I’ve this love-hate relationship with summer produce. After so many months of snow, cold, and eating dark leafy greens, apples, and pears, the arrival of anything that is not one of those items is much cause for excitement. Preserving has become a way of life for me, but it comes with a lot of effort to keep up with my level of insanity. Don’t let anyone tell you different. At its core, canning, jamming, and pickling are easy. Really. To make enough to last an entire year? That takes work.
While it starts off slow with harvesting violets in May, and jamming first strawberries in June, all hell breaks loose in July, August, and early September. Every free moment available goes towards preserving in one way or another, whether it’s harvesting fresh herbs from the garden to be dried, pickling, jamming, or the easiest method—flash freezing.
Now I should preface that the chaos of my preserving life is of my own doing. My goal is to capture the growing season’s three month harvest in a way that allows us to enjoy it all year long. When you look at it that way, three months work for 9 months of coasting and reaping the benefits isn’t bad at all. Don’t let my insanity deter you from thinking about, or starting to preserve. You can start small. I warn you, though, that it becomes addictive.
When I began this journey eight or nine years ago, I began small. Strawberry jam was the only thing I made, and back then I used a natural commercial pectin brand (and the microwave, gasp!). It’s been years since commercial pectin has entered my kitchen. Now I rely on a bit more sugar, and truly natural ways to thicken my jam—a thick lemon peel with the white pith, and unripe apples are two great sources of pectin.
Flash forward, and my homemade jam inventory now includes: strawberry, raspberry violet, raspberry, cherry, blueberry, peach, and nectarine. I pickle cucumbers, eggplant, beets, and hoping to add a lot more this year. Last year I managed to can 40+ jars of tomatoes. It was enough to carry me through until early May. If I can push myself to process 60 to 70 jars, I might not need to buy any canned tomatoes the rest of the year. How amazing would that be?
I also flash freeze a lot of veggies, especially corn. The cobs make the most wonderful broth, and my favorite one, ever.
My recipe for Crispy Baked Eggplant is among the most popular on this site. It’s also my kids’ favorite thing to eat. The window for it, which is as long as eggplants are in season, is usually too small to satiate their appetite. I’m changing that this summer thanks to my new chest freezer. The extra freezer storage space means I can prep them all the way through until cooking, flash freeze them, and tuck them away to baked or fried, and enjoyed whenever we want.
Flash freezing is easy to do. Before you start the assembly line process of flour, egg, and breadcrumbs to coat the eggplant, line sheet pans with waxed paper or parchment. As you bread eggplant slices, arrange them single layer on the prepared pan. Once they’re all done, set the trays in the freezer (be sure to choose one that fits in your freezer), and leave them there until the eggplant slices are frozen solid.
Slip the frozen eggplant into ziptop bags, removing as much air as possible, and label them. The slices can be baked or fried straight from the freezer, no need to thaw. Your future self will be quite thankful your past self did such a smart thing.
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Eight Years Ago: Zucchini Coffee Cake, DIY Cold Brewed Coffee, Cherry Lime Biscuit Muffins
Seven Years Ago: Milk-Braised Zucchini, Homemade Nut-Free Nutella, 20-Minute Marinara Sauce
Six Years Ago: Rustic Lemon Cake
Five Years Ago: Blackberry Old Fashioned, Raspberry & Chocolate Mint S’mores
Four Years Ago: Cantaloupe & Lillet Sparkler, Sweet Corn Ice Cream, Mixed Berry Muffins
Three Years Ago: Basil Pistachio Pesto, Raspberry Sorbet, Sour Cherry Jam
Two Years Ago: Chickpea & Fennel Tartine, Cherry Cashew Milk, Sweet Cherry Coffee Cake
One Year Ago: Summer Peach Cake, Penne Primavera, Sweet Summer Corn Soup, Roasted Peach Scones, The BEST Chocolate Cake Ever, Chocolate Cherry Banana Bread