5 Ways to Prepare leftover Summer Bounty
Avoid wasting excess or imperfect produce with these tips
By Scott Bish
For some, this year’s summer harvest brought a generous bounty. While you’re likely enjoying your fill of delicious berries, zucchini, tomatoes, and other seasonal produce, there’s only so much your family can consume.
You may have also grown some fruits and vegetables that are oddly shaped or otherwise imperfect. While they taste fine, they look a little funny and may be tough to convince your family members—especially the picky ones—to eat. Don’t let all that delicious food go to waste! Here are five ways to put excess or imperfect garden goods to great use:
1 Jam Out
Jams aren’t just tasty—they’re versatile and have a long shelf life, which means you can enjoy them in many ways long after the season changes. Making jam involves crushing up fruit and heating it with water, sugar, and pectin until it gels, then cooling the mix, dividing it into jars, and processing them in a hot water bath.
While berry, grape, and stone fruit jams are classic favorites, consider making some unique and mouth-watering combos, such as raspberry and fig, beet and strawberry, and lemon and carrot, to name a few.
Regardless of which recipe you use, be sure to first remove any leaves or twigs from the produce, wash it well, and take out pits and seeds before you make the jam. Your imperfect-produce jam will taste perfectly delicious on top of toast, bagels, or cottage cheese.
2 Freeze-Dry for a Pantry-Safe Snack
Freeze-drying fruits and vegetables is another way to keep your wealth of garden delights from getting discarded. Foods with high water content freeze-dry well, which is why apples, strawberries, potatoes, peppers, and sweet potatoes are all great choices. However, there’s no reason not to experiment with other fruits and vegetables. Just as fresh produce tastes best when it’s ripe, freeze-drying your goods when they’re at their peak will result in a stronger flavor.
The freeze-drying process involves removing the moisture in really cold temperatures—below the freezing point of water (32 degrees). To freeze-dry easily at home, cut the fruits and vegetables into bite-size pieces, place them on a tray, and put the tray in your deep freezer. Try to keep the freezer door closed until the pieces freeze entirely (this should take a few hours). After the initial freeze, keep the tray in the freezer for a couple weeks until your treats are completely freeze-dried. After that, store these snacks in a container at room temperature.
3 Pick Up Pickling
Say “pickling” and most people think of cucumbers. But you can pickle pretty much any vegetable, including tomatillos, turnips, carrots, okra, beets, peppers, and turnips. Simply put, pickling is the process of preserving food through fermentation in a brine or immersion in vinegar. Basic pickling calls for veggies plus vinegar, water, and salt. Consider adding pickling spices such as dill, garlic, or even sugar if you enjoy a sweeter flavor.
If you’d like, you can skip the canning and go right to the refrigerator to start pickling. For this, simply place your veggies in the pickling liquid and refrigerate for a week. Then, enjoy the salty, briny treats for up to two months.
4 Make Garden-Inspired Salsa
Salsa made with garden-ripe tomatoes is a perfect solution for “the uglies”—what some farmers call misshapen produce. Beyond tomatoes, look for oddly shaped green peppers, onions, chili peppers, and garlic to add to your salsa.
Simply dice all those ingredients, then mix in components like vinegar, cilantro, salt, and hot pepper—whatever you enjoy.
Next, cook the mix down to a soft consistency to remove the crunch. Can the mixture once it cools. One of the easiest canning techniques involves pouring your salsa into canning jars, screwing on the lids, and carefully submerging them in a hot water bath for 30 minutes. Using tongs to avoid burning your hands, remove the jars, let them cool, and store your salsa away for future enjoyment.
5 Bake Up Leftovers
Your freshly-picked, seasonal bounty can also be a great addition to breads, cakes, tarts, and pastries. While your family may not be able to stomach any more corn on the cob or grilled zucchini, they’ll likely happily dig into freshly baked cornbread or chocolate zucchini bread. And though you have had trouble giving away excess and oddly shaped fresh fruit, it’ll be tough for your neighbors to resist a slice of pie on a summer’s day.
As you’re washing, coring, peeling, and cutting your fruits and vegetables for baking, save some pieces to use as garnish when your creation is complete. Adding a scattering of berries, slivers of apples, or even grated carrot on top will make your baked goods look extra delectable when you serve them to family and friends.
Do you have a special recipe for preserving summer produce? Send it to OutHere@TractorSupply.com. If we feature your recipe in an upcoming issue of Out Here, we’ll send you a $50 Tractor Supply Gift Card!
Scott Bish is a writer who hails from Ohio.