WILD HARE WEEKLY SUMMER#16/18
I just scrambled in from the pepper beds, soaked from a squall of rain that swept through just a moment ago. The farm, both our fields and our people, have nearly forgotten what it is like to feel rain like this. It marks a significant transition in our Harvest year. The lettuces and fall brassicas will love it, but in the open field, our field tomatoes will likely succumb to splitting and decay. It has been a beautiful run, but now it is time to be sure and tuck some away to savor over the next few months. In fact, that is what Mark and the crew did with a break in the action last week. Mark and I used to do a whole lot more things like this, back before we were parents to a child and owners of a business. Some of you out there reading this are marvelous preservers, and trust me, Mark is one of the best know. (Someday, I hope we can extract him from his tractor long enough to host one of our infamous “Putting up with Mark” workshops). But at some point for us, boiling up a water bath canner and chasing a child around the house just didn’t go hand in hand. So, when a member of the CSA asked me to send out some advice on how to preserve food in lieu of recipes this week, I found myself initially digging into the archives of my brain, longing for simpler times (ha!). But the more I thought about it, the more inclined I was to share with you what preservation actually looks like for us, busy farmers and tired parents who are surrounded by infinite potential and an endless collection of (empty) mason jars.
We do a lot of freezing now, and we are super lazy about it:
Rapini, Spinach and Cilantro—whenever they’re left over, we wash, spin and pack them into freezer bags raw. Some people prefer to blanch or steam their greens ahead of time, which you can certainly do, but for greens that we plan to use in pasta, curry, smoothies or soups later on, we just don’t bother. True story—if you plan on cooking them eventually, you can simply toss tomatoes into freezer bags whole. No peeling, no blanching, no coring—just grab a quart sized baggie (or container of your choice) and save those precious babies for a rainy day in February when you could use a treat. The skins break down and slip away fairly easily after being frozen. You can do the same thing with most fruit. Don’t have time or desire to make jam in August? Freeze the fruit now and make up holiday gifts in November when your kitchen is cool again. Last week, I shared this method for making Basil Pesto—it isn’t too late to put some of that away in the freezer either.
We fridge pickle:
For your own health and safety, if you’re going to make shelf stable pickles, you need to use a recipe from a reputable source (like a University Cooperative Extension or printed publication). But if you’ve got a little spot in your fridge to keep a few jars without the hassle of full canning, you can make and preserve pickles using the power of refrigeration! Anymore, we typically pickle some onions, because Hazel and Mark like them on Sandwiches and I like them on salads. But the trick is to find a brine you like. Here are a couple to consider and tweak to your liking from The Kitchn and our personal fave, The Zuni Café Cookbook Onion Pickle. My mom makes sweet pickles in a brine of equal parts vinegar, sugar and water, packed with Cucumbers and Beets throughout the summer and fall that she stores in a big-tall jar in the fridge. They disappear as snacks at family gatherings (or whenever Hazel comes to visit overnight).
As of recently, we make fruit leather:
When the fruit gets “jelly in the belly” ripe and you’ve got lunches to pack, or are a grown human who still loves gummy snacks, this is a super fun option. Full disclosure, I tend to be a low-to-no added sugar type, so I made a tray of fruit leather for the first time last week using 3 cups of way too ripe Plums and Pluots, 1 tablespoon of Chia Seeds, ½ tsp of Vanilla Extract, a blender and my food dehydrator. The result was delicious, and I now have a fridge full of sweet fruit treats. If you have a food dehydrator, you can check your machine’s recommended settings, but if you don’t, you can still make batches of this stuff with a standard kitchen oven at low temp and some baking parchment. Keep this in mind when you have handfuls of overripe fruit of all kinds, or even a freezer overrun with blueberries.
We infuze booze:
In the name of self preservation, we make cordials and preserve things in alcohol. Our methods range from those found in books to those we’ve picked up from little old ladies who used to shop our markets in Brooklyn. (I’m too superstitious to share the methods). But I will say that one of the easiest ways to get started with something like this is in the form of a Rumtopf or Bachelor’s Jam as early on in the season as you can.
So there you have it—perhaps we one day while away the hours with our canning tongs listening for popping lids again. But for now, this is how we hold onto a little summer (when we’re up to our elbows in it). Have a great week and be sure to sign up for your Fall CSA Share ASAP!
IN THE FARMSHARES THIS WEEK:
Flavor King Pluots