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Preserving Summer

August 4, 2011

By Jennifer Chaky

Eating local is easy to do in the summer, with the bounty of fruits and vegetables available, but the colder months are often a different matter. Here are some ways to extend the harvest to last throughout the winter.

  • Freeze. Keep a bag or container in the freezer and throw in veggie scraps like carrot tops, kale and broccoli stalks, tomato and onion ends, herbs etc. When the bag is full, cook up a big pot of stock by boiling the vegetables in a few quarts of water until they are colorless. Strain and divide broth into small jars or ice cube trays and freeze to use in cooking throughout the winter. Fresh produce like broccoli and green beans can also be steamed lightly and blanched in ice water and frozen to be enjoyed on a chilly day when fresh produce is not around.
  • Ferment. Any produce can be fermented (pickled): cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, even fruits like apples. Pickled produce can be used as a condiment or side dish or yummy snack. Fermented foods were once part of humans’ diets and served an important function by adding beneficial bacteria to our guts. Nowadays all our food is pasteurized, which kills these great enzymes, so our digestive tracts are not replenished with the healthy flora it needs. Eating some fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles can really make a difference in your digestive health! This is my favorite website to learn more how to ferment at home:
  • Can. When the backyard garden is dripping with juicy tomatoes (and other produce), instead of letting them rot on the ground, you can seal their goodness in glass mason jars and make your own vitamin-packed homemade sauces and soups all winter. Buying a canning kit will pay for itself when you don’t have to buy expensive store-bought canned foods. There are loads of videos and how-tos on canning on You Tube and blogs.
  •  Dehydrate. Dried fruits are expensive in the store but easy to make at home. You can buy a dehydrator, and if you eat a lot of dried fruit, it will pay for itself as well…or you can use the summer sun to dry fruits for free! I don’t have a lot of personal experience with dehydrating foods, but now that my daughter decided she loves dried fruit in her school lunch, I am going to explore it. Here is a good site I found. I am inspired by my friends who have home dehydrators, and one friend who made an awesome cold frame for solar dehydrating.

Don’t let this summer pass without preserving some of its abundance. This is what our forbearers did to survive the winter and it’s just as useful now. Instead of over-packaged, highly transported foods, we can create our own self-sustaining pantries and save that trip to the store!

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