Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Going on Vacation? Don't Toss Those Veggies!

Great tips from our friends over at Silver Lake Farms. Thanks Tara and Shelly!

Going on Vacation? Don't Toss Those Veggies!

Summertime is vacation time for many, and clearing out the refrigerator is a pre-vacation ritual in my house. With our compost pile and our chickens, not much food goes to waste. But between our garden and the CSA, I can still find my refrigerator full of beautiful fresh produce just days before I leave town. Lately, I've taken to figuring out ways I can preserve my fruits and veggies for later use. Here are a few tips you might find helpful if you find yourself in the same situation.

Summer squashes, eggplant, peppers, mushrooms, and leeks can be sliced and sauteed in a little olive oil until just tender. When cool, pack them in freezer containers and freeze. Use them later in soups, stews, or as toppings for pizza. Remember, they've already been cooked, so add them toward the end of cooking. Defrost and pat dry before using as a pizza topping.

Corn kernels can be cut off the cob raw or after lightly steaming the corn. Allow the corn to cool before packing in freezer containers and freezing. Use the corn in corn chowder, corn pudding, soups, and stews.

Tomatoes lose their structural integrity when frozen, but they can still be used for tomato sauce. If you don't have time to make a slow-cooked tomato sauce before you leave, peel the tomatoes and freeze them whole. They'll be just fine for sauce when you return.

Berries can be frozen whole on a cookie sheet, then packed into freezer containers and frozen. They'll be mushy when you defrost them, but they're fine for smoothies and for mixing into yogurt or oatmeal. Or use them to make jam or preserves.

Stone fruit should be pitted, peeled and sliced into sections, then frozen on a cookie sheet and packed just like berries. They'll be mushy, too, when defrosted, so use as you would berries.

Turn fresh herbs into pesto and freeze the pesto. Don't add cheese until you defrost it.

Root veggies keep for weeks in your fridge, so carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions and the like will probably been fine while you're gone. However, sometimes I chop and cook carrots and parsnips in a little broth or water until very tender. When cool, I puree them until smooth and pack in freezer containers. I'll turn these purees into soups when the weather turns cooler.

Of course, you might be able to take some of your fresh produce with you when you travel. I frequently pick green tomatoes from my garden and let them ripen on my trip. I'll eat them days later when they're ripe with some locally-bought fresh bread.

If you're really pressed for time, just pass along your fresh fruits and veggies to to friends and neighbors. Who wouldn't love to get some of summer's best.

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