Try this at home – preserving fall crops

Brrr…..in case there was any doubt the weather confirms – autumn is really here! Hope you are all still enjoying the Michigan harvest. At the Locavorious kitchen we are still enjoying preserving fall’s bounty! What? What’s that you say? Is there still Michigan farm fresh food around to preserve? Yes, there is, and yes you can do this at home! Now is still a great time to buy fresh veggies in season and put some up for winter.

Here are some of the vegetables that are still available at the Ann Arbor Farmers market that freeze well: spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, squash, pumpkin, green beans, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and even a few tomatoes for sauce.

Greens like kale, collards and swiss chard are simply awesome right now and will be available well into next month from the local farms. To freeze them for use in hearty winter meals – wash the leaves, remove the thick woody stems, and chop. An easy way to quickly chop them is to roll a handful of leaves loosely together and then cut strips. Green vegetables need to be blanched before freezing – either in boiling water or steaming. I recommend steaming for 3 minutes and then quenching the kale in a bowl of ice water. Drain, pack and freeze. At Locavorious we pack kale and swiss chard into 16 oz heavy weight deli-type containers, but you can use any sort of freezer bag, freezer-ready jar or plastic container. It’s now recipe-ready for you in your freezer.

This week we preserved a blend of 3 types of kale from Frog Holler Organic Farm – curly, Red Russian, and Lacinato (also known as cavolo nero, black kale or dinosaur kale). This winter one could add such a lovely organic kale medley to stews, or make braised greens or southern style greens (cooked in a pot forever with a ham hock or chunk of smoked meat.) Kale pairs well with strong flavors like smoked meats, tamari, hot peppers, garlic, peanuts, and sweet peppers. Last week I made Debra Madison’s White Beans with Black Kale and Savoy Cabbage recipe with our kale medley, and it was just the thing for cool autumn evening.

Crops from the brassica genus freeze really well too – especially cauliflower, broccoli, and Romanesco , that funky fractal-Christmas tree-like vegetable you know you want to try. For these veggies, wash, chop or break into florets, and blanch in steam for 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can blanch in boiling water for 2 – 3 minutes before cooling in the ice water bath.

This year Locavorious put up some brilliant orange cauliflower as well as the traditional white. All of our cauliflower came from Wilczewski’s in Howell. Kurt and Karen Wilczewski grow the biggest and the most colorful cauliflower I’ve ever seen. Kurt says he cannot taste the difference between the colors, but he’s heard people say orange cauliflower has a more “buttery” flavor. In the kitchen we thought the orange had more of a buttery smell after blanching, but I too thought they tasted the same – both delicious. Frozen cauliflower works well in casseroles, soups and curries, and pairs well with many flavors – cheeses, garlic, curry, ginger, soy sauce, lemon, and butter, just to name a few. If someone has a good recipe for Aloo Gobi, please share it!

For more information on how to preserve food at home via freezing, check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation website – http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/freeze.html, or some of my favorite books: Preserving the Harvest, So Easy to Preserve or Preserving Summer’s Bounty.

Some pix: Tantre Farm’s market table on Wednesday, October 14.

Swiss chard, lacinato and curly kale waiting for you at Tantre’s table.

A lovely organic kale medley from Frog Holler Organic Farm about to get blanched.

Karen Wilczewski and her big, colorful cauliflower at the Ann Arbor Market.

Dawn, a strong member of the Locavorious kitchen crew, lifts a Wilczewski cauliflower.

1 comment to Try this at home – preserving fall crops

  • Vegetable Garden

    Thanks for the post. I am always looking for ways to improve my gardening and cooking skills. My family loves eating real food.