Summer is coming to a close but that doesn’t mean that you need to bear the winter without your beloved summer produce. Instead, preserve it! A few GP family members give insight into their passion for and knowledge of the many different manners of preserving…
The Perfect Canning Jar
by Liz Neumark
Some girls collect shoes, handbags or baubles. For me, the object of desire is the perfect canning jar – and let me tell you – there is no one perfect model. I love the variety. There are varying sizes and opening widths, each with a different use.
When making jam, I am often thinking about holiday gifts, so I go for the 4-8 oz size – a sweet stocking stuffer. I can make 3 cases of jam from a box of peach seconds, which is very efficient when lots of people expect a jar of my jam. If I lose patience with the jamming process, I go to the 8 oz size that speeds up the process. Those larger jars become gifts to very special people. And it is surprising that for all the jam I make over the course of a season I never use any myself! I’m not sure why but I will make a serious attempt to use the peach/rhubarb/mint jam this year….maybe on vanilla ice cream?
Pickling is different. Here is where I love the wide mouth jars for easy loading and eating. 12 oz - quart size is ideal. I love a straight jar (the pint and a half is my favorite) but the classic quart jar is lovely too. I pickle cucumbers, cauliflower, chow-chow, beets, radishes, daikons, carrots, fennel and onions. When I pickle our amazing Katchkie Farm ginger, I go back to the squat mason jar, as a little pickled ginger goes a long way.
At any given moment, I have no less than a dozen cases of jars in all my favorite shapes and sizes stored under the table. After all, you never know when the urge to pickle will hit – and a good jar, like the perfect peach or cucumber – can be hard to find.
By Marketing Intern Madison Rhea
Freezing food is a way to preserve it. When frozen, microorganisms that cause food spoilage and foodborne illness are inactive, allowing the food to last longer. Most foods can be frozen for preservation except for canned food and eggs in shells because as food freezes it expands, which may cause canned food and eggs to explode. Some foods freeze and defrost more successfully than others. Mayonnaise, cream sauce, and lettuce are examples of food that are better not being frozen. However, people freeze food to not only preserve it, but also to make refreshing snacks.
Some people freeze food because they believe they taste better frozen. For example, yogurt and fruit juices can be frozen into popsicles. Avocado and mango can be frozen and turned into their refreshing counterparts. Bacon fat can be frozen in ice cube trays and then warmed to add into salad dressings or onto popcorn, for example. Coffee can also be frozen in ice cube trays to then be used in iced coffee to avoid having a watered down drink when the ice cubes melt. Additionally, herbs, like basil and mint, can be preserved when frozen in ice cube trays.
A couple freezing tricks. When freezing berries, first freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet before transferring them into a freezer bag to avoid the large ice crystals that make the berries soft when they thaw. Make sure when freezing something hot that it is cooled down before being put into the freezer. When hot food is put into the freezer, it takes much longer to freeze, which could cause bacteria to grow at an exceptionally fast rate, spoiling the food.
By Chef Albert
Hi, Chef Albert here…
Some ask which is better hot pickling or cold pickling. Both are great and it all depends on what your preference is and also what the item may be that you’re pickling – not to mention when you need it.
I’ve found that depending on when I need it and what the item is determine which way I want to pickle something; the amount of space available in my refrigerator or in my dry store pantry area is also a key factor.
I have found that soft flesh foods or food items that are not very dense work well with a quick pickle method. A simple brine, heated and rapidly chilled down, can give you instant quick pickled fruits and soft flesh veggies.
Moving onto the 24-hour fermentation process, this is a more involved method. This involves watching over the temperatures of the first cure period and the level of acid used to cure the product to ensure it’s not breaking the product down to a state where you will have sour baby food if you’re not careful.
Hot packing is for the more mature pickler, entrepreneur, entry level scientist of pickling, or the end of the world extremist. To begin, you need extra shelf space to keep the product after canning. You also need to ensure the items you’re using are very clean and hot packed safely so they can be held for a safe duration and, when eaten, won’t send a person to the ER.
Working with GP and Farmer Bob at Katchkie Farm, we often receive new hybrid veggies that are sent down to us. This year we have a new item, a Cucamelon (photo below). It’s like a miniature version of a watermelon but with a soft textured interior and a crunchy cucumber skin. I’m still in the process of creating a brine for this newbie from our farm. As of now, I’m leaning in the direction of a 24-hour cure process, but this option would make it difficult to keep the natural green watermelon-like color. I’m still undecided on this, and am welcoming any and all suggestions!
Anyhow…for the novice pickler, below is a versatile brine that works well for many products, including summer’s vegetables that are reaching the end of their growing season now.
White balsamic vinegar (for the sweetness)
Plain white vinegar (for the bite)
Water (for the balance)
Pickling spice mix
Good luck with your future pickling ventures!
Another way to preserve vegetables…
By Chef Matt Walker
Last week I had the opportunity to make the beautiful drive up to the farm to hang out with the animals and harvest a few vegetables. I was walking down the rows, admiring summer’s bounty and picking up some of the various produce growing. I was so enthralled by the farm’s offerings that by the time I had made my way around the farm, I had ended up with a plethora of vegetables all in their peak season. I had way more than I was going to be able to eat that night for dinner so I decided to preserve some for this fall and winter. It seemed that the majority of what I had was eggplant, fresh herbs, onions and tomatoes – lots of tomatoes! Here is my recipe for Roasted Preserved Eggplant with Onions, Tomatoes, Zucchini and Herbs.
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced into rounds
4 small eggplant, thinly sliced into rounds
6 or 7 large tomatoes, quartered
4 large fresh thyme sprigs
1 stem of rosemary
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups of extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Arrange the zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes on a large baking sheet. Spread the herbs and garlic cloves over it. Drizzle with some of the olive oil, then sprinkle with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Roast for about 45 minutes or until tender, turning the vegetables over occasionally; until they shrink slightly but are still plump and moist.
Layer the hot vegetables, peeled roasted garlic cloves and remaining fresh sprigs of thyme into sterilized jars, filling them to the very top.
Cover the vegetables completely with the rest of the extra virgin olive oil and put the lids on tightly.
Put the jars aside until they’re cool.
Refrigerate at least 48 hours to allow the flavors to develop. Bring to room temperature before using.