It may be hard to fathom now, but soon the balmy summer temperatures will drop, and instead of enjoying fresh fruits and veggies every evening, we'll be back to cooking winter produce: potatoes, root veggies and cabbage. Plan ahead to include a bit of variety in your diet, by preserving summer's bounty now!
One of the easiest ways to preserve this season's best is by freezing. Freezing fruits and vegetables at the peak of their ripeness ensures you will have things to munch on this winter, and doing it yourself means that you can control the quality of what you eat, like you do with all the fresh fruits and veggies you buy.
Freezing is a great technique for delicate fruits and vegetables that don't do well being overcooked. Most people have had the unfortunate experience of a can of peas that have turned to gray mush, but frozen, peas are a great, simple side dish or a delicious addition to pastas and omelettes, and having them in your freezer can make this even easier. Grab a few assistants and shell peas into a large freezer bag. Be sure that no air has gotten into the bag, then freeze flat. You'll have peas on hand whenever you need.
Freezing is also a good technique for berries, which can, of course, be canned or turned into jam, but are a wonderful thing to have on-hand frozen for smoothies and baking into muffins. Wash and thoroughly dry your berries before freezing, then freeze flat in large freezer bags. Defrost as needed to throw into smoothies, or dust with flour and fold into your favorite muffin or quickbread recipe.
When you freeze these or other foods, they should be consumed within the year.
Canning or Jarring
Canning and jarring are great techniques for vegetables like green beans, which are just as delicious cooked until soft as blanched. As an added bonus, canned green beans can keep for about five years, so when you have a particularly good crop, can to your heart's content. A guide to canning green beans makes this process easy as pie.
Summer squash is also great canned or jarred, but why stop there? You can think ahead and use other summer veggies like tomatoes and eggplant to make a ratatouille or veggie pasta sauce and can the entire concoction. Dinner just got a whole lot easier. Tomatoes, however, are a high-acid food, and canning them or foods containing them involves a slightly different process. Canning high-acid foods is far from difficult, however, and the rewards of having homemade ratatouille or pasta sauce are more than worth it.
Making Jam or Preserves
A summer favorite with fruit is making jam or preserves. Lots of foods work well with this technique, such as berries and figs, but a favorite is summer stone fruit. Apricots and peaches make delicious jam, and because of their pectin content, they make for great jam that you don't necessarily need to add pectin to. Our favorite low-pectin jam recipe can be used with any stone fruit, and you'll have homemade jam for your toast or oatmeal all winter long.