Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I finally have a good garden crop coming in! Not only do I have a bountiful amount of herbs, spinach and rhubarb so far, but my raspberries are finally turning red! To add to that, Brooke and I hit up a local u-pick to stock up on some fresh strawberries and saskatoons as well. What to do with all this wealth? Preserve!
I was surprised that my internet research indicated that a lot of items I was interested in could simply be preserved by freezing them. I have frozen berries this way before, and also dill, but was reluctant to do so for the rest of my produce. I remembered reading Duo Dishes blog back in December (when those Californians are still growing, but we Canadians are not) that they had done the same thing with Rosemary, so I went back and looked up their post. Armed with the confidence gleaned from knowing another blogger had done it with success, I made little frozen packs of all my herbs.
The steps are simple and work for herbs and berries alike:
1. Pick everything as fresh and close to peak seasonality as possible.
2. Some people say not to wash, but I like washing my pickings, even though they are grown organically, just to be safe about getting the bugs out. Just lay them out on a kitchen towel or paper towel and allow them to dry before freezing.
3. Lay everything in a flat layer on top of wax paper or parchment paper on a cookie sheet (this prevents everything from freezing together in a giant lump).
4. Freeze overnight.
5. Transfer frozen stuff into freezer bags or tupperware and label what they are and the picking season they are from (you should use them in the course of six months to a year or suffer the wrath of freezer burn).
I am hoping for a nice full freezer by the end of August that should take me well into the winter eating food with actual flavour as opposed to grocery store purchased herbs and berries, which are ridiculously expensive and sub-par in flavour. Seriously, how can someone charge $3 for a little pack of herbs when half of them are basically weeds they are so easy to grow (i.e. chives and dill). I have now tried and tested freezing: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, saskatoons, mango (got a box for mega cheap last year at Superstore and it kept all through the winter), chives - chopped, oregano, parsley, basil, thyme and rosemary (leaves pulled off the branch), and dill this way with good results. The only major difference is that the colour is a bit off, so they don't make good garnishes anymore, but most can come straight out of the freezer, be chopped and thrown into your meal as it is almost done cooking.
I also preserved some spinach this past weekend, but that I flash boil for one minute, drain and then pack in plastic bags. I am not sure freezing would work quite as well on it, and with the amount of space you save by flash boiling it (it shrinks to about 1/10th the size) it is worth doing it this way. Can't wait to use it all this fall making homemade spanikopita!