Tree Hugger Tuesday: Eat Local, Be The Ant.
Last month’s Tree Hugger was all about how awesome local food is – or, rather, pretty pictures that demonstrated how awesome local food is. Now that you are all inspired to go local as much as possible this summer, I am sure the question you’re now asking yourself is:
How do I eat local, and enjoy this deliciousness, all year round? Summer doesn’t last forever! At least not around these parts…
What, you’re not asking yourself that? What, it’s still summer? You even checked the calendar. Well, unfortunately, I have news for you. Eating local all year round involves some planning – and that starts now.
The thing is, for most of us, summer eventually ends. It gets cold. The sun stops even bothering to show up for more than a few hours a day. As a result, plants die. All that local bounty? Ka-put. The good news? You can still enjoy summer all year round – it’s just that planning for the [long cold icy dark]months of winter has to start early.
Well. Really, it has start when the food you want to keep eating is still in season. Like Aesop’s ant, you need to put that food by while it is still yummy – or you lose your chance.
Now, I can see all of you rolling your eyes right now. Ohhh I hear you. Putting food by? What does that mean – canning? Doesn’t that take forever? Don’t I need special pots? Doesn’t it involve a lot of boiling water? It’s still summer and it’s still hot.
Fear not! I, too, am a lazy mofo who has no desire to spend entire afternoons boiling jars in August. Instead – I freeze.
Well, no, I don’t personally freeze, but I prepare for winter by freezing food in the summer. And while it does require some boiling (veggies often require blanching), it works out well for a lazy mofo like me. What do you do? Easy:
- Vegetables: Simply blanch (quick boil followed by ice bath to seal cuticle) and freeze. Don’t expect these to be awesome when you pull them out – but they’re great for making soups or casseroles when the snow’s falling. I have had broccoli come out nicely, and greens do alright too. Of course, some can be frozen raw: I put tomatoes on a cookie sheet til they’re frozen, then bag ’em. No cooking required. But they’re only good for sauces and soups when thawed.
- Fruit:I put up strawberries, peaches, and nectarines by just freezing. Peaches and nectarines I’ll split, skin, and remove the pit first. Other berries, your raspberries and blues, I’ll put in what’s called a sugar pack first before freezing. Now, you’re supposed to use acerbic acid to preserve things, but I rarely do. The only issue is peaches often turn colors after a day out of the freezer – but I don’t mind this. Fruit is then ready for baking, or mixing in yogurt… or frozen margaritas…
All you really need is a chart of how long to blanch specific veggies, or how much of a sugar pack to use for fruit. I found this amazing PDF guide online, that includes 40 pages of info on freezing things. Really, all you need is the blanching guide on page 10, and the fruit guide that starts on page 14. However, do keep in mind this tip from e-How: “Once thawed, the fruit is best suited for use in baked goods or as an add-in for yogurt or sauces. Vegetables tend to stand up better to freezing and can be cooked directly from the freezer, with no need to thaw them first.”
Voila! Fresh, local food – all year long. But remember, you have to be the ant, not the grasshopper. It’s time to start preparing, kids.
Two helpful resources:
AllRecipes.com ~ “How to freeze fruits and vegetables” The comments are also helpful for additional tips!
Food Freezing Guide
Great resource for more than just fruits and veggies!