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Archive for the ‘Just Plain Good Ideas’ Category

October and November are my favorite months to be in the woods here in New England.  The bugs have gone (except those pesky ticks), the trails are less crowded, and the foliage is splendid.

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I’m not the only one out there, though.  Here in NH, there are several different hunting seasons.  Right now, black bear, waterfowl and small game are in season. November 11 marks the height of the season with deer/firearm season beginning.

This doesn’t mean we stay out of the woods.  It does mean that we add our own color, though!

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Hope to see you out and about, and that the weather cooperates for everyone!

South Tamworth, NH 10-2 p.m. @ Union Hall, Local meat, dairy, breads, pies, jams, vegetables, natural cosmetics, honey, frozen berries and fruits and more! 

Winter/Holiday Market sponsored by SeacoastEatLocal.  Lots of vendors here…think stocking up and last-minute gifts!  Click the link for a list of vendors and directions to Macintosh Culinary Academy.

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I got my one-billionth hit from “freeze peppers” searches yesterday.  I also did this yesterday:

Bought a couple of pounds of these (salmonella-free, thank you very much):

Washed them, dried them, and stuck them in a freezer bag, then in the freezer (no cutting, chopping, blanching!).

We’ll enjoy these all winter in cooked foods.  No need to thaw to chop and add to whatever you’re cooking.  I even used them to doctor-up my own canned salsa.  Even though they are a little mushy after coming out of the freezer, that doesn’t matter in salsa.

Heck, I might even enjoy a few now with some of my e. coli-free hamburger!

This is the last time I will post about pepper freezing, okay?

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Well, I sure hope that, after Freezing…Part I, you all went out and picked up some of this year’s bumper crop of blueberries. Whether you pick your own, or buy some from a local farmer, you can save a bit of summer’s bounty for winter yummies. And don’t forget to do the same when the peppers (particularly the red and orange ones!) come around.

Some folks like the non-blanching method for beans and summer squash, too. I haven’t tried freezing those without blanching, but I may this year. Hey, if it saves time and the end product is just as good, why not?!

Now, for the slightly more complicated method of freezing. This one, though, is suitable for pretty much every vegetable, with the possible exception of tomatoes and those peppers.

Blanching is an important step that you really don’t want to skip. It helps preserve the vegetable’s taste and texture when frozen. The resulting product, as in our first method, will really not result in veggies that you want to eat out of hand, but they are a great product for side dishes, soups, casseroles, etc.

Before you start, make sure all the goods are cleaned, chopped and ready to go.

Next, bring some water to a boil. Most sources recommend one gallon of water per pound batch of veggies. I use this pan to blanch in:

I find the surface area boils water faster, both at the beginning, and when bringing the veggies back up to a boil, plus it has a cover to help with the boiling, too.  I  add a little kosher salt when it starts boiling.

When the water is boiling, add a batch of your veggie (not too much – you need to bring the water back to a boil and the more you shove in the pan, the longer that will take). Bring the water back up to a boil, and then begin timing. Depending upon the specific vegetable, you’ll leave them in the whirlpool for 2 to 5 minutes.

Here are some common vegetables available around here right now, and the length of time that I blanch them for:

  • peas: 2 minutes
  • beans: 3 1/2 minutes
  • summer squash: 2 minutes
  • spinach: 2 minutes
  • pre-chopped mixture of onion, pepper and carrot (for soup starters): 3 minute

Once you’ve boiled for the right amount of time, start the dance: 1) transfer the veggies into a colander that’s in a bowl of ice water, 2) bring your water back to a boil 3) add the next batch, 4) while you’re waiting for those to boil, move the now cold veggies on to a paper towel or clean kitchen towel. You can get a pretty good rhythm going.

Once everything is reasonably dry, freeze on trays first or just package and freeze.

Enjoy in January.

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Back in January, I did a post for the Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge that highlighted fajitas we had for dinner.  That post, which was titled, Go Ahead, Freeze Those Peppers! is the most read post here at Yankee Food.  In the last couple of weeks, there has been a big spike in hits; people have stumbled across the blog here by searching for all of the different Google conjugations of “freeze peppers.”   It is obviously pepper season somewhere out there (not here yet, but you can bet I’ll be freezing them when they do show up!).  

I thought it might be helpful to highlight how easy it is to freeze produce in general, and hopefully encourage folks to try saving some fresh summer produce to enjoy during the winter months.  There are certainly other ways to preserve food, like canning, drying or root-cellaring, but I think freezing is the most accessible and least likely to make you worry about making your friends and family sick (nothing ruins a party like botulism!). 

Most of the information I use to preserve food is from three places 1) the internets, 2) The Busy Person’s Guide to Preserving Food by Janet Chadwick and 3) Stocking Up by Carol Hupping and the Staff of the Rodale Food Center.  Books are great for ideas and inspiration but, really, if you plan only to freeze minimally-processed food, I really think you can get started today without too much planning or reserach.  

There are a couple of methods of freezing; each is appropriate for different fruits or veggies.  In this post, I thought I’d highlight the first method.  It is the easiest, and it’s the way to freeze peppers; simply clean and chop the fruit or veggie as you’d like to use it later, package it, and throw it in the deep freeze.  

Many people (myself included) like to first freeze the produce in question on a cookie sheet for a couple of hours to keep the pieces separate.  This is especially helpful when freezing items that you want to use in smaller quantities than you’re freezing them in (for example, you only want to remove two jalapenos from the bag, or a cup of fruit).  

This method works for peppers (core and cut into strips or dice, or freeze whole, small peppers, like jalapenos), berries and even whole tomatoes if you want.  

This brings up something I consider an important point.  What the heck am I going to do with a frozen solid tomato?  I mean, I can see how people might be so tired of processing tomatoes (they are a pretty labor-intensive veggie fruit veggie) at the end of the season that they throw them in the freezer as they pick ’em off the vine.  But geez, it seems like a pain to have a bunch of croquet balls in the freezer.

If you ask me, while you’re spending time to package and freeze, why not just prepare the veggie too?  When I made those fajitas in January, all I had to do was open the package of pepper strips and throw the frozen peppers in the pan to saute.  Easy, quick and colorful!

Peppers really need to be cooked after being frozen.  They aren’t crisp enough to eat raw, but when sauteed, you hardly know the difference.  I use berries in baked goods, but also in smoothies, or stirred into hot oatmeal (if the berries are large, I defrost them a little so they don’t cool it down).  They’re not good for eating out of hand when defrosted

So, why not find a place to pick your own berries (blueberries are coming in around here) and freeze some to use in the winter for smoothies or oatmeal or pies or muffins or pancakes or ….

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Celebrate local food in NH by participating in NH Eat Local Week! You can find great ideas and keep up with events news, as well as hear how other people are committing to participating here.

Why not organize a local foods potluck in your area?  Or maybe help publicize the event at your favorite farmstand or CSA.

I’m stewing about some plans right now, so I’ll post here about how I plan to take part in this exciting, state-wide event.

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Are you tired of me going on and on about my new boyfriend, Jamie Oliver?

Well, if you aren’t, and you, too, may be developing a little crush (or perhaps you’re way cooler than I am and already know that he cares about chickens and gardens and school lunches) check out his website, okay?  I dare you not to be more inspired to get some fresh ingredients into the kitchen at your kids’ school, or find someone who raises chickens.

Thanks, Jamie!

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