Summer days may be fleeting, but summer flavors don’t have to be! Make the most of seasonal fruits and vegetables with easy preserving projects like freezing, drying and pickling. Here's how:
Capturing the freshness of produce by freezing it is one of the best and easiest preserving techniques. Freezing breaks down the cell walls of fruits and vegetables, so they may be a little squishy once they're thawed, but the flavor will be excellent. If you use containers or resealable plastic bags specifically designed for freezing and minimize exposure to air, your produce should keep for six months. Read on for advice on how to freeze specific fruits and veggies, or checkout our How to Freeze Fruits and Veggies video:
Small fruits like cherries and berries
Discard any overripe or bruised fruit.
Remove stems or pits.
Arrange clean, dry fruit in a single layer on a baking sheet (line it with parchment if you like) and place in the freezer.
As soon as fruit is frozen solid (2 to 8 hours), transfer it to resealable freezer bags; remove as much air as possible from the bags before sealing.
Most veggies will maintain color and texture better if cooked briefly in boiling water first.
You’ll want to trim and cut them into bite-size pieces, then drop them in boiling water just until their colors deepen and they start to tenderize, 2 to 4 minutes.
Drain immediately and cool in cold water. Drain again and pat dry before freezing as described for small fruits, above.
Large fruits and vegetables like mangoes, peaches and tomatoes can be puréed first for easier freezing.
Trim and peel the fruits and whirl them in a food processor.
Run them through a food mill or sieve to remove fibers and seeds if necessary, then pack the purée in freezer-safe containers or resealable plastic bags.
For vegetables that must be cooked before puréeing (squash!), roast them and then scoop and store the purée as described above.
Preserving foods by removing moisture is one of the oldest and easiest techniques. And talk about low-tech: Some twine is all you need to tie together a bouquet of woody-stemmed herbs like lavender or sage; hang them upside down in a cool dry place and you’ll be experiencing the joys of air-drying.
And although dehydrating appliances are a good investment for enthusiasts, simple oven-drying works wonderfully. For best results, dry produce on a metal rack set over a sheet pan to maximize air circulation. Trim or peel the food as desired, and remember that thin slices will dry more quickly and evenly. Interested? Try these irresistible recipes: Watermelon Jerky, Eggplant “Bacon” and Dried Fruit Chews.
Refrigerator pickles and jams
No special equipment required here: Just get some fresh produce, a few glass jars and some simple ingredients together in your fridge and you can preserve a bit of summer . Want to try it? Check out these easy fridge recipes for Quick Pickles, Pickled Cajun Green Beans and Carrots (shown), Pickled Mango Spears, Spiced Quick Pickled Cherries and boozy Cocktail Cherries.
Refrigerator jams are also an excellent way to keep your fruits and veggies around for a while. Try this Sweet Heat Tomato Jam to use up a crop of tomatoes, Cherry Skillet Jam, and Easy Plum Jam with Chia Seeds.
Fruit shrubs and syrups
Preserve a bounty of summer fruit flavor by making a long-keeping syrup. A “shrub” is a drinkable vinegar-based mixture of fruit and sugar, usually served diluted with water or sparkling water and poured over a liberal amount of ice. Shrubs are easy to put together, and summer’s stellar produce is all the invitation you need to experiment with them. Don’t be put off by the idea of quaffing vinegar: Its astringency is mellowed by sugar, fruit and time.
Try this Blackberry-Lavender Shrub (shown) as a starter recipe, but go ahead and substitute other fruits you have on hand for the blackberries, and other herbs or spices for lavender. Some classic combos are strawberries with thyme, peaches or apricots with rosemary, plums with peppercorns, cherries with mint, pears with ginger, and pomegranate with cloves. Just about any very ripe fruit is ideal, and remember that you can adjust the sweet/sour balance to your taste: Start with half the amount of suggested vinegar and add more as needed, remembering that the sharpness will mellow over time.