Winter is coming. Actually, it’s kind of already here in the midwest. If you haven’t been paying attention to the news or stepped outside, there is a huge cold front that is moving through the country bringing snow and wind and cold. Yay…. Anyway, as the winter season settles in the harvest season winds down. There aren’t many new crops popping up in the dead of winter and while I know that in modern grocery stores we can get any fruit or vegetable at any time of the year, the selection of in season produce is slim. I have been trying to make a push in our household to try and eat as seasonally as possible. There will always be a few fruit and vegetables, like bananas and sweet potatoes, that I will buy no matter the time of year, but otherwise I try to eat what’s in season. Now, just because there isn’t a lot to choose from in the winter time, if you take a little time to plan ahead, you can eat all your summer/fall favorites through the cold months ahead. There are many ways to preserve food, but the three that I’m going to share here are the ones that I use most often.
Most people only think of dill pickles when the hear the word pickling, but you can pretty much pickle any vegetable. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, asparagus, summer squash, onions, garlic….. you get the idea. Pickling has been around for centuries and it is a fairly simple process so don’t be too intimidated. Pickled vegetables can be used on a lot of different dishes, from placing kimchi on a burger or making a pickled beet salad, and really add a unique flavor. On the health and nutrition side of pickled food, they provide a great source of probiotics that can help improve your digestion and gut health. All really good things! Check out a few of these online tutorials for pickling and get started. Experiment with different vegetables and spices and enjoy delicious vegetables all winter long.
Sauces, Jams, and Butters
This is my go to way to preserve fruit, especially the bounty of fruit that is available during the fall. If you’re like me you’re probably swimming in apples and a great way to save those apples (other than making a million pies!) is to make apple butter or apple sauce. You can pretty much use these two methods for all fruit. You can make sauce or jam from strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, any berry. Fruit butters are another great way to save fruit and many can be made right in your slow cooker. One of my favorite combos is a pumpkin/apple butter and I usually have a jar or two on hand. I have myself have never made jam, but I have made quite a few sauces like cranberry and tomato sauce. You can find a few good tutorials here for making big batches of jam and on Friday I’ll share a really easy way to make a big batch of applesauce, so check back for that!
This is by far the easiest method of preserving your produce and the one that I use the most. During the fall when squash is super cheap I stock up and then freeze the extra. I either peel and dice the squash into cubes and freeze that way or I peel, dice, steam, and puree it and freeze the puree in batches. You can also freeze things like broccoli and cauliflower. Cut and steam the vegetables until brightly colored and then dunk them in a bowl of ice water. This is called blanching and it helps preserve their flavor. Once they are relatively dry, place them in freezer safe bags or container. When you want to use them just steam until cooked through. I like freezing produce because it is a great way to have quick meals on hands. I can use my purees for baking or soup or gnocchi and having vegetables on hand make an easy side dish or add nutrition to stir fry. Plus frozen foods can last for up to three month as long as they are properly stored.
These are my favorite ways to make the bounty of produce available during the warmer months last all winter long. There are other ways, such as canning, to preserve your food so find the method that works best for you. If you take just a little bit of time and effort you can eat well even if the weather is frightful!