By the end of May, the land has reawakened and local farms are once again producing a wealth of fresh fruits and vegetables. Here’s how to preserve these foods so you can enjoy them all year.
May is a great time of year. The cold of winter is past, April showers have soaked the land and gone. It’s not so hot that it’s unbearable to be outside, and farmers markets are starting to fill once more with growers proudly displaying their wares.
Don’t just sit there! Take advantage of the weather and the produce! Food is never as tasty or as cheap as when it’s in season, so go out and buy as much of it as you want. Bring that food home, enjoy as much of it as you can and then preserve the rest. Not sure how to do that? It may sound like a lot of work, but it’s very simple.
Asparagus with its woody, green, vital flavor holds up surprisingly well in the freezer. All you need to do to preserve it is first prepare it like you would for cooking. This means snapping off the woody ends (if you’ve never done this, take one end of the asparagus in each hand and bend it until it snaps. Discard the nonspear end or reserve it for veggie broth.). Once you have the woody ends removed, cook the asparagus in well-salted boiling water for three minutes, then put it in ice-cold water for 30 seconds. After that, put the asparagus in a plastic bag, seal and freeze.
Nothing beats fresh berries picked in season, but eating berries that you froze after buying them in season comes awfully close. To freeze berries, wash them thoroughly, remove any stems, stones, pieces of grass, etc. Then, if you have larger berries like strawberries or blackberries, go ahead and cut them into small pieces. Halve the blackberries, slice the strawberries into quarter-inch pieces, etc. Next, add a layer of berries in a freezer-safe container and top them with a little sugar. Continue layering fruit and sugar until the container is full. Make sure it has an airtight lid, then freeze.
If you want to freeze artichokes, you again will have to process the artichoke. That means a lot of fancy knife work as you remove the outer leaves, shave the stem, etc. However, once, you have the heart and tender part of the artichoke, you can just place it in a plastic bag and freeze it. No blanching required. This method also works for chives, spring onions and other spring plants.
When preserving watermelon, you have several options. The easiest is to cube the watermelon and freeze. However, the defrosted fruit is never as good as it was fresh. Instead, puree the watermelon with a little lemon juice and sugar, then freeze that. The resulting liquid can be defrosted and turned into ice pops, watermelon margaritas or whatever you want to do with frozen juice.