Making the Most of Harvest Time!
Even though at this time of year I start feeling a little sad at the idea of summer coming to an end, I am delighted to see the abundance of fresh, local fruits and vegetables in our public markets. It’s the time when produce smells good, bursts with flavor and delivers its top nutritional value! Given our Quebec climate, this is the perfect time to preserve our local jewels. In this article, I decided to share some of my favorite preservation methods in the hopes of inspiring you to try one and stretch the bounty and pleasures of summer!
1. Canning and Preserving
It has been a few years now that I make it a point to can fruits, either in pieces or as jam, as well as tomatoes which I have already processed into a ready to eat and use tomato sauce. In comparison to buying already canned goods, doing it yourself allows you to choose the type and quality of ingredients, avoid bisphenol A, a toxic coating found in the lining of canned goods, and save money! Simply sterilize your jars, fill them by leaving a centimeter of space at the top of the jar, and then sterilize your filled jars according to the recipe’s cooking time. Voilà! Sauces, pickled vegetables, pestos, compotes and jams you’ll get to enjoy all year round.
Almost all fruits and vegetables can be frozen! In my opinion, freezing is the simplest and quickest way to make provisions, especially if the idea of canning seems a little overwhelming. It’s also the method I use to avoid food waste. For instance, I freeze fruits and vegetables that have wilted away or become less appealing to eat and use them to make drinkable purées for my daughter or smoothies for me. Most fruits and vegetables can be frozen in a single layer using a cookie sheet and then transferred to freezer bags or containers. Even raw tomatoes can be frozen as is, while some vegetables must be blanched or steamed for a few minutes before freezing.
3. Low Temperature Dehydration
The purpose of dehydration is to remove moisture (water) from food in order to prevent the growth of bacteria, yeast and mold. These foods can then be consumed dehydrated or used in a recipe once rehydrated. There are kitchen appliances made specifically to dehydrate food, but you can also use a conventional oven. Zucchini or apple chips, dried tomato halves, dried herbs from your backyard garden, the possibilities are endless! You can even use this method to turn fruit sauces or purées into fruit leather. For fruits or vegetables that oxidize (brown) when exposed to air, such as apples or potatoes, soak the slices in a mixture of equal parts water and lemon juice at least 10 minutes before dehydrating them. This step is also beneficial for preventing the loss of certain nutrients such as vitamin C, a heat sensitive vitamin.
4. The « Cantina » or Cold Room
This method obviously requires having a cold room in the house, a place that is consistently cool and dry and that doesn’t freeze during the cold winter months. Other than canned foods, some varieties of apples and root vegetables fare particularly well in this type of environment, like regular and sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, carrots, beets, as well as garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, pumpkins and other squash.