There’s something about summer that just screams fruits and veggies. Some of our favorites are in-season during the summer – corn, zucchini, berries, you name it – and we find that produce simply tastes better this time of year (and that totally makes sense, as it’s so much fresher).
Many gardeners also reap the benefits of their plot throughout the summer, enjoying every last drop of planted goodness as the season goes on. Growing a garden in your back yard (particularly an organic one) is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to eat; the food doesn’t need to use resources and energy to travel to you, thereby reducing the impact your appetite has on the earth.
As we know well up here in New England, there comes a time when this fresh summer produce comes to a startling halt. The transition from summer to fall creeps up slowly, with the shortening of daylight, and suddenly we’re headed to the apple orchards to pick the seasonal produce there, rather than in our gardens, which will now sleep for months on end.
If your kitchen is teeming with garden-fresh produce from the days of summer, you aren’t alone. Home gardens oftentimes grow more fruits and veggies than a family can consume. Luckily, there are some easy ways to preserve some of that produce and save it for the next few months – the taste of summer doesn’t have to end quite yet!
And no, we’re not just referring to cucumbers. Pickling is super easy, and is a process that works well on a wide variety of veggies. The basic recipe for pickling is this: veggies + vinegar + salt + sugar + spices. Chop the veggies, boil the other four ingredients together, and place all the ingredients in an air-tight jar. This technique preserves veggies for two months or more. Enjoy your produce all the way into November!
Grab your favorite summer drink flavors – strawberry, cucumber, raspberry – and place it in your alcohol of choice for about three months. Come winter, you’ll have a summertime concoction that instantly brings you back to sunny days on the beach. Even better, infusing allows you to choose exactly how much sugar you add to your alcoholic beverages. Say goodbye to sugar-and-calorie-laden drinks, and substitute the natural stuff!
Fermentation is all about microbiology; small bacteria interact with our food to bring out the flavor in all of our favorite summer veggies. Start with an easy ferment – like sauerkraut or kimchi – and move up from there. Many health fanatics tout the benefits of fermented foods; yogurt is one of the only foods popular in American culture that still contains live microorganisms (good bacteria) that benefit your gut. Fermented foods may just be the answer to your belly woes… and the process does a great job of preserving food.
An easy way to deliciously preserve your favorite summer fruits, making your own jam has an added benefit: controlling your own sugar intake. Many store-bought jams are filled with the sweet stuff, way too much than the toast-topping actually needs. Whipping up your own allows you to control the sugar, and savor the natural sweetness of summer fruits. A quick jam will last for around 10 days in an air-tight container, but to preserve longer, go the canning route.
How do you preserve summer produce?