Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Preserving the Harvest

Harvest: (n.) refers to any abundance of produce, be it from your own garden, a pick-your-own farm, a farmer's market, or just a good sale at the grocery!

If you're not inundated with summer produce yet, you will be! We're up to our necks in berries in the Southeast, peaches have been coming in faithfully for a little while and are about to really boom, and the mounds and mounds of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, corn, and summer squashes will be making their presence known any day now (some have come in, but the later summer abundance is yet to come). So, what do we do with all this beauty?

1. Eat it! (We believe in gross fruit gluttony at this time of the year--how you can pass up all those gorgeous berries that cost a fortune the rest of the year and now are a mere $2/pound at a local farm? Or, what about the neighbor's peach trees that are heavy laden with peachy goodness?) Stay tuned for our family's favorite peach salad recipe, some jam recipes, and others!

2. Freeze it! An amazing number of things can be frozen with little to no effort. For instance, you can freeze bell peppers by simply slicing and putting them in a ziploc bag. Ta da! Or, lay berries in a flat pan and freeze until firm. Then, dump them all in a ziploc bag. There are a lot of freezer jam recipes out there now, too.

3. Can it! Yes, there are those of us who still can. I've now been "canning" for 10 years--I took a break the last few years, but I'm back at it this year with an inaugural run of blackberry jam (my first jam/jelly attempt and it's turning out great!). I've done salsa and applesauce mostly, but threw in a few jars of apple butter one year. All have been great hits with friends and family. So far, I've done mostly water bath canning, but my sweet hubby bought me a gorgeous pressure canner last year. If my bean plants get their act together this summer, maybe I'll can some beans!

4. Give it away! If your garden is the one producing more than you can consume, then give it away!

If you're new to the "buy all (tomatoes/peppers/cucumbers/etc.) that the store is carrying because it's just so pretty but now what do I do with it all" mentality, then just pick one fruit/vegetable on which to focus. Tomatoes and apples both are fun because there's an abundance of things you can do with them. Find a farm and go wild! Check out the following websites for more info:

Pickyourown.org (also has links to farms in your area)
Ball Fresh Preserving (the major makers of canning equipment)
Southern Living Freezer Jam recipes
Most multi-purpose cookbooks have a section on freezing/canning (Joy of Cooking, Better Homes and Gardens, etc.--note that the new edition of JofC has the canning chapter back in)
Pectin and canning jars usually have directions inside them as well!

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