Our friends at Brainfood recently spent an evening preserving cucumbers and squash from their new garden in Mt. Vernon Square. Brainfood, an after-school program for high school students, uses food as a tool to build life skills in a fun and creative way. Their story is quite the full circle. In June they built the garden plots and planted vegetables; August is harvest and pickling time; and come October, DC youth will use the vegetables in all sorts of recipes. From soil to food to education in just six months!
Do you wish your food told a story like that? The more common methods of preserving fresh vegetables – pickling, freezing, and fermenting – can be surprisingly easy. Whether it’s the produce of your garden, a fresh farmers’ market find, or something from your grocery store, many vegetables can be enjoyed year-round through some simple processes in your own kitchen. You can start out with everyone’s favorite, pickled cucumbers. After that, try out some the great, simple recipes at the end of this post.
Whether you’re a veteran or novice pickler, join us in the DC State Fair’s Prepared Foods contests! We have separate competitions for Cucumber Pickles, Other Vegetable Pickles, Fruit Pickles, and Fermented Vegetables.
Extending the life of your fresh vegetables through freezing is one of the easiest ways to eat tasty produce year-round. The squash in this recipe is easily replaceable with zucchini, carrots, broccoli, spinach, or many of your other favorite vegetables. Adapted from a recipe at http://www.pickyourown.org.
- Cut any quantity of squash into ½ inch rounds or batonnets (like French fries).
- Blanch the squash in boiling water or steam for about 3 minutes.
- Cool the blanched squash quickly in an ice bath.
- Bag and freeze the squash. There are many methods out there, but one of the easiest is the Ziploc brand vacuum seal bags available in grocery stores. You can also use a regular freezer bag, but use a straw to suck out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.
- 6 fresh beets
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 1 ½ tsp. salt
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 Tbsp. whole allspice
- 1 Tbsp. whole cloves
- Wash the beets and remove any greens. Put them in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook until fork-tender. Remove skins once they’re cool enough to handle.
- Bring all other ingredients to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes. (If you don’t want the cinnamon sticks, allspice, or cloves in the final product, tie them up in a cheesecloth sack before boiling).
- Pack the beets into several mason jars.
- Pour the pickling liquid over the beets, ensuring that the beets are fully covered by liquid. Cover with the lid.
- If you plan to eat within a couple weeks, then just pop the jars in the refrigerator and wait a week. If you’d like to preserve them longer, use a water bath canner or pressure canner to seal them according to the canner’s instructions.
This spicy, funky fermented cabbage is a mainstay in a ton of Korean dishes. Check out a great Kimchi recipe at Mark’s Daily Apple. Adjust the seasonings to taste – there’s no wrong way to do kimchi.