By Katrina Godshalk
As The Days of summer begin to shorten, a gentle nudge of change seeps into our consciousness—migration and hibernation for some, but a cue to preserve and put up food for others. Ushering the growing season’s plenty into forms to be enjoyed year-round is a smart, fun and satisfying way to preserve the flavor and goodness of our abundant local haul. Once you’ve harvested your own fruit trees and bushes, gathered from a neighbor with excess, foraged the parkland’s berries, purchased seasonal fruits and vegetables from the farmers’ market and local produce stands, or visited a local Upick farm—here are five great ways to make the most of the growing season.
1. Can it!
Fun to undertake with friends and family, canning yields an end product that makes a great gift and brings a touch of sunshine to dark winter days. Where to start? Kerrie Sanson, chef and owner of Preserve, a small-batch canning business, regularly shares her knowledge at BARN’s new artisan center, teaching classes in the art and techniques of canning. In her handmade condiments, Sanson uses local ingredients to craft over 18 varieties of preserved delights from raspberry jam to onion relish. “You can’t rush making jam, there are no short cuts,” said Sanson. “The process makes you slow down; it’s meditative and relaxing.” No time for canning yourself? Sanson’s products can be found at Bay Hay & Feed, Heyday Farm Store, Salt Mercantile, Bainbridge Vineyards and the farmers’ market every Saturday.
2. Freeze it!
Busy summer? Frozen berries make great jam. “Place your berries on a rimmed baking sheet with space between each berry and place it in the freezer,” Sanson advised. “When frozen, simply pour them into a freezer bag.” Take out just what you need for winter smoothies, pies or making jam. Veggies are simple to freeze as well, and if used within six to eight weeks, require no blanching Just pick, clean and place in freezer bags or tubs and freeze. For longer storage, blanch the veggies first with a quick bath in boiling water, which stops the production of enzymes and keeps them in a fresh state. To avoid freezer burn, remove as much air as possible from around the fruits and veggies. Vacuum sealers work like a charm but even using a straw to suck out most of the air before completing the seal is an easy solution.
3. Dry it!
Do you have an overflowing herb garden or never-ending plums? Drying or de-hydrating can be a perfect way to transform produce into easy-to-store, longlasting food. Although dehydrators are a fast and easy way to dry fruits and vegetables, herbs can be hung upside down in small bunches or laid on a screen in a warm, dim, dry place such as an attic. Local gardening expert Ann Lovejoy advises, “Harvest fresh herbs in the morning while the foliage is still refreshed by dew.” Once crisp, store the herbs in tightly sealed containers, or better yet, Lovejoy suggests double-bagging them and storing them in the freezer for maximum flavor retention.
4. Pickle it!
Picking has been used for thousands of years to preserve vegetables for long journeys and create delicious additions to the table. Want crackling crisp dill pickles, tangy sauerkraut or kimchi? They are surprisingly easy to make and good for you too. Check out BARN’s upcoming classes on fermentation and pickling at bainbridgebarn.org.
5. Share it!
Sharing extra fruit and vegetables is a great way to help spread the bounty. Helpline House on Bainbridge Island and Fishline in Poulsbo both welcome donations of homegrown produce and fruit. Another avenue for sharing an abundance of produce: offer your excess on a Facebook group like Buy Nothing Bainbridge. Simply join up and post whatever you’d like to give. You can even leave it to the recipient to harvest it themselves from your garden. Hands on, hands off, or somewhere in between, there’s a veritable cornucopia of ways to reap the harvest of our island’s offerings. Bon appetit!