By Melanie Bernier for Boston Compass (#127)
September 25, 2020
Every year in late summer, I develop an urgent need to... do shit. I think I know why. In the waning weeks of August, the spirits of my ancestors return. They claw inside my 21st-century mozzarella cheese brain and sound an alarm. “Quit jerkin’ it, sweet summer child. The harvest is here!”
“Waah,” say I. “You ancestors and your fucking harvests. Harvests. Are. Cancelled. I don’t have a root cellar. Canning is for prairie folk. I live in a tiny-ass apartment in a dumbass city built on a goddamned swamp. What do you want from me?”
“Look inside yourself,” they reply. “I mean, look inside the freezer.”
The freezer. Where summer’s bounty can suspend in a deep sleep until winter when we need it most. Sadly, the average freezer’s contents usually fall into two categories: 1. Packaged food your roommate forgot about, and 2. Liquor. Can we admit that this isn’t the most inspired use of precious fridge space? Clear it out. Stock up on your favorite fruits and vegetables at the farmer’s market. With minimal prep work, you will spend winter enjoying locally grown summer produce in smoothies, stir-fries, salads, and bakes. Package-free.
STOCK UP ON “SECONDS”
Stocking up on a bunch of produce at once can be prohibitively expensive. You can purchase and freeze small quantities throughout the growing season. Or you can go the bulk route. Ask a farmer at your nearby market if they sell “seconds.” Seconds are discounted produce, usually sold in bulk. They’re completely edible but visually distressed—bruised, for example, or spotted. Not a problem. Food stored in the freezer doesn’t need to be camera-ready.
A versatile culinary powerhouse.
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
Quarter tomatoes, or halve if very small. Arrange on a cookie sheet. Optional: smash up some garlic cloves and sprinkle over top.
Slow cook in the oven for 1.5 - 2 hours, or until softened, sweet, and roasted.
When cool, transfer tomatoes and juices into jars. Leave an inch or two at the top so the tomatoes can expand when frozen.
Store in the freezer. Enjoy for a year or more.
Arrange berries in a single layer on a tray that fits in your freezer, such as a cookie sheet.
Place it in the freezer.
Once frozen, transfer berries into a container or cloth bag. Store in the freezer. Enjoy for a year or more.
PEACHES AND NECTARINES
Cut the fruit. It’s up to you - halves, quarters, or slices.
Make a lemon water bath, using a 1:4 ratio of lemon juice to water. Toss cut fruit in the bath. This will prevent it from browning.
Arrange the bathed fruit on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer.
Once frozen, transfer into jars. Store in the freezer for a year or more.
Remove stems and seeds.
Slice peppers however you like.
Arrange pepper slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and place it in the freezer.
Once frozen, transfer peppers into a container. Store it in the freezer. Enjoy for a year or more.