I know you’re going to want to swear at me up and down when I remind you that this is the last full month of summer. I actually want to punch myself in the face just thinking about it. However, the reality is we will soon be back to shorter days, cooler nights, and sweater season before we know it. And while I love fall and all of the warm clothes and comfort that it brings, the tastes of summer are something that I miss in every other season.
But what if there was a way to take these tastes into the fall and winter? What if I told you that there was a way for your peachiest peach or your sweetest strawberry to transition into fall and winter right along with you? The following tips will also help you reduce food waste and help you keep really nourishing foods in your home all year long.
Throw It In The Freezer
Your freezer is an obvious place to start in terms of helping you keep food longer… I mean that’s literally what it is designed to do. However, you can get real creative when freezing produce in ways you may not have thought of before.
• Freeze herbs in ice cube trays filled with olive oil. Once frozen, pop them out, and keep them in the freezer in a container or bag. Use in your favourite recipes instead of dried herbs to keep your food tasting fresh.
• Remove skin or rind from summer fruits and blend their flesh in a blender with a little water. Then freeze again in ice cube trays, and use these cubes for sparkling water, fancy cocktails or white wine spritzers in any season. You can also juice the fruits and freeze the juice in cubes. I really like rosé with watermelon cubes, bubbly with peach cubes, and sparkling water with cantaloupe cubes & basil.
• Kale, zucchini, spinach, chard, tomatoes, onion and garlic can all be frozen and added to your favourite smoothies, soups, or stews all winter long, and if you’re growing these yourself you can lock in the nutrients that are lacking in the grocery store option of these foods during winter months. Plants grown outdoors always have more nutrients in them.
• Sliced peaches, apples and pears are awesome to freeze and use for baking muffins, pies, and sauces as natural ways to sweeten your baking instead of sugar
Dry it Out
Using a dehydrator (or hacking your oven to become one) is an excellent and easy way to keep your favourite flavours around for the colder months. In fact, dehydrating will enhance these flavours and really add some power to your recipes. If you don’t have a dehydrator put your oven on its lowest temp and leave the door open to mimic one.
• Dehydrated strawberries taste like candy. Like actually. Place sliced strawberries on a sheet and dry until soft, not hard. Store in a mason jar and chew on your homemade gummies to your hearts content.
• Dry your own herbs… a dehydrator isn’t even necessary for this. Just hang the stems upside down and leave for a week.
• Make fruit and veggie powders. Dry tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, peaches, strawberries, green onions, etc etc etc until they are brittle. Then throw them in a blender and blend into a powder. This powder will be super concentrated and flavourful and will be awesome sprinkled on soups, meats, and mashed potatoes for veggies or on mousse, pudding, ice cream or icing for the fruits
Pickling, preserving and canning are great, but you can lose a ton of nutrients in the process and to be honest it’s a lot more work than a ferment. Plus fermented foods are easier to digest, and help to populate the good gut bacteria you need to operate as a human. Want to know something cool? The air in your home contains your personal brand of bacteria, and your ferments will too! Make a brine by boiling water and dissolving sea salt into it, roughly 1/2tbsp of sea salt for every cup of water. Pour over your favourite veggies and spices until completely covered in a glass or ceramic container, and cover with a piece of linen or tea towel. Your experiment will get cloudy and scummy, but should never get mouldy. After one to two weeks, depending on your taste, you can seal the ferment and keep in the fridge for six months to one year. And veggies can have up to one billion probiotics per tbsp! Some of my fave combos are:
• Cucumbers, dill, chili flakes, lemon rinds
• Carrots sticks, cardamom, cinnamon stick
• Sliced hot peppers, garlic, onions (blend when finished fermenting for hot sauce)
• Zucchini & basil
• Asparagus, chili flakes and garlic
• Green beans and green onions
You can also ferment fruit but it’s a bit more complicated, so I’ll leave that one out.
So, while thinking of the end of summer may bum you out hard, it’s good to know that there are options for you to make the summer last, at least for your taste buds. Using produce at its peak freshness means that you are getting the most nutrients you possibly can from your food, and you’re also avoiding wasting what you can’t use now. And let me tell you, on the darkest, dreariest winter day, there is nothing that a white wine spritzer with summer-picked raspberry ice cubes can’t fix.