In the last few weeks of summer, it can be hard to resist a basket of bright, warm peaches at the farmer’s market, or freshly picked roadside corn at $2 a dozen. If you’ve ever found yourself surrounded with more perfectly ripe produce than you could ever possibly enjoy, we hear you.
To help get us out of this pickle, we turned to Dana Harrison and Joel MacCharles, the couple behind the website Well Preserved, for their tips and recommendations on how to preserve the best of summer. The pair recently launched their first book, Batch, a guide to preserving 25 different ingredients, which includes over 200 recipes, tips and techniques.
For most preserving, you don’t need pressure cooker or a smoker to save those summer flavours. “It is way easier than you think, way funner than you think and it can take minutes,” says MacCharles, who notes that the biggest obstacle to preserving is not knowing what’s possible.
If your fridge is overflowing, these four techniques are a great place to start saving the flavours of summer for a cooler day.
1. Freezing. Your first tool to making produce last longer is already in your kitchen. “The fridge and freezer are the ones that people don’t think about,” says MacCharles. While it can take up space, freezing is a super simple way to preserve food at its peak, so it can be enjoyed later in the year. Try roasting peppers and pureeing them before slipping them into the freezer for a boost of flavour come winter.
2. Fermenting. People are seeking out kimchi and kombucha for the gut-health benefits, but many don’t realize that fermentation is a type of preserving. “I think fermenting is the easiest thing you can do,” says Harrison, who recommends turning that big head of cabbage into sauerkraut. “Massage a bunch of cabbage together with salt and put it in a jar and that’s it, you’re done.”
3. Infusing. Infusing is an easy and super quick way to capture the flavours of fresh ingredients. “You could talk to many people who are infusing and they don’t think that they are preserving food,” says MacCharles, who says the technique is big in the cocktail scene, where bitters and infused alcohol are popular. Home cooks can play with infusing oils, vinegar or alcohol. A simple and easy way to make a gourmet ingredient in a flash is infusing salt. Mixing salt with an ingredient like a wilting pepper or rhubarb is a dead easy way to infuse flavour into your salt and makes for an easy flavour enhancer.
4. Canning. While most people think strawberry jam is a great place to start, MacCharles disagrees. “It is easy to mess up yet it is totally the gateway,” he says. He recommends thinking about what you like to eat and learning the techniques from there. Harrison and MacCharles learned the hard way by starting with jam, but canned tomato sauce is where they really hit their stride. “It is on the cover of the book because that is family to us,” says MacCharles. Every fall, Harrison and MacCharles head to his parent’s house for one saucy weekend, where they typically make 160 jars in one sitting.
When in doubt, make something you know you like to eat and get the family involved with preserving for the most fun.