Jenny’s back! She came by last week to help us start our gardens and now she’s here to give all sorts of amazing tips on food prep, preservation, and making produce last for the long haul. Megan and I are so inspired we’ve been visualizing our new kitchen areas to equip us to make the most beautiful foods. Go on, imagine yourself into your very own sauces, spices, frozen veggie filled dishes!
Fast Food Prep for your Fresh Veggies/Fruit – Edition 1
For those of you who grow your own gardens or frequent farmer’s markets, there are many vegetables that you may want to savor and even preserve. I will be continuing this post throughout the growing season to help you make the most of your own or farmer’s market veggies. These posts will mainly be focused on freezing, dehydrating and ideas to speed up food prep and preservation. We all have busy summers and it seems overwhelming to add an extra thing to our list, but you will be thankful in the winter when you are eating those veggies you grew or bought locally. I have been learning and practicing food preservation for the last four years and have come across some time savers along the way. My hope is that you’ll learn some new ideas and maybe try some new vegetables.
I’m not trained in food preservation, but have taken classes and learned a lot through trial, error and reading. I’d highly recommend taking a canning or food preservation class for even more detailed instructions.
- Put some thought into what your family eats a lot of and freeze, dehydrate, and can what you will use from your list. My first year I went crazy canning and freezing on top of farming full time and being pregnant (I was very tired), and didn’t end up using a good amount of it since it wasn’t foods we used a lot of. I was too excited to try new recipes rather than focus on foods I’d eat. What I’m trying to say here is make sure to use your time wisely since food preservation can be time consuming!
- If you aren’t growing your own veggies, check at farmer’s markets and natural food stores for bulk quantities of your favorite veggies. This often will give you the best price.
- If possible, tackle food preservation in small amounts. In the peak harvest season I’ll often try to set aside 4 hours in my week to do this.
- Make sure your kitchen is clean, and it can’t hurt to wipe all your surfaces down with a bleach solution. I’m all about dirt outside but not a big fan things that can spoil my food!
- Most of my freezing involves parchment paper, and I find if the veggies are on the dryer side you can generally reuse the parchment a few times. I also use these all the time.
Spring Veggies + Fruit You’ll Want to Save!
There always seems to be a bounty of scallions in the spring. One year I felt really guilty about composting some unsold scallions and my husband suggested I dehydrate them. Little did I know this would be come one of my most used kitchen pantry staples. Here’s what you do:
Wash and trim the root end and any brown parts off of your scallion, scissors is handy here. If onions make you cry, be prepared to weep if you do them in mass quantities like me. Chop them, green stems and all, like you would for a salad. Don’t worry if they aren’t perfect or your pieces are too big. Spread them onto your dehydrator trays. I use the vegetable setting on my dehydrator and I think it takes a good 24 hours to fully dry out. I store in mason jars and usually use up in a year when they are starting to get less fragrant. I use them crumbled up in everything; salad dressings, egg dishes, sweet potato pancakes, soups, and you can even grind into a powder and use like onion powder. I feel like they save me time in the kitchen and add a lot of flavor.
Pesto and Leafy Vegetable Paste
We love pesto here at the farm. It’s very versatile, adds extra green to your diet, and makes a quick and easy meal. It’s a great dip for vegetables, good on potatoes, eggs, and much more. Pesto can be make from many different vegetables. Some spring veggies to try making pesto with include, spinach, arugula, cilantro, baby kale, and garlic scapes.
Freezing a herb or leafy green paste
Remove the leaves and the thick stems and wash your green. (I just chop the main leafy part off with herbs and keep some smaller stem in) To wash bunches of greens/herbs I run the whole bunch under water and then shake off excess water in my sink, otherwise a salad spinner works great with herbs and greens. Place greens in your food processor with enough olive oil to make a paste. Adding a tiny bit of lemon juice will preserve the color. Have a cookie sheet ready with parchment paper and scoop tablespoon size dollop of the paste onto the cookie sheet, keeping them about 1 inch apart on all sides. Place in your freezer. Once fully frozen remove from parchment and store in freezer safe jars or baggies. Freezing it this way enables you to remove them one at a time once they are in storage containers. Toss in soups, casseroles, quiche, or thaw and use as a dip or spread. Feel free to add nuts and garlic to make it more pesto like, but cheese doesn’t freeze well in these pestos and green/herb pastes.
Freezing snap peas and asparagus
If you are lucky enough to have extra peas and asparagus to freeze here’s how I do it. Pick out a pot with a steamer basket or a colander that will rest on the sides of your pot. Fill your pot about half full and bring to a boil, meanwhile, wash and trim your peas or asparagus and cut into pieces if desired. I generally like to cut into usable pieces I can easily add to dishes. Get a large bowl ready with ice cold water (to blanch) Have a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and extra pieces cut to fit your cookie sheet. Working in batches put your peas or asparagus into the colander and steam until just bright green (30 seconds-1 minute). You may need to stir them around to cook evenly. Do not overcook. Immediately remove the colander from the boiling water using hot pads or tongs as needed. Rinse with cold water and place in ice bath until cold. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a dish towel to quickly dry. Spread out vegetable pieces on the parchment lined cookie sheets repeating this process and adding more layers of parchment after your first layer is full. Once frozen, carefully gather up the edges of the parchment sheets so that you can “pour” your vegetables into freezer containers.
Follow the instructions above but steam the spinach until bright green which will probably be less than 30 seconds. Spread out on parchment lined sheets (it’s ok if the leaves touch). Once frozen and in bags you can grab handfuls to put in smoothies, soups, egg dishes and more.
Freezing bok choy
Again follow the instructions for peas and asparagus. I generally just chop up and freeze the stem, but you may do the leafy greens similar to spinach. Makes a great quick stir fry.
We love to use frozen strawberries. Almost everywhere in the country has u-pick farms, which is usually your best deal for bulk berries if you don’t grow your own. Look out for organic or no-spray farms since berries tend to be heavy sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. To freeze prepare parchment lined cookie sheets. Wash and hull your berries (cut out the green stem, and white part) cut into pieces if desired. Spread onto cookie sheets and freeze. Once frozen put into freezer containers.
Chive blossom vinegar
Chive blossom vinegar is a fun project when you have chives that have all flowered. You’ll need white vinegar, chive blossoms, and a jar. Snip off about 2-3 cups of flowers for a 1 quart mason jar. If they are dirty wash and dry them, but do this only if you need to. Place blossoms in jar and cover with vinegar. Let sit in your pantry for about two weeks until bright pink. Strain your vinegar and discard flowers. Store in old vinegar jars. This makes a great onion flavored salad dressing and it’s gorgeous! Store larger quantities in a cool dark place.
In the summer edition I will be talking about kale, tomatoes, beans, parsley, peppers, and more!
Happy Cooking from Jenny at EverGood Farm