Sunday, September 13, 2009

Summer Preservation Activities

One of the most rewarding parts of working so hard to pick what the summer has to offer is then getting to preserve it for use later. Nothing can beat the taste of fresh strawberries in January or peach pie in February. I also like the idea of replacing store bought condiments with ones of my own creation. Why buy franken-Heinz katsup when you can make your own so easily. So here is a review of what I've put by so far.

Peach Butter: I have canned peach slices and halves in the past and not only was the skinning part a huge pain but we also didn't eat many of them. I'm not a big fan of the syrup I used and K had trouble eating them when they were so slippery. Maybe now that I am baking more I would have more use for them but I was looking for something else. In an attempt to try to use up as many of those peaches as possible I decided to try butter.

I still had to contend with removing the skins and without a good food mill I resorted to a stick blender, which did the job but took a lot of time and wrist strength. I don't think I got it down to the right consistency for butter, it was still a little runny. Otherwise, it smelled and tasted great and I look forward to the possibilities; jam thumbprint cookies and layered cakes come to mind.

Freezer Cole Slaw: I was searching for a way to use up and preserve cabbage that didn't call for fermentation when I saw a recipe in my Preservation For Busy People book that calls for freezing.

It called for shredding up everything, boiling a brine, pouring it over the vegetables and then freezing. I used cabbage from my share, carrots from the market, peppers from my garden and vinegar and celery seeds from the conventional supermarket.

I'm not sure what to expect when I defrost it but I'm waiting for my folks to come and visit so that I'll have some other opinions of its character and some additional mouths to use it up if it is good.

Condiments: In addition to peach butter, I also experimented with a few other canning recipes from my Ball Complete book of Home Preserving this summer. First was a fruit katsup that was equal parts peach and tomatoes with some apple too. It turned out a little zesty thanks to the addition of cayenne pepper. It was very, very good and felt extremely gourmet with my fancy fries and primo burger. Then there was a peach BBQ sauce. It didn't yield as much as I wanted but I attribute that to having very thick peach skins and no food mill. It was also very good. Then I made both a tomatillo and a fruit based salsa. I haven't tried them yet so I don't know if I will make them again or try something else.

Grape Juice: Finally, I tried making grape juice from the handful of too tart for just eating concord-type grapes that I got from my farm share. I washed and picked each grape and then, using my new mini-masher, crushed the heck out of them. Next I boiled them over med heat and continued to periodically re-mash anything that looked the least bit solid. Once, it was done cooking I strained the resulting mash through a strainer and ended up with about 1 cup of concentrated grape liquid. It was still a little tart, though much better than eating them whole so I stirred in some local honey. I filled the rest of the glass with ice and a dash of water, mixed it up and enjoyed my first glass of real grape juice in almost 20 years.

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