RENEE'S SIMPLE PRESERVES
With the abundance around at harvest time, many of us have a squirrel-like instinct to store up food for the winter. Memories of day long sessions in hot steamy kitchens that our grandmothers used to contend with may scare us away from attempting to preserve food. Added to that hesitation is the fact that most families work full time, away from the home and are involved in lots of activities during the summer months. Having experienced this frustration myself, I have developed four very simple preserving projects that your wallet and tummy will appreciate all winter long!
Freezing is the simplest and easiest food preservation method . It takes about one third of the time that it takes to preserve by canning in jars.
BERRIES - Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries
Start with perfect, freshly picked berries from BERRY HILL FRUIT FARM. Cut strawberries in half, place on a shallow tray, sprinkle lightly with sugar and freeze. You may also transfer berries into a freezer bag. Gently squeeze out the air, label and freeze. You may choose not to add sugar; however sugar helps to preserve the flavour of the berries.
HOW TO USE FROZEN BERRIES. Berries may be used in baking or as an ingredient in a winter fruit salad. You can make your jam from frozen berries in the winter when you have more time. Thawed berries are good in yoghurt. Try this easy dessert recipe.
1 C. (250 ml) Balkan style yoghurt (I like Astro)
¾ C. (175 ml) whipping cream
2 Tbsp. (25 ml) sugar
dash of vanilla
1 C. (250 ml) thawed berries
Drain yoghurt in a fine sieve for about one hour until slightly thickened. Transfer into a large bowl. In a separate bowl whip cream, sugar and vanilla together and fold gently into yoghurt. Fold in the berries leaving streaks and spoon into stemmed glasses. Simple & elegant!
There's nothing as delicious as homemade canned peaches. But who has the time? Freezing is a quicker and more economical method. My frozen peaches turned out beautifully!
Start with perfectly ripe peaches, before they shrink or turn soft. Peaches may still be firm but they should have a yellow background colour. Peaches bought from BERRY HILL FRUIT FARM should be allowed to ripen in a dry, warmish room for 3-5 days.
Place peaches in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, lift from water and gently drop into ice cold water for a few minutes. Drain. Peel peaches as quickly as possible, slice into a bowl and sprinkle layers lightly with Fruit Fresh.
Toss gently and place peaches on a shallow tray for freezing, then pack into freezer bags.
HOW TO USE FROZEN PEACHES
Thaw peaches at room temperature and use quickly. Pack frozen peaches in lunches. Mix peaches with berries, grapes and bananas for a nice winter fruit salad. Puree partially thawed peaches and serve on ice cream or yoghurt. And this is my favourite way to use frozen peaches---make a smoothie! When you freeze summertime fruit and use it in this recipe in the middle of the winter, it truly does earn it's Sunshine name.
1 ½ c. frozen peaches
½ C. yoghurt
½ C. milk or orange juice
You may add honey, sweetener, protein powder or wheat germ. Whip together in a blender and pour into a tall glass. Pure sunshine!
Sweet corn freezes beautifully. You won't be disappointed. Natural sugars in sweet corn turn to sticky starch quickly after ripening. At BERRY HILL FRUIT FARM we strive to pick our sweet corn daily at its peak ripeness.
Husk, de-silk and wash cobs. Blanch four to five cobs at a time in boiling water for no more than seven minutes, three minutes blanching will do if you are freezing just the corn kernels. Plunge blanched cobs in icy cold water to cool quickly. Freeze cobs whole, wrapped in freezer paper or freezer bags. You may want to cut the kernels off the cob for freezing in bags. I push the end of the cob in the hole of a bundt cake pan and cut the kernels off so that they fall into the pan. An electric knife works great for this.
WHAT TO DO WITH FROZEN CORN
When cooking corn-on-the-cob, thaw before simmering or steaming. This preserves the flavour and the texture of the corn. Frozen kernel corn may be used in any recipe that calls for corn niblets.
Pepper Niblets Corn
3 C. frozen corn kernels
1 medium red bell pepper
1 onion chopped
1 1/2 C. freezer tomato sauce or can of crushed tomatoes
½ tsp. sugar
2 tsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. ground rosemary
oregano or marjoram
salt and pepper
Saute onion and pepper until soft. Add tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, and herbs. Add corn and stir until heated through. This recipe tastes even better when made ahead and re-heated.The kids will love you!
GREEN & WAX BEANS
Beans are easy and economical to freeze. Choose tender, freshly picked beans in season from BERRY HILL FRUIT FARM. Top and tail the beans while the water in your blancher boils.
Place two large hand-fulls of beans in the boiling water. Count three minutes after the water returns to a boil. Plunge drained beans in ice water to cool. Drain again on a large absorbent towel and dry beans off a bit. Freeze beans in small or medium-sized freezer bags, squeezing out the excess air.
WHAT TO DO WITH FROZEN BEANS
Steam or simmer frozen beans until done the way you prefer. Add a pat of butter and a shake of Mrs. Dash seasonings. These are delicious with a roast beef dinner.
Try this recipe for a special occasion.
Green Beans with Toasted Almonds
1 larger bag of frozen green beans,
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
Toasted slivered or sliced almonds, for garnish
Cook green beans 5 (or more) minutes in 1-inch boiling water, covered. Drain beans and return pan to heat.
Add oil and butter to the pan. Toss beans in oil and melted butter. Season the beans with a little salt and transfer to a serving plate.
Garnish green beans with toasted slivered or sliced almonds. Great for guests!
For flavour, there's nothing like home canned tomatoes. Tomatoes are just not the same from the freezer. Tomato sauce, on the other hand, freezes very well. Try this tasty tomato sauce in stews, soups, casseroles or as a base for pasta sauce.
Freezer Tomato Sauce
10 lbs. firm, ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped (about 20 large)
5 cloves of minced garlic
2-4 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
In a 8-10 quart non-aluminum pan, combine ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Cool before you puree into a sauce. I use a food mill, but a blender or food processor will work too. Ladle sauce into containers, label and freeze.
To peel tomatoes: Dip clean tomatoes in boiling water for a short time until skins split. Then dip in cold water to cool. Peels should slip off in your hands.
HOW TO USE FREEZER TOMATO SAUCE
For Soups: Add water, cooked ground beef or chicken or a can of beans, vegetables & herbs (celery, parsley, carrots, leeks, cabbage, frozen green beans), boullion, salt and pepper. Add noodles, rice or barley. Simmer and serve with crusty bread for a tasty, portable meal.
For Stew: Pour sauce and a little extra water over stewing beef, onion, celery, potatoes and seasonings (your own of from a package). Cook in slow cooker 6-8 hours.
For Pasta: Add cooked ground beef or meatballs to sauce. Add Italian herbs and sautéed onions, and vegetables if desired. Simmer until the sauce is the right consistancy. Serve over pasta with grated Parmesan cheese.