Summer Roundup – A Whole Lotta Veg

We are in Week #8 of our CSA share, and we have a lot of veggies. We’ve been camping the last few weeks, and only home for a couple days at a time-just enough time to pick up more veg. Squash and cucumbers, both slicing and pickling, are in great abundance. I have canned dill pickles and made a big jug of refrigerator pickles. Cucumbers are great to take camping; they keep in the cooler well, and with just a little dill, salt, olive oil and vinegar, sliced cukes make an easy, tasty salad.

What to do with all that squash? No, you do not have to sneak around the neighborhood in the dead of night leaving squashes on your neighbor’s porches. You’re just going to get them back anyway, because your neighbor’s garden is as full of squash as yours is.

I don’t can squash; that’s just not appetizing, and I don’t have the pressure canning technology. I freeze zucchini grated raw; it’s great in soups in the winter, and works fine in bread recipes as long as you defrost it about halfway, and squeeze out some of the moisture. My favorite is Zucchini Cheddar Bread from Joy of Cooking.

Squash of all types is delicious in marinara sauce, and I make big batches to freeze in meal-size portions. So there’s another way to preserve squash for winter. I discovered a new way to preserve squash for freezing and using later: squash pureé for use as a soup base. Just chop it, cook it down in a little water, pureé it in a blender or food processor.

The key to freezing long term is the proper containers. Ziploc freezer bags are handy, easy, and keep food fresh for a fairly long time. They work best if you remove as much air from them as you can before sealing. Plastic quart containers store a convenient amount of soup or sauce. Just leave a bit of room at the top for the expansion of the freezing contents.

If you’re really thinking of jumping in with freezing a lot of summer goodness, do yourself a favor and get a freezer. You will soon discover that the freezer compartment on your refrigerator is not big enough. Once you have a dedicated freezer, you will find filling it pretty addictive. Start looking for deals at the grocery store on foods your family eats regularly, and buy when on sale. Better yet, start looking for local sources of meats and poultry, and freeze those for future yumminess. Particularly in cold winter climates like here in NH, no one is growing or raising anything for 5 months out of the year. If the energy consumption of an additional freezer seems out of sync with the whole sustainable gig, just think about how much energy is consumed bringing foods thousands of miles to your local grocery store during the winter, and how many trips to said store could be avoided by a freezer jam-packed with local foods frozen at their freshest, most tasty and nutritious moment. Well.

One last tip: my two favorite books about preserving and saving seasonal foods. These books are my food preservation scripture.

1. Putting Food By – Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg, Beatrice Vaughan

This is the fourth edition, and I see on Amazon there is a new fifth edition, but I haven’t seen it yet. All I can tell you is these three ladies led me, step by meticulous step, through my first session of canning 7 years ago, and well, my family and I aren’t dead yet. Dark humor aside, their canning instructions are clear, concise, and comforting to the first-time canner, a great review to the experienced canner. There are some delicious recipes for pickles and relishes, and a wry, wicked sense of humor throughout. There are also sections on freezing, smoking, drying, root cellaring-buy this book.

2. Stocking Up – Carol Hupping, Rodale Food Center

I bought this book primarily for its recipes, as well as another resource for canning and freezing produce. Again, clear, simple directions for canning foods safely, freezing foods successfully, and some non-conventional pickling recipes using less salt, and honey in place of sugar in jams. This is my second go-to book when I just need ideas on “what the heck am I going to do with all of this…”. The Rodale Food Center is a trusted name in food/nutrition/gardening, so I can fully recommend this book.

Well, that’s a lot of info, and not one recipe or picture – sorry about that. But now you have a new project to work on at home. Start preserving summer, right now. It is so wonderful, in the dead of winter, to pull a jar of peaches, pickles, or tomatoes off your shelf,  or a container of marinara sauce from your freezer, and feel that, for a little while, it’s summer again.

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