Tuesday, July 24, 2012
We've reached the point in the season where we can't keep up with what's ready to eat in the garden. That means it's time to switch into preservation mode. And for me, with vegetables, that largely means freezing.
I've gone the pickling and dehydrating routes, and neither seems to totally fit the bill. I enjoy pickled beets and beans and cucumbers, but there's a limit to how many I want to eat. I understand the economic and health advantages of dehydrating - you don't have all those additions of salt and sugar, and you're not paying to keep things frozen until you eat them. But with the exception of dried tomatoes and fruit leather, I find the end result not very palatable, even disguised in soups and stews.
So most of the excess vegetables around here get vacuum-packed and popped in the freezer. Instructions generally call for blanching vegetables first in order to destroy the enzymes that will cause them to deteriorate. I do that with hardy greens, like kale and chard and beet greens: they get blanched, refreshed in cold water and squeezed dry before being popped in the freezer. But with other vegetables I find blanching makes the thawed product too mushy, so I just clean and chop into chunks and freeze.
The only exception: cabbage, which gets fermented into sauerkraut, of course!
Even though we're now adding a steady stream of food to the freezer, we're still enjoying everything the garden is giving us. In fact, I think that's one of the major differences between Miriam the First-Year Gardener and Miriam the Fourth-Year Gardener: I'm much more inclined to enjoy the food I am growing every day rather than waiting for a special occasion (as I am famous for doing with fennel), or for the vegetable to get bigger (meaning I never got to enjoy baby carrots or potatoes), or freezing it all before I could enjoy it fresh (I think Kim scarcely got her hands on a fresh strawberry our first year here). Now my philosophy is eat fresh first, preserve second.
This was supper last night: two kinds of kale, a rainbow assortment of chard, red and yellow beet greens, red cabbage, broccoli and snow peas, all home grown and cooked in a stir fry with some onions and leftover chicken.
That still amazes me: home grown!