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September 4, 2012 / amberwoodterracechiro

Keeping up with the CSA

I can tell that summer is coming to a close because I am starting to become overwhelmed with food.  I wait all year for summer so I can garden, get access to fresh, local produce, and enjoy the tastes of REAL food.  The first month of the season is always a little disappointing in the sense that I want peppers, tomatoes, melons, brussel sprouts, etc., but they don’t come into full swing until quite a bit later.  So, I try to come up with ways to use the chard, edible weeds, radishes, and herbs.  Between these two seasons is the zucchini and squash transition where I have so much zucchini that I don’t want to waste but feel as though there is no possible way my stomach can fit it all in before it goes bad….and then there’s the obvious moment where you never want to see a zucchini again.  Well, the zucchini phase is over, and now I have a tomato, turnip, jalapeno phase on my hands.  I love food.  There is no doubt about that.  But… I want to have an honest moment here where I tell everyone that I am so sick of food.  For the past couple weeks, I have been spending every free minute trying to preserve, use, and consume all the produce that the CSA is giving me on top of that which is coming out of my garden.  I am officially exhausted.  I have had people say to me “I don’t know how you do it all,” and I am here to also say, “I don’t!”

I had a heartbreak moment the other day when I threw away some kohlrabi and cucumbers.  I hate to waste things, so I try my best to keep up with the produce and find a way to prepare it in a way that I will enjoy eating it.  However, I couldn’t keep up with the cucumber (because I don’t really like cucumber that much), and I was forced to trash it.  I tried to make homemade pickles through natural fermentation but after a mishap trying to weight it down with a salt rock (duh!) they become too salty to stomach!  Won’t make that mistake again.  I am on my next batch of pickles though and I am making them with vinegar this time to just speed up the process.  Remember how tired I am!  I wanted to make a list of all the things I have done to preserve my produce in hopes that some of you may benefit and be able to enjoy your harvests all year long!  I also want of offer up all the things that I had high hopes for that I simply won’t get to…maybe next year.

Zucchini:

I made many loaves of zucchini bread and froze them (and ate them)

I made sage and rosemary zucchini pickles…which are pretty good and will keep in the fridge for months! I used a recipe off the small footprint family blog

I made veggie soup and froze many containers of it (of course with my homemade chicken or beef stock)

I have frozen it shredded in the past but found that it always got soggy and then wasn’t the quantity I froze it in…I just didn’t enjoy it…and decided I would avoid the hassle of shredding it all and simply freeze bread

I obviously made tons of different things throughout the season from simply grilled zucchini, to zucchini fritters, stir fry, etc.

Cucumbers:

I have unsuccessfully made pickles…and I have successfully made pickles.

I have soaked them in tea vodka for fresh mixed drinks.

I have put slices in my water for flavor.

I have juiced them.

I have forced myself to eat spreads on cucumber discs…..ugh

Turnips:

I have made mashed turnips.

I have roasted huge sheets of them and either consumed them throughout the weeks, or used them in soup for freezing.

I have made turnip fries.

Tomatoes:

I have made a few batches of tomato soup and froze it for winter months.

I have used them on burgers.

I have made homemade salsa several times with them. Mmmm.

Jalapenos:

I have pickled them….they will keep this way for months in the fridge and are a great garnish to tacos.

I have made stuffed jalapenos.

I have stuck them in salsa.

I have frozen them for winter months that I can stick in tacos and chili.

I have dried them and had every intention of grinding them up to make pepper powder. 😉 (my red peppers are the same ones that are in my store bought crushed red pepper flakes!)

Herbs:

I have harvested oregano, basil, parsley, sage, thyme, mint, etc. and ground up various blends with olive oil and put them in ice cube trays for freezing.  I now have bags full of herb cubes that I can throw into dishes throughout the winter.

I have made basil/mint ice cubes for blended “adult” drinks in the winter holiday season.

I have made mint extract, which I will be using to make mint chocolate chip ice cream soon!

I have frozen the leaves whole for use in stews and such throughout the year when they are no longer fresh in the backyard!

I have dried my coriander seeds (from the cilantro plant) and placed them in an old spice jar…no need to buy it!

I have made pesto and frozen it for the winter months when I want a quick sauce to spice up plain chicken.

Carrots:

I have made carrot cake muffins from Elana’s Pantry.

I have fermented them into ginger carrots.

I have used most of them to help flavor my homemade stocks since a lot of my carrots from the garden are small and quite pathetic looking…lol…next time I will know to give them more space!

I have included them in my soups, roasted veggie trays, and of course used them as dog treats.

Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries:

I have hulled and frozen tons of strawberries.

I bought tons of blueberries for freezing.

I stocked up at the store when blackberries were in full force, and froze those, too.

Wish I knew how to make jam…maybe next year.

As I write this all down, it doesn’t seem like that many things!  However, I assure you that I have spent enough time in the kitchen that I hope it all pays off throughout the winter by saving me time having homemade soups and sauces already made!  Now, I want to go through a few things that I wanted to do oh-so-badly that I have pretty much given up on…..

If I had a dehydrator, I would probably toy with drying tomatoes, herbs and peppers.  I really wanted to make lacto-fermented salsa, so I could have jars of homemade salsa all year.  I never got around to making the whey that is needed.  I also wanted to make some tomato based sauces that I could grab throughout the year…..never happened.

Like I said above, I still haven’t made my homemade red pepper flakes out of the dried peppers staring at me right now.

I really wanted to go to the farmer’s market and get my hands on some organic peaches and make some homemade chutneys!  Mmmm.

I had every intention of making more sauces to freeze…I still could…but my schedule is already looking crazy…hmmm.

I had a moment where I really wanted to make pickled garlic.  Supposedly it takes months, and is prized…unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before!  That alone intrigued me.  I don’t feel like peeling all those cloves, and I don’t have an empty jar at the moment.

I tried to salvage the 2 heads of cabbage that I got in a CSA basket by turning them into sauerkraut.  It molded, I got frustrated, I haven’t tried again.

All this depressing talk….let’s get excited about what will be around the corner!  Apples and winter squash!  My hope is to get a second wind on the whole kitchen front and make homemade applesauce.  I may make apple butter if I’m feeling adventurous.  AND…hard apple cider folks.  Maybe I should secure a carboy or whatever those are called soon.  That way there is no excuse NOT to!  Also, I LOVE my butternut squash soup recipe, and it freezes beautifully.  I should also puree it for ice cream, pie, and bread recipes.  However, we will see how it all plays out.  I would love some simple, easy, preservation methods that anyone has to share!  We should really all be getting together and delegating these tasks and swapping it all.  Nothing like making life a little simple, so we could ALL “do it all!” 😉

 

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