9.30.2013

Farmer's Market Preservation

 
Fall is definitely my favorite season. I love everything about it- sweaters, leaves, cider and pumpkins- with one glaring exception: the demise of the beautiful produce at the farmers’ markets. 


I love walking past the weekly farmstands spilling over with rainbow tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, herbs, greens, and gorgeous bright flowers. The produce is spectacularly more delicious, and more colorful, than anything you can buy during the year at the grocery store.  I get so bummed when I start to see everything disappearing slowly, until the stands close up shop for cold weather. 

So I’m always looking for ways to preserve my farm-fresh goodies and enjoy them year round. I’m too nervous I’ll poison myself if I try canning or preserving, but the freezer is my friend and I wanted to share a few tips to extend your summer bounty into the winter. 

Green Beans

Green beans and other similar vegetables freeze really well using the blanching method:
1.      Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.  Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.
2.      Add your green beans and boil for about 2 minutes, just until that raw vegetal taste is gone.
3.      Drain green beans and drop immediately into ice water to shock, which will set the color and stop the cooking. Submerge for five minutes.
4.      Drain, dry, and pack in a Ziploc bag to freeze.
Stays good in freezer for up to one year.


Corn
There is nothing like the taste of fresh summer corn.
1.      Blanch, as in above method.
2.      Once the corn is cool enough to handle, slice the kernels off the cob.
3.      Lay them out on a baking sheet and slide sheet into the freezer.
4.      Once frozen, you can pile them into a Ziploc bag or freezer container.

It’s important to freeze the kernels on the baking sheet first, otherwise they will freeze together in one huge lump and then you have to use everything at once. Freezing individually first allows you to just take what you need from a big stockpile.

Stays good in freezer for up to one year. 



Bell Peppers
Bell peppers freeze ridiculously well, and are the easiest to handle. Simply slice up your peppers and place them in a freezer bag or other storage container. They’ll keep for up to 8 months.


Berries
Lay berries out on a baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, pile into a container to keep for 10-12 months.
 
Make Soup!
I love making big batches of summer minestrone and freezing individual portions for cold winter nights. Soup will keep for 4-6 months in the freezer.


Other Tips:
  • Don’t forget to date everything, so you know exactly when you stored it and how long you can use it for.
  • Hardy greens like kale freeze well raw, softer ones like lettuce cannot be frozen, and spinach and swiss chard freeze better if cooked first.
  • Herbs are not the same after freezing. Most wilt; basil will even turn black. But while they’re not visually appealing but the flavor is still there, so you can use them for stock.  
  • You can’t freeze a tomato, but you can make sauce and freeze that for a few months. Or try making passata, a version of tomato paste: slow-roast plum tomatoes until they are falling apart, then remove skins and run through a blender.  Freeze in small batches and add to soups, braises, and stews for a flavor hit throughout the year.
Resources:
StillTasty.com: a great website (and iPhone app!) that tells you how long both fresh and cooked food remains safe for in the fridge and the freezer.
National Center for  Home Food Preservation: how to freeze a large variety of fruits and vegetables
My Thirty Spot: tips for better short term storage of produce 

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