Now that was a great Healthy Living Fair! Slow Food Quad Cities spent a busy day talking all about Preserving Without Canning. We had samples of fridge pickles to try and recipes for them to hand out, plus info on freezing, dehydrating, and fermenting. We dried herbs in the solar oven (15 minutes from fresh to dried, using only the power of the sun!) – for those who want to learn more, check out www.sunoven.com. And we made lots of new connections, getting folks interested in Slow Food and hearing some fantastic ideas for future projects and programs we might do. What a wonderful day!
Now, what’s one measure of a really successful festival? When you print way more handouts than you think you could possibly go through, and you end up running out more than an hour before the end of the festival!
I think we have our Cucumber & Onion Pickles to thank for that – almost everyone who tried them wanted to grab the recipe and make some at home. They reminded many people of the recipe Mom or Grandma used to make… and they are so tasty and cool on a hot summer day.
So, the folks who made their way to our table later in the day didn’t get a handout, but I sent them home with our blog URL and a promise to get the full text of the handout online by this evening. And for those who did manage to get there while we still had handouts – there’s something new for you, too! I am adding a couple of bonus recipes that I couldn’t fit on the handout (even after I shrank the text size and expanded the margins – we had a whole lot to say). Check at the very bottom for recipes for Freezer Pesto and Preserved Lemons!
By the way, we were selling our brand new logo t-shirts at the fair today, and there are still plenty for sale. Would you like to buy one? They are just $10 each, and you have your choice of four colors: sage green, sky blue, red, and natural. We have them in sizes S, M, L & XL. They run a little big, so if you’re on the border between two sizes, you’d want the smaller one. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in buying a shirt. All proceeds will help us put on bigger and better Slow Food events, classes and more!
Thanks so much to everyone who helped out or visited our booth today. We love seeing you, both old friends and new, and we love when people get interested in our mission of Good, Clean and Fair food.
Now, without further ado, here’s your handout, plus bonus recipes at the end.
PRESERVING WITHOUT CANNING
You don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen and heat your house up on an already sweltering day in order to preserve your favorite summer flavors. There are lots of ways you can preserve food without canning: today at the Radish Healthy Living Fair, we’re sharing with you a few basic methods, and a few favorite recipes.
One of the easiest ways to preserve food is to put it in the freezer. Most fruits and vegetables freeze well, with just a few exceptions. Here are a few freezer tips:
- Some produce can be frozen raw, while some should be blanched (lightly cooked) first. Check online the first time you’re freezing something new (a Google search, e.g. “how to freeze peaches,” yields great results). Some fruits freeze best in a sugar syrup, like plums and cherries.
- Whether you’re blanching the produce or just washing it, make sure you remove as much water as possible before freezing. Our friend Cathy Lafrenz suggests using a salad spinner to dry it!
- Always label the produce you freeze, including the type of food and the date. Months later when you’re sorting through a full freezer trying to find those peaches, you will be glad for the labels!
- Frozen foods keep for a long time, but not forever. Most will start to lose flavor after 8-12 months (though they won’t be dangerous to consume).
- When you thaw frozen food, be safe: don’t just leave it out on the counter for hours. Thaw in the fridge overnight or in a warm water bath if you need to thaw quickly.
Here are a few of our favorite foods to freeze, and some tried-and-true methods we’ve used.
- SWEET CORN. You don’t have to cook sweet corn before you freeze it! Just cut the kernels off the cob raw (we recommend doing it in a large pot or bowl set in your sink, since it’s very juicy and can get messy), mix them with a little sugar and a little salt, and freeze in freezer bags or boxes. When you pull it out of the freezer later to cook it, you will have delightfully snappy and tasty corn.
- BERRIES. Berries are so easy to freeze. Just wash them and remove any stems, dry thoroughly, and spread them out on a cookie sheet. Put the cookie sheet in the freezer overnight. When the berries are completely frozen, transfer them to freezer bags or boxes.
- PIE FILLING. Your friends and family will love it when you bake pies in winter with summer’s tastiest fruit! If you’re making an apple, peach, cherry, etc. pie this summer, make three times as much filling as you’ll need for the pie. Freeze the leftovers – one quart of pie filling is enough for one deep-dish pie. All you’ll have to do later is thaw the filling, pour it into your crust, and bake!
- TOMATOES. Whole, raw tomatoes don’t freeze extremely well – in fact, they’re one of the things we really recommend canning. But you can freeze cooked tomatoes beautifully. Try making homemade tomato juice or spaghetti sauce and freezing them for a warm taste of summer on a cold winter day, OR try our favorite roasted tomatoes: Cut tomatoes across the center, leaving stem end & blossom end intact. Place them cut-side up on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and put a few thin slices of fresh garlic on top. Cook at 200° for several hours, until tomatoes collapse (but keep an eye on them so they don’t burn). Pack in freezer bags or boxes and enjoy the intense flavor kick of roasted tomatoes all winter!
Dehydrating produce is a great way to reduce the size for efficient storage, so you don’t need to take up any freezer or fridge space to store a whole lot of produce. Dehydrated fruits and vegetables should be stored in an airtight container (tightly-capped jar or zipper bag) in a dark place, like a kitchen cupboard. Try to use up dried produce within a year or so.
You can use a cool oven to dehydrate some produce, but a food dehydrator is a great investment. It lets you dehydrate food with just a little electricity and without heating up your kitchen at all.
Some of our favorite foods to dehydrate are:
- APPLE RINGS. Sprinkle on a bit of cinnamon and sugar before dehydrating for a great treat.
- HOT PEPPERS. One hot pepper plant in your garden can provide more peppers than you can possibly use in the summer, so dehydrate them for hot peppers all year long! Here’s a tip for use: if you want to make hot pepper flakes for a recipe or to sprinkle on pizza, put a few dried peppers in the freezer for an hour. They’ll then be brittle enough to crush easily.
- SOUP MIX. Dehydrate carrots, corn, beans, and other ingredients for a hearty soup, then store them together. Rehydrate them in the broth you’ll cook them in for a winter warm-up.
- SPINACH, KALE, OTHER GREENS. Dehydrate nutrition-packed leafy greens and crush into a powder. It’s easy to slip it into soups, smoothies, and many other foods for an extra punch of vitamins. (And if you don’t tell the kids it’s healthy, they won’t even notice it!)
You might be thinking, sure, I can refrigerate my produce, but it still goes bad in a week or so. That’s true, but there are several ways you can greatly extend the life of your produce in the fridge. Our focus today is vinegar – fridge pickles are your friend! Most fridge pickles using vinegar will stay good in the fridge for a long time – sometimes up to six months. Here are a few of our favorite fridge pickle recipes.
- CUCUMBERS AND ONIONS (Sample these today at the Healthy Living Fair!). Thinly slice three large cucumbers and one medium white onion. Sprinkle on 1/3 cup of salt (canning/pickling salt or sea salt work best), cover with water, mix up the water and salt, and refrigerate for three hours. Remove from fridge and drain (but don’t rinse). Heat 1 cup vinegar, 2 cups sugar, and 1 teaspoon celery seed, until sugar is dissolved. Pour mixture over cucumbers and onions and refrigerate overnight. This recipe can be stored in the fridge for months (if you can go that long without eating them!) and can even be frozen (you’ll want to eat the pickles within a day or two after thawing, for best texture).
- DILLY BEANS. We’ve found a recipe for easy dilled green beans that don’t need to be canned – and the flavor can’t be beat. Check it out at http://inthegardenonline.com/main/2010/08/how-to-make-super-easy-fast-refrigerator-dilly-beans/.
- EVERLASTING PICKLES. Check out this month’s Radish for our delicious Lime Pickles recipe. It’s “everlasting” because you can keep adding new cucumber slices to the same brine – which saves you money and time. You can do this with our Lime Brine showcased in the Radish, or just with plain old vinegar, mixed with sugar and/or salt if you like. On a hot summer day, having cool pickles in the fridge is a lifesaver!
Fermentation is an ages-old method of preserving food – our grandmothers may have preferred canning, but our great-great-great-great-great grandmothers probably fermented food. It’s not as popular as it used to be, but it’s experiencing a resurgence – and if you’ve ever had sauerkraut or kimchi, you’ve had fermented vegetables. Promoters of fermentation point to its health benefits, and it’s also useful as a way to store food without using the energy of the fridge, freezer or stove. We can’t teach you to become an expert fermenter in one handout, but here’s one easy thing to ferment: garlic!
FERMENTED GARLIC. If you’re growing garlic at home, you might have a few dozen heads of the spicy bulb – even if you’re not, you might be excited by all the fresh garlic at the farmer’s market in late June or early July. You can make it last by drying it, but fermentation is a very compact storage method and gives it a great flavor kick. Here’s how: Peel each garlic clove and pack them into a jar – you might start with a few large heads in a half-pint (jelly-sized) jar. Cover the garlic completely with water. Make sure no garlic sits above the water level. Use clean, filtered water for best results. Add about ¾ teaspoon of salt per half pint and stir it in. Cover the jar loosely (a tightly-capped jar could burst) and set it somewhere at room temperature. After a week, check it – give it a sniff! You’ll notice the smell has intensified. Keep checking it every week, tasting it if you like. The flavor and smell will continue to intensify as long as you leave it out. You can halt the fermentation by putting it in the fridge, or you can leave it out almost indefinitely. You can use the cloves just like you’d use fresh garlic, but keep in mind that they’re stronger in flavor and smell than unfermented garlic.
LEARN MORE ON YOUR OWN!
This is just a brief dip into the world of preserving without canning. There are so many more great recipes to try – we hope you’ll feel inspired and read more! Check out our reading list, courtesy of the Bettendorf Public Library, for more ideas – or get on the internet and start searching.
-2 cups fresh basil leaves
-1/2 cup olive oil
-2 tablespoons pine nuts
-2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed with a heavy knife handle and peeled
-1 teaspoon salt
-3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (or other aged, semi-hard cheese)
-3 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
Put the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic cloves, and salt in the blender and mix at high speed. Stop from time to time and scrape the ingredients down toward the bottom of the blender with a rubber spatula.
When the ingredients are evenly blended, pour into a bowl and beat in the two grated cheeses by hand. When the cheese has been evenly incorporated into the other ingredients, beat in the softened butter.
To freeze, we recommend you put it in small containers, since you will rarely be using a quart of pesto at one time. You can freeze it in ice cube trays, then when it’s completely frozen, pop the pesto cubes out and store them in a freezer bag. Or try the 8-ounce freezer jars sold by Ball – they are super versatile for storing food.
Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisines use these fermented lemons, which are easy to prepare and have a wonderful salty/tart flavor that mellows as the lemons ferment. This is one of those recipes that you start out trying just for fun, but soon you discover that you want to keep making them so you can always have them around!
This recipe isn’t unique to us, so we’re going to point you toward a resource that shows you how to do it right: this link gives you the standard technique and offers a few ideas for using them in your cooking. Give them a try… maybe they will show up at one of our Slow Food potlucks in the future! (We can hope!)
If you have questions about any of the recipes or techniques we’ve offered, please don’t hesitate to email us at email@example.com. We love to hear from you!