The first year I decided to preserve our summer harvest I got carried away. Our basement shelves groaned with canned green beans, spaghetti and tomato sauce, salsas, and pickles. Every fruit that grew on our property, or nearby farms, was cooked down into jams and pie fillings. The freezer was so full of corn, beans, and greens that we had to buy another one.
I put up more than we were capable of eating that year. I canned and froze many things just to discover that we didn’t like them, or I didn’t know how to incorporate them into meals. Over a decade later, I’ve gained experience in reliving the delight of summer through our winter meals.
I’ve also learned to simplify. The following tips save me untold hours of work each summer and add a fresher taste to our winter meals:
- Green beans are more versatile frozen than canned
- Cabbage lasts for months in the refrigerator wrapped in a paper towel and tightly sealed plastic bag so there is no need to blanch and freeze it
- Dehydrated tomatoes create fresher tasting sauces and pastes than canned ones
- Strawberries and wineberries taste fresher in freezer jam then cooked jam
- Late apples packed in paper bags and stored in the frig in boxes are crunchy into spring
- Winter squash stores for months on a cool shelf rather than bothering to can or freeze it
- Radishes, turnips, and rutabagas last for months in the frig in a plastic bag with a paper towel inside
- Most greens are better fresh so just grow ones that perform well in your climate most of the year (Swiss chard and cold hardy lettuce take us into December; spinach and kale take over through most of the winter)
The recipes below are some of my family’s favorite ways to relive summer through our meals. Give them a try, and share with me your family’s wintertime summer-memory meals.
Dehydrated tomatoes and onions.
Fresh Spaghetti Sauce from Dehydrated Tomatoes
- 2 cups dehydrated tomatoes (broken slightly before measuring)
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 sweet pepper, chopped
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
- Several shakes of hot red pepper flakes
- 1 lb. country sausage
1. Pour boiling water over dehydrated tomatoes and let sit for 2 hours to re-hydrate
2. Pour re-hydrated tomatoes and all ingredients (except sausage) in food processor and pulse until smooth
3. Brown sausage in a deep skillet
4. Pour combined sauce over meat, heat to boiling, then lower heat. Simmer for 20 minutes
5. Serve over pasta
Baked Apples with Cinnamon Pickles
- 4 sweet tart apples (Pink Lady and Honeycrisp are good varieties)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 pint jar Cinnamon Pickles (these are vinegar and cinnamon fermented pickles)
1. Wash apples and slice into a small casserole dish
2. Sprinkle with brown sugar
4. Pour juice from Cinnamon Pickles over all (reserving the actual pickles for later)
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes
6. Meanwhile, prepare ¼ cup chopped Cinnamon Pickles
7. Remove dish from oven and sprinkle with chopped pickles
Mahi Mahi with Tomato Caper Sauce
- 2-4 Mahi Mahi fillets (about 1 inch thick)
- 1 cup chopped sweet onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp. crushed garlic
- 1 tsp. fennel seed
- 1 quart home canned, diced, tomatoes (multiple colors preferred), drained
- 1 tsp. coarse salt
- 1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp homemade chicken broth
- 2 tbsp chardonnay (or other dry white wine)
- 1 large cube thawed basil butter (1/2 cup chopped basil leaves incorporated into 2 tbsp butter and frozen in the summer)
- 2 tbsp capers, drained
1. Heat oil in a large sauté pan on medium-low. Cook onions and celery until vegetables soften. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
2. Add the drained tomatoes smashing them against the side of the pan. Add salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes on low.
3. Add broth and wine, continuing to reduce the liquid for about 10 more minutes.
4. Add the basil butter and capers cooking for another minute.
5. Prepare the fillets by brushing with oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper
6. Grill on high heat for 5 minutes per side until just cooked
7. Put sauce in shallow plates/bowls and top with Mahi Mahi
Green Beans with Savory Butter
- 1 quart bag fresh-frozen green beans from your garden
- ¼ salted butter, softened
- 1 tsp dried summer savory
1. Put frozen beans in a colander; rinse with cold water and drain thoroughly
2. Place beans on a towel and lightly pat dry with another towel
3. Cook beans rapidly in boiling water for 3 minutes; drain completely in colander
4. Incorporate summer savory into butter and place in a serving dish
5. Stir drained, cooked beans into butter and serve immediately
Sheryl Campbell is an heirloom gardener, shepherd, and edible flower educator who owns Bouquet Banquet in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Read Sheryl’s previous blogging with Mother Earth Gardener and Grit and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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