We are taking a regularly scheduled break from tomatoes. Fret not, we will return to tomatoes, but goodness knows there is a lot more out there that could be 'put up' from your favourite road side stand or farmers' market. And this one is a bit more time-sensitive (as will be tomorrow's). These things, they're all contingent on having that extra hour window of time where you can do the work that needs to happen.
Well today's instalment on how-to-prepare-for-armageddon I MEAN how-to-prepare-for-winter takes all of FIVE MINUTES. Five minutes today, and five minutes, well maybe 10 down the road, when you have time. Would I lie to you? Freezing berries. The one thing you'll do this summer that will give you the biggest pay-back, and the most delicious bang for your time/buck.
THE HOW-TO: Buy copious amounts of berries. You won't be sorry. Berries are one of the most-sprayed produce items out there, so if you can spring for it, go organic. Buy all kinds. Or go foraging for saskatoons in the coulee by your house. (Call 311 to find out if they spray for pesticides in that area first!) Or blueberry and raspberry picking by your cottage if you are so lucky to live somewhere where these jewels grow in abundance. Just make sure to bring your bear spray with you.
I learned this from my Mom. I associate all things berries with my Maman. She is a berry-picking fiend and makes I think perhaps the most perfect pies and jams in all of the land. (Pie making is a surefire way to keep the harvest. But it's a bit harder than what we're attempting today.) To this day, the smell of small-batch raspberry jam means JE SUIS AU CHALET ET MAMAN EST APRES FAIRE DE LA COMPOTE. Which means all is right with the world, yes? How Lorraine does it (and consequently, I do it): she fills the bottom of a tray or cookie sheet with one layer of berries, and goes through picking it to remove the bugs, leaves, twigs, stemmy bits and dirt. I think she washes them, but if they're clean enough (and organic or foraged), I won't as I usually pick them or get them when they're ripe and I fear smooshing them if I wash them. So I leave them as-is. The tray is one-layer thick and now picked cleaned; now at this point my mom makes jam. But for me, I pop it in the freezer as-is, of course on a flat surface. I leave it in the freezer for how many days it takes to really freeze them through (at least 2 days), but not more than a week as you'll start to lose some of the moisture content. When I have that extra 10 minutes, I take the tray out and start filling those medium sized freezer bags with the berries, and you can label them if you'd like so you know which summer they were picked in. I tuck the bags in the freezer, and voila! Insta-berries for smoothies, pies, crisps or cobblers, tarts, muffins, sauces, pancakes, ice cream.
Oh yes, I meant to add that if you like, you can pre-measure those berries out and put them in bags labelled with the amount you've put in, if you have a go-to recipe that calls for 2 cups, say.
Do I need to say it? GO PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD.