where we feature organic gardening and farm-fresh food. My mission both on the show and on our website is to take the fear away from the idea of preserving the harvest.
Next week, as part of our yearlong campaign to promote canning the harvest, we are launching a new mini-video series on preserving that offers simple, timesaving tips and techniques for capturing the garden’s flavors. And it covers much more than just “canning”. It also includes freezing, pickling and many ideas for how to use the things you preserve. Be sure to tune in for ideas. In the meantime, below are a few simple things you can do now to savor a few of those flavorful moments in your own garden. Enjoy!
Tips for Preserving Fresh-Picked Flavor
TOMATOES: Freeze tomatoes whole (no peeling required) on a cookie sheet and when frozen solid, place in freezer bags or containers. Later, when you defrost them, they have a stewed tomato consistency with all the fresh-picked flavor. The skin just peels off. They are perfect for soup, stew, chili, etc.
BERRIES: Try freezing blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc. in a single layer on a cookie sheet until they are frozen solid. Then transfer to freezer bags or containers. The advantage to freezing before packing into containers is that they stay separated and you can reach in and grab a handful at a time (for smoothies or pancakes) without defrosting the entire bag.
HERBS: Chop fresh herbs like basil, cilantro and sage in the food processor and drizzle in vegetable oil until it forms a paste. Store in small containers in the freezer and when a recipe calls for a spoonful of freshly chopped herbs, use a spoon to scrape off the amount you need. The oil allows you to remove a small amount without defrosting the entire container.
MORE HERBS: Dry your herbs like sage, thyme and rosemary by cutting them in the morning when their essential oils are at their peak. Tie them in bundles with rubber bands and hang upside down to dry. The rubber bands will hold the bundle as the stems shrink and the hanging keeps the oils in the leaves. When they are crisp to the touch, crumble the herb leaves into a jar and store on the pantry for up to one year.
GREEN BEANS: Blanch fresh beans for 3 minutes in boiling water to kill some of the enzymes that cause spoilage. Then plunge the beans in cold water, drain and freeze in baggies or containers. They will last up to 6 months this way.
ZUCCHINI: Grate or shred your zucchini, squeeze out the excess liquid and store in containers in the freezer. When you defrost later, the zucchini will be soft but is great for adding to muffins, breads and other baked goods.
MISC. FRUIT: If you want to try your hand at making jam but lack the time, chop fruit such as peaches, nectarines, or plums and measure out what you need for your jam recipe. Freeze the fruit in a container up to 6 months. When you are ready to make your jam, simply defrost the container and you are half way done. (Chopping takes half the time of any recipe.) Then just follow your recipe and use the water bath canning method to process the jam. The flavor will be as if you just picked and chopped the fruit the same day.
About Theresa Loe :
A life-long canner, city homesteader and graduate of the Master Food Preserver Program, Theresa Loe is passionate about taking the garden full circle (from seed, to table, to pantry) and capturing that fresh-picked flavor with style. She is an award-winning garden writer for television, print media and video and one of the founding producers of Growing A Greener World TV.