Monday, September 26, 2011

Fruits of Summer

No recipe today my friends, only an update on what I've been up to these past weeks here. It's not that I haven't been cooking--because I surely have! My Farmers markets are winding down for the season.. with Kennebunk remaining open until mid November. It's been a wonderful season for us, and we recently signed on for a new Winter Market that will open November 12th on Saco Island, located in one of the old mill's restored lofts. . I'm very excited about this new market and partaking with many new vendors and foodie friends. In addition to my herbal soap line, we'll be offering dips, spices and herbal blends of seasonings. Even hubby has leased booth space for his watercolor artwork. If you're in our neck of the woods, do stop on by!

Did you know that I just love gardening! We garden because we love food. Well, that, plus the fact that the exercise is wonderful, though the aching back has it's pitfalls... but the rewards are tenfold. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you can easily see that I enjoy canning during the summer months when the fruits and vegetables are at their freshest, and if I haven't grown them myself.. I know just who has, before they'll go into my jars. This summer was no exception. If anything, I canned and froze more this year than in years past. Jams, jellies, chutneys, sweet pickles, dill pickles, relishes, tomato sauce, whole plum tomatoes, piccalilli, giardiniera, applesauce, dilly beans, peperonata, tomato salsa, hot habanero peach salsa, corn, carrots, brussell sprouts,edamame, roasted tomatoes, hot peppers, and even some herbs. I'm thinking of adding another freezer or a new jelly cupboard in my letter to Santa this year. ;) Wow! After thinking through this list(and I'm certain I've forgotten some) I have to admit, I really did put up a lot this year.

My loot from this summer's bounty--either from our garden, or picked by me in our nearby orchards.

The fruits of summer are living out their final days, and the mind begins to fearfully anticipate a season when the supermarket will again become a source of fresh produce. Ha! At least this is how my mind works. Over the years I have honed in on some easy ways to preserve the bounty of the abundant seasons, mostly involving freezing. These preserving projects are quite simple to do and apart from ample freezer space, require only a minimal time commitment. Here are a few ideas:

Sweet peppers can be cut up into small pieces and frozen immediately in large ziplock bags. If you have never tried this, you will be amazed at how they defrost right in the oil as you sauté them, and how you would never know the difference once they’re cooked. They don’t retain the crunch they have when fresh, so you wouldn’t want to put them in a salad. But they’re great in stir fries, omelets or a saucy peperonata.

Hot peppers are one of my favorite things to freeze. So overly abundant in August and September, I don’t really start craving (or having the time to cook) spicy Thai food until the middle of winter, when the only hot peppers in the stores are ancient, depressed looking things. I just put them whole into a quart sized bag and pull from it all winter.

Other seasonings I have had good luck freezing are ginger—I buy a few pounds and it lasts all year—and garlic. I find that our garlic really only lasts in top shape in our kitchen until the end of December. As it dries out, the flavor becomes too strong to eat raw. So last year I peeled a whole bunch of garlic the week it was picked, when it’s just so fresh and juicy, and froze it in a bag. It turned out to be a great convenience food; I would just grab a clove and grate it, still frozen. This year I pickled a few jars of garlic cloves... they will come in handy preparing salad dressings or a marinades. To sauté the frozen garlic just wait a few minutes for it to partially thaw, then mince it and sauté it like normal. It tastes just like fresh!

You can even freeze some of the more rugged herbs like parsley, thyme and rosemary. I freeze them in plastic containers. No one has ever used a whole bunch of rosemary before it goes bad. Just stick it in the freezer.

Sweet corn is only available for another couple of weeks. Why buy frozen corn in the store when you can make your own for dirt cheap and it tastes so much better? Just cut the corn of the cobs, stick it in a bag and you’re done. Then, make some corn or seafood chowdahs all winter long.

Don’t even get me started on fruit. If you’re diligent, your freezer is already half full with rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, peaches and blueberries. The peaches make amazing smoothies and are great for baking. Warm scones right out of the oven. Sweet or savory galettes. A bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with stewed frozen peaches spiked with local honey or Amaretto in January? Can I tempt anyone?

Last week, there were a few firsts for me here. Firstly, I made sausage--hog casings and all, but will save that for another post and secondly I was invited to a 'jar swap' hosted by my friend Sue of Above the Dam Jam. I'd never participated in one of these, so didn't quite know what to expect.

Her instructions: "Make 15 jars of anything you want and show up at 6:00pm and share a bottle of wine with us. You'll love it" And that I did!

As you can see--Sue was thrilled with the turnout, and I was like a kid in a candy store when I saw all these gorgeous jars of summer goodness laid out on her dining room table! Baskets filled with jellies, jams, pickled beets, applesauce, grapes infusing in their juices--(I personally can't wait for this to be ready), pickles, salsa, even homemade catsup and from her Aunt Carol--old fashioned homemade caramel popcorn that curiously disappeared the minute I brought it home. Samples of many opened jars were set out on her counter for all to taste. I've already made chicken with the Zesty Peach BBQ Sauce.. gosh, it was delicious.

Here's some of the wonderful fruits of the season taken at the jar swap & check out that big bowl of caramel corn my other friend Lee is loving. Aunt Carol was kind enough to share her recipe with me, and I know how happy my grandkids will be this holiday season.

As for the wine.. even this was served in small canning jars. Thanks for your hospitality and invitation Sue. What a fun night for me!

Being a family of food lovers, we have learned to preserve. There simply isn’t enough time for us to savor the fruits of our labors and of the seasons in the way they should be: unrushed. I'm often too tuckered to cook in season, and seldom will my oven be turned on unless it rains during the warmer months, so when I do have the time, we devote it to preservation projects. And then we'll savor all that goodness through our long winter months. Preserving allows you to capture fruits and vegetables at their flavorful peaks and enjoy that freshness all year round. Did any of you put up your family's favorites this summer? You'll be kicking yourself in the patootie if you haven't ;-)


Karen said...

Phew! I'm tired just reading about how busy you've been! What a great pantry of delicious foods you've put up. I'm starting a batch of your piccalilli today - we have so many green tomatoes!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I feel like a slouch after reading about all you've been up to. I'll bet it's great having that supply on hand during the winter months.

Proud Italian Cook said...

You are simply amazing! I love that swap party what a great idea, I'm so impressed with all the work you put into preserving!

YankeeSoaper said...

TY all! Karen.. let me know how your picccalilli turns out--hope you like it!

Linda--indeed it is. Somehow it makes me feel closer to Spring having it all on hand ;)

Marie-- I'm not really, but thanks for saying so :+)I simply will not waste food, and with such abundance.. everyone in my family knows what they will find in their XMas stockings. I loved the swap! Brilliant idea..the only thing it lacked was that not many shared recipes--but that's okay too.