Preserving Your Harvest

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Harvest_LifestyleYou”ve filled up on fat, juicy tomatoes, polished off a dozen cucumber sandwiches and eaten more batches of crispy, fried okra than you”d care to admit. But you”ve still got a lot left over. The garden keeps giving, so don”t be wasteful. Consider the many different methods for preserving the harvest. Here are some ways (other than canning) that allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labor year round.

Using olive oil as a base to freeze hard herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano is an often-overlooked method for preserving them. Choose fresh herbs from your garden or market and chop them finely. Sprinkle the wells of an ice cube tray with the chopped herbs, pour extra-virgin olive oil over them and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze overnight, remove the frozen-herb cubes and store frozen in a freezer bag. This way, you can have herbs ready for stews, roasts, potato dishes and soups.

Fruit vinegar:
A fragrant, fruit vinegar is an easy way to preserve the essence of your harvest and goes hand-in-hand with a fresh salad. First, buy a high-quality white wine vinegar (one with minimal ethyl acetate levels). Use an equal amount of fruit to vinegar. Remove any bad berries from the mix, crush the fruit with a fork in the sauce pan and bring it to a simmer for a minute or two. Pour it all in a hot, sterilized jar. Let it cool and put it in a dark cabinet.

Freezing fresh summer fruit:
Here”s a way to keep your fruit from freezing into one solid brick. First, rinse. Then, lay fruit on a towel to dry completely (that part”s important). Next, slice the fruit (berries can be left whole), arrange on a baking sheet that”s been lined with parchment, put in freezer, and allow the fruit pieces to freeze individually for about four hours. This keeps them from sticking together. Remove them from the baking sheet, put them in a bag and label the container. You can keep this fruit frozen for up to three months before freezer burn.

Dry fruit without a dehydrator:
If you”re spending a full day at the house and have time to spare, here”s a way to preserve fruit without use of a dehydrator. Turn on your oven as low as it allows (about 200 degrees). Place pieces of fruit on a wire rack above a baking sheet – spread them evenly. Let them cook for about four to six hours until they show signs of shriveling. Cook as long as you want depending on desired texture. When cooking for long periods, always remember to closely monitor the oven as a safety precaution.

Homemade applesauce:
Two pounds of apples peeled and cored, two long lemon peel strips, two long orange peel strips, three-inch piece of fresh ginger cut into coins, one cinnamon stick, cup water and “teaspoon salt. Chop the apples into small chunks and put into a saucepan. Add lemon and orange peel, cinnamon stick and ginger on top. Pour in the water and stir in salt. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat down to low, cover and cook for about 20 minutes (until the apples are very soft). Turn off heat, remove peels, cinnamon stick and ginger. Use a potato masher or blender to determine texture and enjoy!

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