I love summer produce. There is nothing in the world like a fresh, ripe peach or a sliced-up, just-picked cucumber, on a hot summer day.
The problem with summer produce is you can’t really get it three seasons of the year. (Chilean peaches in December are still wonderful, of course, but it isn’t the same.)
I have a garden, and access to plenty of farm stands and farmer’s markets, so I like to find ways to stretch the season and preserve the freshness and flavor of summer produce throughout the year. Especially with the things I’ve grown in my own garden, I really love extending their availability into the fall and winter months.
Here are some great options to preserve fresh summer produce for your year-round enjoyment:
Zucchini bread – I personally am not a big fan of the giant green squash myself, but I grow it in my garden because I love to make zucchini bread. A few tips: The fresher the zucchini, the less wet it will be when shredded. Don’t peel or de-seed the zucchini before shredding. I use a Cuisinart to make shredding really quick and easy. Shredded zucchini freezes pretty well (for future making future batches of zucchini bread) for up to three months when frozen fresh and stored in a freezer bag. The bread itself also freezes extremely well if you wrap each loaf individually in aluminum foil then seal in freezer bags. The same goes for other no-rise breads, like pumpkin and banana.
Canning basics – The procedure and materials required for canning are fairly simple, but the process must be performed to an exact science in order to preserve food that will last and not get funky on your pantry shelf. Can just about anything this year, from fresh summer fruits and veggies to enjoy all winter long, to pickles and tomato sauce.
Freezing fruits and veggies – The most important things to do when freezing produce is to pick fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables, and quickly blanch them in boiling water before immersing them in ice water. Don’t forget to label the bags. When properly frozen, fruits and veggies will last about one year in the freezer.
Drying – You can use a dehydrator, if you have one, or you can just use your oven on the lowest temperature setting. Great produce to try drying include apples, bananas, sliced strawberries, onions, pears, peaches, peppers and herbs. You can also make your own fruit leather.
Seeding – Save seeds from this year’s garden to plant next year. The best kind of seeds for saving are from heirloom plants, since hybridized plant seeds aren’t always designed for home-gardening. Allow seeds to thoroughly dry on newspaper, the place them in paper bags or envelopes, in a cool, dry place until planting time next year. Come spring, test seeds by attempting to germinate a few. If a reasonable number of the seeds sprout, you’re good to go!
What one thing from summer would you like to bottle up and release in the dead of winter? Tell us below in the comments.