Preserving Fruits And Vegetables

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When The Fruit Boat Arrives

High summer brings a boatload of local fruit to the table, from raspberries and strawberries to peaches and plums. Try as we may, we can’t eat it all fresh, so out come the canning jars and all the associated gear. Not everything will get canned, of course. After blanching and peeling and slicing the stone fruit, I freeze the slices in single layers on parchment paper, then package them in freezer wrap for winter pies and crumbles. If the freezer isn’t too full, I’ll mix up batches of fruit pie filling, line pie dishes with parchment paper, then freeze the filling in the pie dish. When solid, pop out the filling, wrap with freezer proof paper and label (!!!). That makes pie making a breeze: line a pie dish with crust, slide in a frozen filling, top with the second crust, flute the edges and bake as usual. Tastes as fresh as if it came straight from the garden and those frozen fillings keep for months.

Of course, there’s always some fruit that isn’t quite ripe or is perhaps a bit sub par in flavor. Among the tastiest things to do with such sad stuff is roast it. Roasting awakens the latent sugars hidden in sour fruit and dull vegetables as well. When big fat cherries taste bland, roast them for 20 minutes and prepare to be amazed. Same with peaches and nectarines, or plums and pears. You can then use the gilded, caramelized results in all sorts of dishes, savory or sweet. For starters, try mashing bits of caramelized fruit into soft goat cheese for a marvelous garnish for roast chicken or grilled fish. You can also freeze these roasted gems and use them all fall and winter.

Let The Revels Begin

Here’s another of my favorite treatments, which is beyond delicious. Slightly chewy on the outside, creamy on the inside, each piece retains its own flavor yet also melds with the others.

Roasted Fruit/Root Medley

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons avocado oil
4 cups coarsely chopped ripe peaches
4 cups coarsely chopped carrots
2 cups coarsely chopped sweet potatoes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine first three ingredients in a serving bowl, set aside. Combine last four ingredients on a rimmed baking sheet and gently toss to coat with oil. Spread in a single layer, sprinkle with salt and bake until slightly caramelized (20-25 minutes), stirring once or twice. Immediately toss with maple syrup mixture and serve hot. Makes about 4 cups.

Nectarine Breakfast Crisp

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 coarsely chopped nectarines with their juice
1/4 cup coarse coconut meal (unsweetened)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups rolled oats (old fashioned oatmeal)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Put 1 tablespoon butter into an 8 x 8 inch baking pan and set in oven to melt. When melted, spoon fruit and juice into pan, set aside. Blend remaining butter with coconut meal and brown sugar, then blend in oatmeal, making a coarse meal. Spread evenly over fruit and bake until crisp (30-40 minutes). Serves at least one.

Sweet/Hot Pepper Jam

8 cups chopped peppers (mix of sweet and hot types)
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 cups cider vinegar
3 cups sugar

Grind peppers in a food processor to a coarse mixture. Put in a bowl, sprinkle with salt, cover bowl and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours. Drain (save liquid for gazpacho) and combine peppers with sugar and vinegar over low heat. Cook, stirring often, until thick (40-50 minutes), then spoon into hot sterilized jars and seal. Process in hot water bath for 15 minutes. Let cure for 2-3 weeks and refrigerate after opening. Makes about 4 8-ounce jars.

Peach & Pepper Chutney

4 cups chopped peaches
2 cups chopped mini peppers
or any sweet/mild types
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sugar
2 cups cider vinegar
1/4 cup chopped preserved ginger
1/4 teaspoon each: cinnamon, salt, and cardamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

In a large pot, combine first 7 ingredients with 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer over low heat until slightly thickened (20-30 minutes). Add spices and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Spoon into hot jars, leaving at least 1/2 inch head room. Seal jars, then process in hot water bath for 15 minutes. Let cure for 2-3 weeks and refrigerate after opening. Makes about 6 8-ounce jars.




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