Category Archives: Preserves

Preserving Fresh Produce, or The City Kid Goes to a Pick-Your-Own

So tasty! So healthy! So PRETTY!

So tasty! So healthy! So PRETTY!

The DH has never been to a Pick-Your-Own farm, at least not in Canada, so I figured it was high time he experienced the fun that is sweating in the fields. I find that the further you drive out of the city, the cheaper the PYO prices are, but the DH, my sister, and I only wanted a half-day jaunt, so we didn’t drive too far. As such, the cost of the PYO was actually roughly on par with what you’d pay in a store. So why did we do it?

Well, aside from the novelty factor (and yes, I recognize that only a city kid could say that), it makes for a shorter distance between farm and table. You pick the fruits and vegetables at their peak, as opposed to having them picked before being fully ripened and then being either falsely ripened in a facility, or just never fully ripened. So it’s healthier and more nutrient-rich! And, when it comes to strawberries at least, also tastier!

The family and I picked autumn strawberries (did you know there was such a thing?), green beans, and baby eggplants. I like to store strawberries in the freezer so that in the winter I can make delicious fruit dishes without having to pay through the nose (what an expression!) for fresh ones from out of the country, or frozen ones with the prices jacked up. So, today I’m going to show you how to freeze your strawberries and blanch your beans for freezing!

First things first…show me the produce!

Oh, the strawberry dishes I'm dreaming of!

Oh, the strawberry dishes I’m dreaming of!

Freezing Strawberries

Wash and de-leaf (and possibly hull) your strawberries. Place on cookie tray in freezer until semi-frozen. Place semi-frozen strawberries in freezer bag. Label. Done! Luxuriate in your pioneer prowess!

And now on to the beans! Let’s get blanching!

Blanching Beans for Freezing

Wash beans and snip off the ends. Cut in pieces if you want. Boil water and dump beans in water for 2-4 minutes. Drain beans and dump into container of ice water. When cool, drain and place in freezer bag, making sure to empty out all air. Label. Done! Boast about your homemaker skills on twitter, because everyone should know just how hard you work!

Ice, ice, baby! (Does that reference age me?)

Ice, ice, baby! (Does that reference age me?)

And…that’s it! It’s really not that hard. It’s a good feeling to know that you’ve put up fresh produce; when you pull it out of the freezer, you remember the day you picked it.

What happened to the eggplant I picked, you ask? Well I’m not really sure how to preserve it. So I’ll likely just sauté it in some oil with a dash of sesame oil and eat it as a side dish. Mmm…I do love me some eggplant. When it’s done properly, the bitter juices have been drawn out and the sugars caramelize and make a luscious dish. Maybe I’ll make some now! What’s your favourite way of preparing eggplant? Let me know in the comments!

Next Post: Most likely the promised Oatmeal Substitution Bread. Or a Salsa Smackdown. We’ll see what I’m craving tomorrow!

 

Cornbread with Strawberry Peach Jam

You know how I said that this post would mention why my wedding thank you cards are late? It’s because it’s so easy to become distracted with new and shiny projects when there are slight blocks to doing chores. Although, technically, the thank you cards aren’t late. According to the general rule of wedding etiquette, one has a year to write them. I’m just on month 6. But am feeling horrible about not having them ALL done already (just about a third done so far). If anyone who was at my wedding is reading this, the notes are on their way! Am diligently writing out my appreciation and gratitude for your caring, friendship, and generosity, one thank you card an evening. My slowpoke schedule does not reflect my genuine thankfulness.

And speaking of new and shiny and blocks to doing things, that’s this post all over! I was planning on doing Part II of the Poundcake Smackdown this evening, but…I ran out of flour. I finished work too late to go shopping and the DH worked late too so he couldn’t. But I was itching to cook (New! Shiny!) something yummy to eat. I had just about a cup of flour leftover, so I decided to make some cornbread, since that was on my brainstorming list of meals-to-make-with-ingredients-already-in-the-house, that I write up every now and then and stick on my fridge. And since we had some yummy peaches in the fruit bowl, and some strawberries in the freezer, I decided to make strawberry-peach jam!

But, just like I had run out of flour, I didn’t have any eggs, and I needed eggs for the cornbread. Meh, I’m the Queen of Substitutions, so a tablespoon of ground flax seed and two tablespoons of water later, I had a flax egg! (It’s a thing, really. Google it.) Basically, if you let it soak, it gets a bit thicker and acts as a binder, the way an egg would.

And I had more peaches than the recipe I was using called for, so I tossed those in with the strawberries and just added an extra bit of lemon juice and honey to even things out. But as I was cooking it up, it seemed a bit runny to me, so I added a dash of fruit pectin. I don’t have a food processor like the recipe called for, so I mashed it by hand and then blended it.

Jam Fruit

The purdy, purdy fruit being cooked.

And did I mention that I didn’t have any cornmeal either? What I did have was a very roughly ground corn flour from Venezuela that the DH insists is the only type of corn flour one can use when making Venezuelan recipes, so hey, I substituted that for the cornmeal! (I really am the Queen of Substitutions.)

Up with substitutions! (Pan brand corn flour & ground flax seeds)

Up with substitutions! (Pan brand corn flour & ground flax seeds)

Want to make some too? The recipes, dear readers:

Rustic Cornbread:

  • 1 c. cornmeal (I used Pan brand corn flour, a mixture of the very coarse one and the finer textured one)
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c. white sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. ground flax
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 1 1/2 c. milk

Mix up the ground flax and water and let sit for two minutes. Then add the rest of the wet ingredients and then add the dry ingredients. Mix. Pour into a greased muffin tin and bake at 400 until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick pushed into the centre of the muffin comes out cleanly. Makes about a dozen muffins.  What did I do? Well, if you ready this far, you know I had to do something differently. I used a mini muffin pan and a tortilla shaper pan to get some cool shapes. Why stick to the ordinary?

Strawberry-Peach Jam

  • 2 c. strawberries (I used frozen, about a stuffed sandwich bag full)
  • 3 peaches (cut up into chunks)
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/3-1/2 c. honey
  • 1 tbsp. fruit pectin

 Plop all the ingredients into a pan on the stove, put on medium heat and cook until soft. Mash up until chunky, or use a hand blender if you prefer a finer jam. Boil until the jam turns a deeper red and there is foam on the top. Pour into sterilized jars and boil sealed jars for 15 min. to process. Take out and cool the jars on the counter. Once you hear the jars pop (the seals being sucked in as the jam cools down and contracts slightly), they’re ready for storage! Or, you can just pour the jam into a pretty container and keep it in the fridge for a few weeks (if it lasts that long, because yum!). Makes about 2 1/2 jars.

Time to make cornbread AND jam: start to finish, 90 minutes, including washing the dishes and eating the fruits of my labour. Z-snap!

Eat me!

Eat me!

And…the finished product! Was delicious! I stuck the loaf-ish thing into the freezer to have with chili or soup some time, and happily nibbled on the mini muffins. Now THIS is cornbread! It actually tastes like corn! Real corn! (And I’m pretty sure I saw a piece of corn stalk in the flour, so it really is rustic-style cornbread.) If you like thick jam, definitely add several tablespoons more of the pectin, as the version I made was more runny than some people like, I think.

I was trying to get across how adorable and cute the mini muffins are, but they look like they could be the same size as regular muffins so I was playing around with some different staging ideas to get a sense of scale. (Be gentle, I’m a cook/baker, not a food photographer, but I’m trying!)

I’m tiny, sooo tiny! *sung as Eliza Dolittle but with more squee*

I’m tiny, sooo tiny! *sung as Eliza Dolittle but with more squee*

What do you guys think? Do they look small? Let me know in the comments! And, do you guys substitute stuff?

Next Post: Part II of the Pound Cake Smackdown. Really. I’m pretty sure this time.