A documentation of my preservation and preparation of local foods as I work through the seasons. This will serve as a reference tool for me in the future and as a sharing guide for family and friends...and anyone else interested. Hopefully, I can offer some useful methods, tips and recipes to share with everyone--be they novice or pro--and encourage them to join me in the exciting world of preserving and cooking with local foods.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Veggie Cups and Cubes

Pictured below are cups of vegetable broth (corn, green bean, potato and broccoli) and a dish of vegetable broth ice cubes (carrot, cauliflower, asparagus, beet, celery, bell pepper).  Their individual flavors are concentrated and somewhat-roasted tasting.   I also have fruit juice cups and cubes (peach, pear and apple).
They're flavorful! They're free!

As for how I make them:  Start with  any vegetable (or fruit) scraps and peelings (as in carrots), stalks (as in broccoli and cauliflower), leaves (as in celery), etc. Also use any vegetables that are getting limp or that you know would otherwise go to waste.  Put the vegetable pieces in a saucepan, add water to cover 2-3 inches and then simmer on low until the water is half volume.  Drain and toss the veggies out (They will be tasteless at this point).   Depending on the amount of broth I have after straining, I either put it in freezer-safe cups or ice cube trays.  Also, when I use a vegetable or fruit I have canned for meals, I pour the leftover juice/syrup into ice cube trays.  When I am blanching veggies for the freezer; I save the veggie water, add in the peelings, scraps or ends and proceed as above.  For corn, I take a huge pot and using the cobs after I have cut off the corn for freezing, pack them in tightly and then add water almost to the top, cooking down to half.  I save all my fruit syrups over the year, freeze them and use them for desserts and canning. 

As for how I use them:  For added flavor to everything I make, I use these wherever I would use water.  I use them for making rice, couscous and pasta;  adding to soups/stews/chilis;  adding to meat broths, sauces, gravies, stirfrys.  Use them instead of water, in all or part, for poaching liquids and brines.  I use these sometimes for just a "hint" of a veggie flavor or when I do not have that vegetable on hand but want it's flavor in a dish.  I use peach and/or pear syrup, saved and frozen over the past year, for making applesauce in the Fall. What a delicious difference!  Veggie broths and fruit syrups are also great for health drinks, smoothies and cocktails.  Use broth instead of water for rehydrating veggies or dry soup mixes.  Use your imagination!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Storing: a bunch of garlic, a leg of onions and my rista

The beginning of my winter storage begins with the crops which have to be picked before a freeze.  summer onions, hardneck garlic and chili peppers 
summer onions, hardneck garlic and chili peppers

Storing Garlic:  Both the softneck and hardneck varieties of garlic store well.  The softneck can be braided and stores longer (6+ mos), but I prefer the hardneck for its easier-to-peel, larger cloves.  I store it in a bunch without any of the cloves touching and in a cool, dark and dry place, it lasts 4-6 months.

Onions:  I store both summer and winter varieties of onions.  I love the sweeter, milder "Candy" varieties of summer; yet the winter varieties are designed for storage as they store longer and maintain their quality better with minimal prep.  Summer onions should be stored not touching; otherwise they will spoil.  An old tried and true method for achieving this is to store them in nylon stockings, see pic above.  I found that a nylon knee-high holds 4-6 onions (knots between onions).  Winter onions can be stored in a bin.  All onions store best at from 35-50 degrees in a dry, dark place.

My rista (string of chili peppers):  I prefer to dry my chili peppers over dehydrating them.  (Dehydrating very hot peppers gives off strong fumes, so do that in a well-ventilated area.)  Tie them by the stem, or use needle and thread through stem, along a string so they are not touching.  Hang them to dry where they'll get plenty of sunlight and fresh air.  It should only take a few days.  After drying, I hang them in my kitchen and pull them off as needed.  The rista pictured above has arbol peppers, my favorite.  They are somewhat like cayenne pepper in heat and flavor.

In the alternative, on cool and cloudy days, I oven-dry them.  Lay them out on a sheet pan covered with parchment or foil.  Put in oven at 250 until dry.
  Too pretty to crush; I keep them in a jar on
the counter and crush them as I use them.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What to do with all those cherry tomatoes?

I have now found what I think is the most practical way to use an abundance of cherry tomatoes.  I've canned them, dried them, pickled them and frozen them; but never got around to using the preserved product--until now! 
Here is the way I prepared them:  I sliced them in half, added some basil leaves and whole garlic cloves, tossed them in a little olive oil (a tablespoon or two for a cookie sheet full)  and slow roasted/dried them in the oven at 250 degrees until they were wrinkly and somewhat dry.  It took 4-6 hours.  Afterwards, I packed the tomato halves, garlic and basil in a jar and added olive oil until they were covered (running a knife around the outside to be sure the air was out).   Store them in the refrigerator.  They will last for several months, but you will probably have devoured them before then. 
We tried some over pasta with grated parmesan on top.  Delicious!!!  They would also be good on French bread or atop cream cheese as a dip.
I will never turn down an offer of cherry tomatoes again--gardeners always seem to have a surplus towards the end of summer.

Ready for the oven!