I remember a distinct moment a few winters ago when I stood in my kitchen, yanked open the refrigerator and pulled out a jar of homemade rhubarb chutney for that night’s dinner. This jar of chutney was my first attempt at preserving something that didn’t live in the freezer. Nervously, and half expecting a putrid smell to waft from the jar, I opened it, spooned some out and had a taste. Not to toot my own horn here, but it was delicious. More importantly, it embodied every bit of that spring rhubarb harvest. Here was summer, in a jar, in the middle of February — I was hooked instantly. The following summer, I took every opportunity to preserve little bits of the season’s goods in manageable batches. Though the ins and outs of preserving continue to be a learned process, I’ve found it key to making sustainable food choices year-round in our (mostly) wintery mountain town. I’ve also found that just like any other form of cooking, preserving food can be something deeply personal; everyone seems to have his or her favorite recipes and summer rituals.
Finding your favorite recipes clearly takes time, but it is helpful to have some guidance. On a recent trip to the Jackson People’s Market, I sought out some preservation strategies from Jed Restuccia and Dale Sharkey of Cosmic Apple Gardens. With more organic and biodynamic goodness at their fingertips than the average couple, these two have found ways to store much of their summer harvest and have graciously offered some insight into their methods. Here is what Jed and Dale do to put summer on the shelf (or freezer) for a cold winter day:
Most vegetables can be:
- Blanched and frozen (especially good to do with those dark leafy greens, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and beans … not so good with any vegetable you wouldn’t eat hot, like cucumber).
- Incorporated into soup like in the recipe below and frozen in containers for a quick winter meal. If you freeze your soup in jars, just remember to leave a generous inch of headspace per pint, or two inches per liter!
- Pickle. Dill, sweet or spicy, pickles are always a welcome snack or ingredient in the winter months (especially good with cucumbers, carrots, beets, onions, beans, peppers, alone or combined). Just remember to either make refrigerator pickles or adjust your canning recipe for altitude and add 15 minutes to the jar’s time in the boiling water.
Root vegetables can be:
- Stored through much or all of the winter packed loose or in sand and left in a dark, cool place like a basement.
- Removed from their greens and stored in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator.
Herbs can be:
- Mixed with olive oil and made into an herb paste or traditional pesto that is stored in the freezer.
- Preserved as sauerkraut or kimchi.
- Removed from their skins and canned.
- Canned as salsa or as a pasta sauce.
This list is certainly not exhaustive, but is an excellent place to start. Even seasoned farmers like Jed and Dale are still perfecting their methods … and are also looking for a perfect canned salsa recipe. Visit the last Farmers Market this weekend and give it a whirl yourself. Play around with some recipes and find what works for you. Here is one of Dale’s delicious soup recipes to get you started. Enjoy a bowl of it this weekend and put the rest of it up for a snowy day.