Summer Food Prep!

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Preserving the Harvest-Summer Edition

Greetings from EverGood Farm.  Here at the farm our busy harvest season is just beginning.   Like my first post, I will be mainly focusing on freezing, dehydrating and ideas to speed up food prep and preservation.  Sometimes I find it very hard to motivate myself to “put up” all this food when I’m busy, but I’m so thankful in the winter when I have an abundance of veggies right in my freezer or basement, and already prepped too!  I have been learning and practicing food preservation for the last four years and have come across some time savers along the way.  I’m always looking for ways to get more vegetables my family’s diet, and I’m sure you are too.  Thanks to Katie, Megan, and Anna, I’ve learned a lot more!  My hope is that you’ll learn some new ideas from me and the PN team and maybe try some new vegetables.

I’m not trained in food preservation, but have taken some classes, and learned a lot through trial and error and reading.  I’d highly recommend taking a canning, or food preservation class for more detailed instructions.

Quick Tips

-Use your food prep time wisely and only preserve things your family will eat.  Read the spring edition for my story! (http://prescribe-nutrition.com/making-produce-last-dont-miss-this-one/)

-If you aren’t growing your own veggies, or belong to a CSA, check farmers markets and natural food stores for bulk quantities of your favorite veggies.  This is where you’ll find the best price.

-Tackle food preservation in small amounts.  In the peak bounty season I’ll often set aside 4 hours a week to do this.

-Make sure your kitchen is clean.  It can’t hurt to wipe all your surfaces down with a mild bleach solution.  Dirt is good, just not in your food!

-Most of my freezing involves parchment paper.  I find if the veggies are on the dryer side you can generally reuse the parchment a few times.  I also love these (http://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Supply-Inch-Parchment-Paper/dp/B00004RKFR)

-When dehydrating vegetables, you don’t have to have every piece completely dry.  Once you put into mason jars make sure the lid is on tightly and shake every day or so for a week.  They will all be the same dryness (and possibly dryer).  Try to only remove the lid for short periods of time and avoid pouring them right into steaming food from the jar.  If you see mold discard immediately.  I’ve never had any of my dehydrated food mold.  I always dry until they are crisp because I like it that way!

Summer Veggies you’ll want to save

Tomatoes 3 ways

If I could only preserve one thing tomatoes would probably be it.  The BPA liner in canned goods scares me, and nothing beats the flavor of fresh frozen tomatoes (except for garden fresh!)

1.  Frozen whole:  Take all your tomatoes you wish to freeze and place in a sink or bowl full of water to wash.  Have a pairing knife, cutting board, and freezer bags handy.  (I try to avoid plastic in many ways, but freezer bags are one of those really handy things that work great for certain vegetables.  I always make sure to only put cooled vegetables to be frozen in them) Core and remove any bruised spots from your tomatoes and put in freezer bags in one layer.  Once full remove as much air as possible (a vacuum bagger would be handy here).  Freeze bags flat and once frozen you should be able to remove a few at a time.  The peels come off easily once partially defrosted.  Remove seeds if desired.

2.  Roasted: Use any type of tomato here (I love doing this with heirlooms and cherries). Preheat your oven to 400 or put on the broiler if you are around to keep an eye on your tomatoes.  Cut up larger tomatoes into wedges (i don’t remove skin or seeds here) leave cherry or small tomatoes hole, and spread in a single layer on a roasting pan.  Toss with a little olive oil, salt, and favorite italian herbs.  Place in the oven and check often if broiling, and every 10-15 minutes tossing as needed.  Once they are beginning to brown and have released their juices, remove from the oven and pour into a bowl.  Once I’ve roasted all my tomatoes I like to put them in the fridge overnight to cool them fully.  Place into freezer safe jars or bags and use just like those awesome fire roasted tomatoes you can buy in the store.

3.  Dried:  If you have a dehydrator and an abundance of tomatoes I’d highly recommend dehydrating them.  I use them all the time in place of sun dried tomatoes.  Cut cherry tomatoes in half and arrange on dehydrator trays.  For larger tomatoes core and cut into 1/4” thick slices and place on dehydrator trays.  If you have a temperature setting on your dehydrator, put it on the vegetable one.  Dehydrate for a good 24+ hours, checking every 6-8 hours and turning if needed or to remove finished ones.  I dry mine until they are very crispy (if you plan to store in your pantry you want to make sure they are fully dried otherwise they will mold).  Once dried place into air-tight containers.  I like mason jars.  Store in a cool dry place.  Mine keep over a year.  To use: rehydrate with boiling water for 10 minutes or place in grains while they are cooking.  Or make the spaghetti sauce from kids rule and put in a combo of all three tomatoes for a really rich, hearty sauce.

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Zucchini 3 ways

I generally prefer to only preserve green summer squash, the yellow never tastes as good as fresh.

1.  Grated and Frozen: If you have a food processor and a lot of large zucchini, this is a great way to freeze a lot quickly.  Cut your zucchini lengthwise into 2-4 long strips (depending on what will fit in your food processor).  Have a measuring cup and quart size freezer bags or desired storage container.  Put the grater attachment on your food processor and grate all of your zucchini.  I like to measure out 2 cup portions and freeze in baggies.  Use in baked goods, oatmeal, that great kid’s rule tomato sauce, zucchini fritters, and more. (just make sure to squeeze out excess water before using!)

2.  Roasted: Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut zucchini in half and then cut those halves lengthwise into 2-4 pieces depending on size.  Toss with olive oil, salt, and favorite italian herbs.  Arrange in a single layer on a tray.  Roast until just tender and browning tossing occasionally, about 30 minutes.  Arrange on a parchment lined cookie sheet in a single layer.  Once one layer is full add another piece of parchment on top.  Freeze.  Once frozen place into desired freezer container and you should be able to pull out what you need for a recipe.  Try in ratatouille, soups, stir fries and more.

3.  Dried:  Try to use smaller zucchini.  Cut into no less than 1/4” thick rounds.  Arrange in a single layer on your dehydrator trays.  Dehydrate for 24+ hours until dried and crisp.  Pour into mason jars and seal with lids.  To use rehydrate into sauces, or grains just like tomatoes.  They will be a nice tender chewy texture.  Or just eat like chips!

Broccoli, Cauliflower, Green Beans, and Peppers 

I would highly recommend blanching all these vegetables before freezing.  If you don’t the broccoli and cauliflower will taste horrible (trust me on this one!).  Wash and cut your vegetable into whatever size you generally use in cooking.  I generally like to cut into usable pieces I can easily add to dishes. Pick out a pot with a steamer basket or a colander that will rest on the sides of your pot.  Fill your pot less than half full and bring to a boil. Have a large bowl ready with ice cold water (to blanch)  Have a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and extra pieces cut to fit your cookie sheet.  Working in batches, put your vegetables into the colander and steam until just bright green (probably 30 seconds-1 minute)-cauliflower and broccoli may take a little longer. You may need to stir them around to cook evenly.  Do not overcook.  Immediately remove the colander from the boiling water using hot pads or tongs as needed.  Rinse with cold water and place in ice bath until cold.  Remove with a slotted spoon onto a dish towel to quickly dry.  Spread out vegetable pieces on the parchment lined cookie sheets repeating this process and adding more layers of parchment after your first layer is full.  Once frozen, carefully gather up the edges of the parchment sheets so that you can “pour” your vegetables into freezer containers.

Eggplant

Roasted frozen eggplant is amazing in ratatouille, and many tomato dishes.  I even used it thawed in my favorite italian quiona salad with balsamic dressing.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut the ends off off the eggplant and cut in half.  Cut into 1” thick strips lengthwise.  Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet and toss with olive oil and italian herbs.  Roast until tender and beginning to brown.  Freeze on parchment paper layers just like the roasted zucchini.

Fennel

If you’ve never tried fennel before, I’d highly recommend it.  While we love it fresh (it aids digestion), my friend swears by roasting it and freezing similar to zucchini and eggplant.  She loves it on pizza, and I’m sure it would be great in grain and lettuce salads.

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Celery

I love frozen celery.  I use it all the time in soups and that tasty kids rule pasta sauce, which I clearly love!  To freeze, wash stems and chop into your desired size piece.  I generally like it on the small side.  Arrange on cookie sheets lined with parchment in a single layer (it’s ok if pieces are touching).  Add more layers if you need to.  Freeze.  Once frozen gather up the sides and pour into desired freezer containers or bags.  They should freeze fairly “loose” so you can grab as much as you need at a time.

Basil Pesto/paste (parsley works great too)

This is a repeat from the spring edition, but pesto is a great way to freeze herbs and get your “greens” in the winter months.  Remove the leaves from your basil plant or bunch.  Wash if needed.  I find a salad spinner with room temp water works best for sensitive basil leaves.  Toss basil in your food processor with enough olive oil to make a paste.  Adding a tiny bit of lemon juice will preserve the color.  Have a cookie sheet ready with parchment paper and scoop Tablespoon size dollops of the paste onto the cookie sheet, keeping them about 1 inch apart on all sides.  Place in your freezer.  Once fully frozen remove from parchment and store in freezer safe jars or baggies.  Freezing it this way enables you to remove them one at a time once they are in storage containers.  Toss in soups, casseroles, quiche, or thaw and use as a dip or spread.  Feel free to add nuts and garlic to make it more pesto like, but cheese doesn’t freeze well in these pestos and green/herb pastes.

In the fall edition I will be talking about kale, potatoes, onions, leeks, winter squash, and more!

For more information check out these links

http://nchfp.uga.edu National Center for Home Food Preservation

www.EverGoodFarm.com

www.EverGoodFarm.wordpress.com

www.pinterest.com/evergoodfarm

 

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