Eat Summer Food All Year Long
If you rush out to the farmers’ market or grocery store right now, you may still be able to buy summer squash for $1.25 a pound. Wait another month or two and you’ll be shelling out nearly twice that amount … until next summer rolls around. Depending on the crop, the growing conditions that year and the cost of transportation, the price of produce can jump by as much as $2 per pound off-season. So how can you can you continue to enjoy your favorite summer foods at their low summer prices?
Freeze Before Cooking
Many summer fruits and vegetables can be frozen raw for use later and still maintain their nutritional value. Along with berries and peaches, peppers, squash and even tomatoes can go into the deep freeze and stay there for up to eight months -- a lot longer than many cooked dishes you make and freeze. The National Center for Home Food Preservation and the West Virginia University Extension Service offer these tips for freezing specific veggies:
Peppers Wash, remove stems, cut in half and remove seeds. (You can also cut into smaller slices.) Place on a baking sheet and freeze, then transfer to a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible.
Tomatoes Wash and dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skin. Core and peel. (You can freeze them whole or in pieces.) Pack into containers, leaving an inch of headspace, and freeze. They’ll be mushy when thawed, so use only for cooking.
Squash Cut out any blemishes. Wash and cut into half-inch slices. Put 6 cups of squash into 1 gallon of boiling water, and leave for 3 minutes after water returns to boil. Drain and immediately place in bowl of ice water, with cold water running over it. Pack into freezer containers, leaving a half-inch of headspace.
Another way to preserve the taste of summer tomatoes is to slow-roast them. Here’s how: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Cut tomatoes (any variety) in half, and place cut-side-up on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with 4 cloves of chopped garlic and fresh thyme, season with sea salt and ground pepper, and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Bake for 10 to 12 hours (less than half that time for smaller tomatoes). They’ll collapse, but they won’t dry out. Pack into freezer bags or containers, and cover with oil from the pan.
Relish the Taste
When it comes to canning summer foods, don’t stop with jam. There are many sweet and savory ways to preserve the flavors you love. Search for the recipes online, and give these creative concoctions a shot:
- Peach barbecue sauce
- Blueberry syrup
- Roasted red pepper spread
- Dill pickles
- Corn-and-tomato salsa