When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Saving summer in a jar
There are still several weeks of lovely summer weather to enjoy, but as the night sky tiptoes in a little earlier each evening and the maple leaves begin to show the first faint signs of their brilliant autumn colour, I'm reminded that it's time to store away some of summer's harvest for the colder months ahead. It's a project I enjoy immensely; the farmers' market feels so vibrant with its appealing bushels full of ripe, juicy produce, and it's comforting to know that we will have a little bit of August to eat when winter makes great-tasting fresh food hard to come by.
Last August my sister-in-law Rebecca and I took on the ambitious task of canning our own tomatoes. We hit the market early one Saturday morning, two determined girls on a half-crazy mission, and we left with bushels full of beautiful red Roma tomatoes, some fragrant fresh basil, and a whole lot of enthusiasm. Rebecca and I spent the entire rest of the day in her basement kitchen, scoring, boiling, peeling, dicing, and jarring tomatoes until we just couldn't do any more. It was exhausting but deeply satisfying work; we each took away a couple of dozen large jars of diced and crushed tomatoes that we enjoyed for months afterwards in all of our cold weather soups and sauces. Rebecca and her family have since moved out of town, and I'm not quite keen enough to undertake the tomato project alone this year, so I'm focussing my energy on some simpler tasks that will also make for happy eating in winter.
The incredible aroma and flavour of locally grown basil is one of my summertime favourites, and it's easy to store this herb for later use with a method my mom taught me. Place four cups of packed basil leaves, two large minced fresh garlic cloves, and three tablespoons of olive oil in a food processor and mix until combined. Spoon the basil mixture into ice cube trays and freeze for several hours. Once frozen, these cubes can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer, and are delicious used in stir fries, pasta dishes, and sauces that call for basil.
I also like to bring home large baskets of colourful, nutrient-rich berries when they're in season. I freeze them, unwashed, in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. When the berries are frozen solid, I pile them into small lidded glass jars and place them back in the freezer, where they'll be ready for making smoothies, muffins, and fruit crisps whenever the mood strikes us.
In the coming days I'll be searching the market for other fresh foods that can be saved and enjoyed during colder months. Home-canned peaches and pears would make a lovely change from imported apples and oranges mid-winter, and I've often been tempted by the baskets of cute little cucumbers to try my hand at pickle-making. I'm realizing as I write this that I'm probably going to need some more glass jars....
I'll be sorry in some ways to see the end of what has been a wonderful summer, but by doing a little bit of work in the kitchen now, we'll all be able to savour the tastes and the memories of these warm, relaxing days many months from now. In my mind, it's well worth the effort.