During the summer, it’s easy to get spoiled by nature’s delicious bounty. Those three sweet months of plump heirloom tomatoes, ripe corn, and fresh peaches always seem too short, especially when you’re in the dead of winter with nothing more than roots and greens to choose from. If you prepare, though, you can enjoy summer’s delicious bounty all year long.
It takes a little work at the end of the summer, but freezing and canning some of the best produce at the farmer’s market is totally worth your while. Spend an afternoon gathering up these five fruits and vegetables that are friendly to freezing and canning, and you won’t have to subsist on rutabagas and kale all winter long.
Corn is only good for about three months out of the year, and the rest of the time, it really doesn’t taste much like anything. During the summer, sweet corn is also much cheaper than anything you’d buy in a can or from a freezer case, sometimes as cheap as eight or ten ears for a dollar. Pick up as many as your arms can carry, and grab plenty of freezer bags. All you’ll need to do is blanch the corn in hot water, shock them in ice water, cut the kernels away from the cob, and store in a freezer-safe container, as described here.
Those mealy, flavorless tomatoes at the supermarket don’t even come close to their vine-ripened, farm-grown counterparts, which means that you should stock up if you want to have good salsa or tomato sauce for the rest of the year. At the end of the summer, scour the farmer’s market for boxes of “seconds,” the ugly tomatoes that don’t sell well, and bring them all home. If you’re ambitious, you can quickly can them without a pressure cooker. Skip the canning and roast them in a low oven before freezing, or, if you’re really, really lazy, just freeze them whole and plan to use in the next couple of months.
Freezing peaches at home does take a little bit of effort, but your smoothies will thank you for it in December, when all the fruit tastes bland. Thanks to peaches’ high acidity level, you can also can them without a pressure cooker. They’ll taste infinitely better than the cans of syrupy, flavorless peaches at the store, and they’re much healthier to boot.
This time of year, fresh herbs are growing wild all over the place, and probably also your garden. If you have to purchase them at a store or farmer’s market, they’re impossibly cheap. In the winter, though, they’ll be $3 a bundle and you’ll spend more on parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme than you did the actual chicken. Use ice cube trays to freeze individual portions of herbs in olive oil, or get creative and make pestos and salsa verdes that will add a powerful dose of freshness to any dish.
You’re probably buried in crookneck squash and zucchini right now, and it’s easy to let this delicate vegetable deteriorate quickly in the crisper drawer. Freezing summer squash is possible, but it doesn’t result in a particularly good texture. Instead, grab some jars and pickle all those zucchini you’re getting in your CSA share. They’ll be a great addition to fresh salads and you’ll have something salty and crisp to snack on (and isn’t a potato chip) all winter long.
Amy McCarthy is Paste’s Assistant Food Editor.
Photo: Tim Sackton CC-BY-SA