“Frugality doesn’t mean cheap,” a famous food show star used to say. “(It) means that you don’t waste anything.” It also means buying an extra pantry staple when it’s on sale and produce in season at its peak.
Buying and storing a little extra good food on sale allows for low-stress, last-minute hospitality, the ability to whip up an impromptu pan of brownies with the kids on movie nights, or really on occasion when inspiration and opportunity meet. Just today, I stirred up a yummy shrimp omelet and tangy white sauce, served with a dish of freshly picked melon. It was a special treat, on an ordinary day, without a trip to the store.
We love to enjoy warm weather bounty first in season and then again in the winter. When the trees are bare and snow has blanketed our area farm fields, there’s nothing like a sitting down with a brightly colored, naturally sweet bowl of strawberries, slice of peach or zucchini bread, piece of rhubarb pie, serving of succulent sweet corn in milk, or homemade crockpot chili with locally grown tomatoes all harvested at their most flavorful peak.
Right now, it is glorious peach season here. I spent this morning freezing peaches. We will have sweet, tender, inexpensive peaches this December as if we had picked them that morning. Festive!
Here’s how. Two easy methods
I used to can produce and store it on the shelves, but now I don’t do that kind of volume, so I save perishable food in the freezer in either freezer-safe/microwavable glass bowls, or in zip-top bags.
Flash freeze — I flash freeze anything I want to keep separate, dry and intact, such as blueberries, raspberries, rhubarb, and strawberries. (Picture those bags of mixed fruit in the grocery freezer section. One good drop onto the kitchen floor separates the whole batch into useful, separate pieces.) For this, rinse (actually some people rinse, and some don’t. See Food in Jars about that) and pick through the berries for any signs of spoiling, shake or towel them dry, spread them out in a single layer in a large flat glass dish or metal jelly roll pan. (Note: if they’re not fairly dry, they will freeze into frosty little ice cubes, be harder to get off the pan, and produce a more watery result when thawed.) Place the container gently in the freezer uncovered, freeze until the berries are firm enough to transfer, pour them into a zip-top bag, and remove as many as you want at a time in months to come. I also freeze cranberries the same way during the few weeks they’re available at Christmastime for later use in cranberry breads and ruby red sauce for pound cake.
Blanch — Some produce does especially well after being blanched, such as peaches, corn, and asparagus. Blanching allows for easy peeling of fruits and preserves the vivid colors of fruits and vegetables. We store anything dry in zip-top bags after cooling and cutting, and we use 16-ounce freezer-safe glass bowls for anything in juice or syrup. Here’s an example.
To blanch peaches: heat, cool, peel, freeze
Prepare your work area: start a large pot of water to boil on the stove; half fill another large bowl with water and ice and set it at a safe but close distance from the boiling water burner; set a cutting board, paring knife, third bowl, and freezer containers on the counter. *Ripe, early harvest peaches will produce a sweet nectar of their own; if yours don’t, you may want to freeze them in a simple syrup. (In a medium saucepan combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.)
Rinse the fruit and score the bottoms with your paring knife. I make a skin-deep X in the bottom of each.
Bring to boil enough water to cover 3-4 peaches at a time. When the water is boiling, gently lower a few peaches into the pot (I use a long-handle slotted spoon called a “spider”) and set a timer for 2-3 minutes. The peaches will become dull in color and soft to the touch, and you may see the skin starting to widen or peel away at the X you cut, when they’re ready to come out of the water.
Lower them into the ice bath. While they’re cooling off, put the next set of peaches into the boiling water. *Wait until it’s boiling again before setting your timer. Remove the peaches from the ice water, and set in the bowl on the counter to be peeled shortly.
Heat and cool the rest of your peaches, then easily slip off the peel and store your earned reward, color vibrant again, sweet and delicious!
This just in: Thanks to the world of WordPress, I’ve just come across a cool site called Food in Jars. Today I read about making jam from frozen fruit. ~Think my first batch will be … peach!
Tip: I have used the Crate and Barrel “Clear Glass Bowl with lid” for more than 20 years. I actually had a Products We Like page on this site a few years ago that included this item. They are dishwasher/microwave/freezer/toaster oven safe without the lids and, although they are easily breakable, the price makes them the most versatile, valuable storage bowls I own. I literally buy them by the case.
I also keep a box of extra large zip-top freezer bags on hand all of the time. The 2- and 2.5-gallon versions are large enough to hold several raw pie crusts (separated with waxed paper, ready for a pie any time!), an entire batch of freshly prepared produce or appetizers, even legal documents, and more.