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MARKET FRESH: You can preserve a little bit of summer
It’s hard to believe September is here. For some, it is a welcome relief, a return to routine and normalcy. For other (mostly students), it is an unwelcome return to routine.
No matter which camp you fall into, September is a magnificent month. I love the cooler mornings. It’s a great time to do a bit of baking and fill the freezer with goodies for lunches.
Actually, September is a great month to put up a lot of food. Fruits and vegetables can be frozen or canned, or even dried, for long-term storage. We drink a lot of smoothies in our house and I just love reaching into the freezer for my fruit, knowing that it is fresh and local. While I do keep bags of individual fruit in the deep freeze, I also keep small bags of mixed fruits at the ready. Pop them into the blender with some plain greek yogurt and fruit juice and you have a healthy, lower-sugar snack — perfect for breakfast.
Prepping fruit for the freezer couldn’t be easier. Blueberries need a rinse, then spread them on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, pour them into zipper lock bags and they are good to go. Strawberries can be frozen whole or cut up. And, yes, strawberries are still available. Many farms grow everbearing strawberries, which can produce fruit right up until October. Peaches require a quick blanch. Bring a pot of water to a boil, pop in peaches a few at a time, let them sit for a minute or so, then remove them with a slotted spoon. The skins will slide right off. Then you can slice and freeze them, again on a cookie sheet.
Although the freezer is my favourite way to preserve food, canning and drying are excellent options, too. Many people find the prospect of canning to be daunting but it really is easy and doesn’t even require fancy equipment. A pot big enough to hold three or four jars fully submerged in water is really all you need.
The most important thing to get right is the seal on the jars. As long as the jars are sealed, you are good to go. When you take the jars out of the water, if the lid is firm, the seal is good. If there is movement in the lid, then enjoy your product right away, it will still keep in the fridge.
Drying food is another good way to preserve the bounty of the season. Again, no fancy equipment is needed, just an oven. Thinly sliced apples, pears, peaches, tomatoes, zucchini can all be dried in an oven. Time is all that is needed here. Place a single layer of your choice of fruit or veg on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and place in a 200 F oven. Check them after 45 minutes or so, turn them over and bake another 45 minutes.
By keeping watch, you can control whether you have a crispy or chewy product. You can also choose to season your produce before you dry it. Apples will, of course, benefit from a dusting of cinnamon but Chinese five spice powder is yummy too.
Whichever method you choose, do take advantage of the bounty available now and put up some food for the coming months. Your tummy and your pocketbook will thank you.
Karen Curtis is the Lemonade Lady (www.kicslemonade.ca and kicslemonade.blogspot.ca) at the Coquitlam Farmers Market. Her column runs once a month during market season.
Here is a recipe for chocolate zucchini bread that my mum used to make. She would butter a slice for me and put it in my lunch. This loaf actually improves after freezing.
CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD
3 cups white flour
6 tbsp cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Sift above dry ingredients together and set aside.
2 cups sugar
1 c canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Beat eggs until lemon coloured, then beat in sugar and oil. Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture, add zucchini and vanilla.
Pour batter into 2 greased loaf pans. Bake 50-60 minutes. Cool in pans 15 minutes, then continue cooling on a rack.