Freezing the Fruit of Summer

I took an extended weekend off of work for the Fourth of July.  I began the celebration by going to the biggest musical festival in the US and the world(that is our claim, anyway), Summerfest. Never been?  The requirements: Do you like music and do you have a pulse?  You must go. It’s a $17.00 entry fee for great acts everywhere you turn.  Hubby and I caught Berlin, James Hunter Six and Bonnie Raitt.  If I didn’t have him steering me at my elbow, I could have been sucked into several different stages.  Summerfest is not for the attention deficit; trust me, this ADD gal knows all too well.

The next day of vacation I dug in and started working on the sixteen pints of blueberries hubby picked up for me. I washed them thoroughly and laid them in a single layer on parchment paper in a jelly roll pan. I gently dried them with a paper towel, and I move the  pans to the freezer chest.  I freeze them for 4-6 hours and then vacuum seal the frozen blueberries.  It’s painstaking, but I would rather take the time now to assure a good fruit in the future.  My eat-by-date is normally a year but the vacuum sealed fruit has lasted two.

While I was working on the blueberries, hubby came home with several pints of freshly picked strawberries. Out of the three fruits I freeze every year, the strawberries are the most labor intensive.  I abandoned the blueberries and started working on the strawberries immediately; they go soft pretty quickly from the sugars. And once you refrigerate them, they just aren’t as good, so I like to work fast. Stem them, remove the soft spots, rinse, and lay them on the parchment paper.  Again, wipe off any excess moisture.

My last fruit was peaches.  I had two boxes of peaches equaling 50 lbs.  I waited the 3-4 days until they ripened, and I went to work boiling the peaches for 30 seconds and then plunging them into icy water.  I pull out the peach, slice it in it’s natural line, pull out the pit or cut it out and then I peel. Remember to peel last because the peach gets dangerously slippery when peeled and you want all the leverage you can get to pull out the pit. Slice the halves and place on jelly roll pans lined with parchment. Sprinkle lemon juice over the top to avoid browning. Peaches may take longer to freeze due to size and moisture.

Cut the natural indentation and gently pry open the two halves.  If you cannot pull the pit out, take the half with the pit and halve it. The pit should be easy to pull out. Place on jelly roll pans lined with parchment paper.  It’s expensive but well worth it.  It’s sturdier than wax paper and foil tends to stick to the peaches. Trust me, parchment is the only way to go.  I loosely place sheets of plastic wrap over the top of the peaches. Don’t over fill the sheets if you plan on stacking them.

  You can see here the two glasses placed in the pan. I do this with three pans and then fill the fourth. The freezing is the longest process, so I do whatever I can to freeze the most.

After 6-8 hours of freeze time, take a  pan out and quickly vacuum seal the peaches while still frozen.  Make each bag a few servings each and don’t forget to date the bag.

 What’s this?  Those pesky fruit flies will be flying around if you have fruit ripening.  Get a small glass, fill a 1/4 of it with apple cider vinegar and tightly fit plastic wrap over the top.  Make a series of small holes(I use a thumb tack)all over the wrap.  Secure it with a rubber band and you have a fruit fly trap.  

That’s my freezer stuffed with the hard work I did over the Fourth weekend.  This is not all of the fruit nor does it include the peach preserves I made.

Yes, this is a lot of fruit but I will use it in pies, topping for ice cream or yogurt and for smoothies. It will go quickly once the weather gets cold and apple season has passed. This will be our choice of fruit until the citrus comes in.

Summer Veggies…in a Jar?

If winters are harsh and brutal here in Wisconsin than the summers are a delicious slice of heaven. When the fruits and vegetables begin to show up at the farmer’s market and my garden, I get very excited, and at the same time, a little overwhelmed.  So many vegetables…which do I choose, what do I make? I try not to go too crazy and stick with ingredients for recipes I know I will make. If you know me, I’m an intense cook on the weekends and not-so-much of one on the weekdays: What doesn’t get done this weekend will have to wait until the next.  This isn’t the best philosophy, but with all of the OT at work and my exercise schedule at night, it doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for weekday cooking marathons. Remembering my “weekend only” habit helps me from over-buying. This weekend at the farmer’s market I just purchased the essentials for a good, early summer salad. Boy, I was not disappointed!

Have you been noticing salads in a mason jar.  I’ve been spotting it on Pinterest and the internet, but I didn’t get the purpose. I looked into it more closely, and it’s actually kind of neat for taking a salad to work. You put the dressing on the bottom, layer the harder vegetables from the bottom to the lettuce on top(I used a quart jar–it was plenty big enough). It makes for a “neat” salad experience; especially when you eat lunch at your desk.  You dump the jar into a bowl or onto a plate and you are all set to munch.

The first is dressing, carrots, cucumbers, roasted beets, avocado, asparagus, lettuce, kale and sprouts. 
That’s a salad in a jar
May I mention here, how easy it is to make your own salad dressing. I don’t buy salad dressings, and I haven’t for quite a while. I take 1/4 cup pickle or olive juice, another 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, a dash of olive oil, a tablespoon of mustard, and a sprinkle of Bragg’s Sea Kelp seasoning, and I shake it up. Or add whatever you want in whatever quantities but be creative and healthy.