Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's Time to Start Freezing! The AC Ban Continues! Kholrabi Chips!

I know that many folks just don't have the time - or frankly the inclination - for canning or "putting up" as it used to be called.

But just remember, there's another, easier alternative and now is the time to get started!  The strawberries, sour cherries, cherries and blueberrries are gradually showing up at our Farmers' Markets.  Just imagine opening up a bag of lucious strawberries in December or February!  Or making Blueberry Pancakes with local, delicious, fresh tasting berries during a snow storm! You want to don't you?

It's not at all difficult.  You need some good quality quart sized freezer bags, a sharp knife, a couple of bowls, the berries, and just a little bit of time.

For Strawberries, all that you have to do is hull your strawberries (cut off the green top where it was attached to the vine), slice the strawberries either in half or in quarters - I don't like to do thin slices for freezing.  Fill your quart sized freezer bags (not storage, actual freezer bags - they protect much more effectively) with your cleaned and cut strawberry pieces, write the contents and the date on the bag and freeze.  They will defrost quickly when you remove them from the freezer and they will have a bit more liquid to them from the freezing process.  We have used them for pancakes, cakes, syrups, all sorts of recipes and for cocktails.  They are delicious and in the middle of winter an unspeakable treat! 

We do pretty much the same thing with Blueberries, Cherries, and Sour Cherries.  When Peaches are in we do can some in their own juices, but we also freeze wedges of Peaches.  These are wonderful for cocktails and sauces.  Seared duck breast with a reduced peach sauce is a favorite cold weather recipe for us.

The Berries are at the Markets now.  Don't hesitate.  Stock up!  The ones you freeze will be far and away superior in every way to any you buy from agri-business in a stupermarket freeezer section!

And speaking of Freezing, I have had queries from some of you inquiring as to whether we are "still" holding off on using our central air conditioning.  The short answer - "Yes we are!".  We keep the blinds down half way and the windows open all over the house during the day and use fans on all of our three floors - our basement, even though it's "finished" is always cool; one of the joys of a very old house!  One of the keys is that we spend lots of time outside in our garden - what we call our "outside living room" - this is such an important factor in keeping cool.  As a kid, I remember everyone on our block sitting out front on their open porches or just their stoops on summer evenings - they were cooling themselves down from the day.  If you can, dine in the garden or outside (lite, cold foods are in, of course), catch the evening breeze, do a little splashing if you can or even just spritz a bit with the hose - these will all serve to lower your body temperature as the sun goes down.  For sure, good fans are a must to successfully staying comfortable, so there is an investment to be made there, but it is far and away much cheaper - in both money, wear and tear on your body, and cost to the environment - than running air conditioners.  And, you will feel much better - really!  Sweating - as much as many of us hate the very idea of it - is good for us.  My much better half spends the day in office AC and she can't wait to get out of it at the end of the day- so while it is an adjustment, it has proven to be a real permanent change for us. To be honest, we lived in AC from late Spring to Fall every year for years - now we walk in somewhere and look at each other and know we are both thinking, "it's cold in here"!  If your health isn't affected by learning to adjust to heat during the day, it's worth a shot! 

Prepping Fresh Local Strawberries for the Freezer

This is so simple and actually a healthy alternative to traditional chips.  When it's not too hot to fire up your oven for a few minutes, these are a wonderful and different snack!


Kohlrabi Chips

We have used both the green and the purple Kohlrabi - it's in the Farmers Markets now.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees
Use a Mandoline or the thin slicer wheel on your food processor or a very, very sharp knife if your knife skills are very, very good,  and slice the "ball" part of the Kohlrabi into the thinnest chip like slices possible.

Spread them out on parchment paper on a cookie sheet; put them in the oven and stay right there!  Depending on their size and thickness, they will cook up quickly. 
You will end up doing multiple trays - unless you have a really big oven.

Pull the chips out when the chip edges are crinkled and brown; sprinkle with sea salt; let them rest a bit  and toss them into a basket. As you make these more you will come up with other flavorings - like curry powder, sweet pimienton, etc.

They are delicious by themselves, with cheese, with dips - in any way you would use chips.


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