It’s finally that wonderful time of year when the garden is full of produce, but here in Vermont a chill nips the ears and neck on early morning harvest missions. Many of us have already seen the first frosty weather, so now is the time, before a hard frost claims our heat-loving eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and cucurbits, to claim those flavors for ourselves. It’s the period old-timers no doubt recall wearily, since it meant hours of canning over a hot stove to put enough by to make it through the long winter. Nowadays, however, food preservation can be fun, fast, and easy, given the wide variety of appliances and tools we have available. Here are some of the favorite traditions of our staff at High Mowing…please feel free to comment and share your own recipes!
Easy Frozen Bell Peppers
I really love freezing colorful bell peppers (no green peppers for this gal) at the height of their abundance, in the late summer/early fall. I chop them up raw (no need to blanch them) into a half-inch dice, and then freeze them on a cookie sheet in a single layer (this prevents them from freezing into one big blob). After they are frozen, I scoop them up and put them in a quart-sized freezer bag, using a little or a lot depending on what I am making. I use different color bells and mix them up so each bag has a nice variety. They add some color and flavor to my winter meals of frittatas, pan-fried potatoes, chili, and sautéed with onions for a taco topping!
- Katie L.
Watermelon Fruit Leather and Husk Cherry Raisins
Take ripe watermelon (this works best with a seedless type), slice to 1/4 inch thick, cut around the rind and put the flesh into a dehydrator. Run at med. high for around 24 to 36 hours until flexible but not crisp, a bit like fruit leather.
Props to Amber for another good winter taste: drying ground- husk cherries to make homemade northeast raisins. Enjoyed by all at my house!
Frozen Whole Tomatoes
I tried for the first time this year just simply putting my whole tomatoes in the freezer. I used to make puree and boil and boil to reduce, then can and put on the shelf in the basement just like my grandma always did. But this year, I had zero time because my toddler demanded it all, so I jammed as many whole tomatoes in freezer bags as I could and dropped them in my chest freezer. Well, it rocks. When I want to add tomatoes to soup, chili, etc., I just pull out a few tomatoes, run them under warm water and the skin slips right off. I chop them up and in to the pot they go! Ahhhhh, who knew life could be this easy?
Fermented Hot Sauce - from “The Art of Fermentation” by Sandor Katz
Remove stems. Chop peppers. Add 2% salt by weight. Add garlic, other spices, or other vegetables if desired. Pound to release juices (no other liquid is required) and weight down veggies so that they stay submerged. Ferment like this for a month or longer. If mold forms on top, skim it off. Liquefy in a food processor. This is something special!
Breaded Eggplant Cutlets
More eggplant than you know what to do with? Cut up eggplants into ½ inch slices and lightly salt each piece. Dip each piece in a bowl of flour, then dip both sides in a bowl of beaten egg, then dredge in a bowl of breadcrumbs. Lay the slices on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer when the sheet is full. After cutlets are frozen, pack them in freezer bags for future eggplant parmigiana! Try adding spices to the flour, or hot sauce to the beaten eggs for a unique twist on the traditional.
Dry Beans, Popcorn, Garlic and Onions
I like to grow dry beans and popcorn because they are both really easy to grow, harvest and clean! I store them in glass mason jars, which add a lot of color and texture to my cupboard! I also like to grow garlic and onions because they store well once they are cured.
Easy Fermented Pickles – from “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Katz
Fermentation is an amazing way to preserve fresh garden produce and can be healthier and easier than cooked alternatives. Try this fermented alternative to the traditional canned dill pickle! Experiment with different amounts of salt in the recipe, but keep in mind that higher concentrations of salt will slow down the fermentation process (good for hot weather), while less salty brines will allow for faster fermentation (good for cold weather) and will produce a pickle that is not as sour. This recipe is for sour, fairly salty pickles (a 5.4% salt brine).
Timeframe: 1-4 weeks
- Ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket
- Plate that fits inside crock or bucket
- 1-gallon/4-liter jug filled with water, or other weight
- Cloth cover
Ingredients (for 1 gallon/4 liters):
- 3 to 4 pounds/1.5 to 2 kilograms unwaxed cucumbers (small to medium size)
- 3⁄8 cup (6 tablespoons)/90 milliliters sea salt
- 3 to 4 heads fresh flowering dill, or 3 to 4 tablespoons/45 to 60 milliliters of any form of dill (fresh or dried leaf or seeds)
- 2 to 3 heads garlic, peeled
- 1 handful fresh grape, cherry, oak, and/or horseradish leaves (if available)
- 1 pinch black peppercorns
- Rinse cucumbers, taking care to not bruise them, and making sure their blossoms are removed. Scrape off any remains at the blossom end. If you’re using cucumbers that aren’t fresh off the vine that day, soak them for a couple of hours in very cold water to freshen them.
- Dissolve sea salt in ½ gallon (2 liters) of water to create brine solution. Stir until salt is thoroughly dissolved.
- Clean the crock, then place at the bottom of it dill, garlic, fresh grape leaves, and a pinch of black peppercorns.
- Place cucumbers in the crock.
- Pour brine over the cucumbers, place the (clean) plate over them, then weigh it down with a jug filled with water or a boiled rock. If the brine doesn’t cover the weighed-down plate, add more brine mixed at the same ratio of just under 1 tablespoon of salt to each cup of water.
- Cover the crock with a cloth to keep out dust and flies and store it in a cool place.
- Check the crock every day. Skim any mold from the surface, but don’t worry if you can’t get it all. If there’s mold, be sure to rinse the plate and weight. Taste the pickles after a few days.
- Enjoy the pickles as they continue to ferment. Continue to check the crock every day.
- Eventually, after one to four weeks (depending on the temperature), the pickles will be fully sour. Continue to enjoy them, moving them to the fridge to slow down fermentation.