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how to flash freeze blueberries

flash frozen blueberries in a freezer bag

Skip ahead to to the blue text if you want the instructions without the incoherent babbling.

Flash freezing has been done in the food industry for ages to quickly preserve and seal in nutrients and freshness. It’s why nutritionists say frozen seafood, vegetables, and so forth are technically “fresher” than their fresh cousins you find in the grocery store.

Of course, if you’re practicing locavore-oriented shopping, you don’t have that problem now, do you? It’s not hard, and you don’t have to be a hardass about it. You’re just growing a garden, or befriending people who do, or participating in a CSA. Okay, I had to act like I knew what a CSA was. Hey look, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.

Oh, wow. There’s one in my area. Crap, now you know where I live. No stalking!

Back to locavore stuff. You’re doing the above, and/or you’re looking for locally-grown produce at the supermarket, you’re befriending people with chickens for eggs, etc. It doesn’t have to be all intensive like the people who do “we’ll only eat anything grown within 100 miles” experiments.

So if you’re me, one locavore thing you’ve done recently is go to a local orchard and buy or pick blueberries. You picked a lot of blueberries. And you might as well throw some in the freezer for winter.

There’s something sparkly about pulling berries out of the freezer in the dead of winter, and making a smoothie, or cobbler, or pie. In like, February. You want to do this with your pretty local berries.

Note: This method can be used with nearly anything solid. I freeze tablespoons of tomato paste this way. Adobo chiles. Some people flash freeze lemon slices, or mushrooms. I don’t know if I trust frozen mushrooms, but they can’t hurt if being thrown into a lasagna or something. Read more on how to flash freeze blueberries…

how to freeze sweet corn

mmm corn

Dad plants sweet corn for all of us every year, staggered a week or two apart so we have sweet corn for longer. I don’t know exactly how far apart; I’m sure someone will read this and correct me since I seem to get something wrong in every post.

getting the silk off, a stack of corn, another stack by the stove, and corncobs with the corn cutter

It’s like when there’s a story in the paper that you were part of or know everything about. You read the article, and you find one thing reported incorrectly, then another, and another, and you come away wondering why you bother to believe anything you read or hear on the news ever.

cooling the just-blanched sweet corn!

Sweet corn is one vegetable that you want to freeze yourself if you can get hold of some fresh in season, because frozen store-bought just isn’t the same. Now, this isn’t true for all vegetables, as Mom and I concurred the other day. Yes, we talk about this kind of thing. We’re boring. We agreed that green beans, on the other hand, are pretty damn awesome frozen from the store. But sweet corn? Not so much.

no, she is not high

linda's using the kickass corn cutter

So get to a farmer’s market or a roadside stand right quick, get yourself some just-picked sweet corn, cajole a partner — you really, really want to do this with a partner — and set aside a few hours to freeze sweet corn. Read more on how to freeze sweet corn…

July 16, 2009 in canning and freezing, how to10 comments

how to make red currant juice

cleaned red currants, ready for juicifying

Why would you want to make currant juice?

I can think of a few reasons, one of which is definitely going to show up here shortly.

One, to make currant jelly. Now, I’m a strawberry jam girl, so I don’t make currant jelly, but if you put some currant jelly in front of me, I won’t complain.

Two, to make currant pie. My grandma made a currant chiffon pie that used Dream Whip. I might see if I can natural that up. I wonder if you could use stabilized whip cream to do it.

Three, and this is the doozy, to make currant sorbet. Shocking pink, tangy, and sweet and icy. Perfect for a summer afternoon. And it’s quite easy. That one’s going to show up here soon.

so THATS what a ricer looks like!

By the way, these are red currants. You know, I’ve never even seen a black currant, though I’ve heard tell of them in weird cookbooks and dark recesses of the intertubes. I’ve got six currant bushes, though five of them tend to be kind of spindly. The spindly ones are up front near the white lilac and the peonies. The big bushy currant is back by the plum trees. And across from the gooseberry bush, said gooseberry bush never going to be a source of recipes here because they’re kind of a pain, and not interesting-tasting enough to me to care. Oh, why are they a pain? Why, thorns of course. The dumb bush is covered in little thorns. Yay.

currant bush

Currants, however, have none of those horrid protrusions, and they have a unique flavor. They taste just as red as they look, but there’s nothing cloying about them. There’s this added level, almost a smoky kind of depth.

Great. I just described currants as “smoky.” You’re never going to want to try them now.

You don’t want to eat them by the handful off the bush; they’re kind of tart. But turn them into juice and oo la la.

Currant juice. Check out the awesome red color

So the second time picking, I spent about an hour here and got most of a big bowl full. Mom has currants at her house too, which I neglected to prune for her this spring. Bad daughter! Strangely, I was still in the currant-picking mood, so I went to her house to get some. In half an hour my bowl was just as full as it had been before.

Her currants are way bigger. :(

Anyway, enough yapping. If you’re lucky enough to have access to currants, PICK THEM. MAKE JUICE FROM THEM. Then make CURRANT PIE or CURRANT JELLY or CURRANT SORBET from them. Freeze the juice in 1-cup containers, and you can have a taste of summer in the dead of winter, always a plus.

Oh. Any ideas how to get Dream Whip out of the currant chiffon pie? Read more on how to make red currant juice…

November 10, 2009 in canning and freezing, vegan, vegetarian13 comments

in which Facebook is vilified, and swiss chard is frozen

super mega fast chopping!

To skip the Facebook rant and get right to the recipe instructions, scroll down to “Let’s freeze some chard!”

Hola, amigos. How’s it going with you? I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya. Okay, I’m channeling Read more on in which Facebook is vilified, and swiss chard is frozen…

September 1, 2010 in canning and freezing10 comments

is canning your own pasta sauce worth it?

canned pasta sauce - yum!

I like to can with an eye on the benjamins. What food products can I preserve that are costly to buy in the store, or rare to find? Canning tomatoes, on their own, feels virtually worthless. Commercially-canned tomatoes are cheap and good quality. There’s no point, man. That’s the cost half of the equation.

Peaches are an example of the “rare to find” category. Canned peaches aren’t rare per se, but good-tasting commercially-canned peaches are not merely difficult to find, they simply do not exist. In the case of peaches, it makes sense to put forth the effort because the reward is so delicious.

But what can be done with the humble tomato? Sauce and plain canned tomatoes are out, since the effort to cost/quality ratio is too high. I decided that, hey, spaghetti sauce is pretty expensive, especially for good-quality varieties. So let’s look at how to can spaghetti sauce and make some. And let’s calculate at the end the true cost and do a comparison! Read more on is canning your own pasta sauce worth it?…

look, we canned pears

too bad i hate pears

Yup, we sure did.

I provided the kitchen and the canner and my aunt picked the pears, cleaned the pears, peeled the pears, cut the pears, packed the pears, and processed the pears.

I practically did it all by myself!

the canning stuff, yawn

yer basic hot water bath canning setup

Right there you see the basic canning setup on the stovetop. I began doing this a few years ago, absorbed in some weird home ec flashback. I say weird, because home ec was actually more about how to not kill yourself in the kitchen and how to hand sew misshapen stuffed animals made of highly-flammable polyester. And less about useful stuff like, you know, canning.

Since this stuff often hits Facebook, I bet some of you were in that 7th grade home ec class, or had one yourself. Did you honestly ever cook anything more involved than no-bake chocolate cookies? If that. But I digress, as I am wont to do.

6 pints in 2 hours, man

We (she) canned 6 pints of pears in 2 hours. Of course, many pears do not make it into little jars, and instead find themselves eaten by nephews and ignored by super adorable kittens.

justin, jen, pear, kitteh
Read more on look, we canned pears…

September 14, 2009 in canning and freezing, how to16 comments

millions of peaches, peaches for me

those peaches look real purty

You can’t beat a home-canned peach. Store-bought doesn’t compare. Some other fruits handle store shelves pretty well, like pineapple and pears, but store-canned peaches are nearly flavorless in comparison.

If you can only one variety of fruit, can peaches.

pints of pretty peaches

Linda came over to do it with me, bearing a bushel of peaches from the local fruit market. After an aborted attempt at canning them — they weren’t ready yet! — we let them ripen for 3 more days. They were gorgeous. Firm, fragrant, and only one bad one in the bunch, discovered at the bottom of one of the boxes.

really, maybe like 3/4. some jars missing.

We got about 32 pints from that bushel, with about 20 peaches kept aside for fresh eating and baking. Here’s how to can your own. Read more on millions of peaches, peaches for me…

pickles, to make you jealous

canned homemade dill pickles

Truly, these pickles only appear before you because I’m dead tired. Been working on a house all week and I’m a tad unused to hours of physical labor every day. It’s a good tired, I guess. There’s overdone tired and there’s muscles kind of achy but in the well-used and getting stronger way, and it’s the latter.

Read more on pickles, to make you jealous…

strawberry freezer jam-boree

mm, jamalicious

I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never had to learn how to make strawberry freezer jam. I’ve been even more fortunate in that I never even tasted store-bought jam until I was practically an adult.

As a result, I’m spoiled. Spoiled rotten. I turn up my nose at Smucker’s, and even those fancy top-shelf brand jams can’t satisfy.

I never had to learn how to make strawberry freezer jam because every year I saw my mom make it right in front of me. Sis and I got drafted to help pick strawberries in our grandparents’ strawberry patch. I recall crouching low, pushing through the leaves, and searching for the elusive strawberries Grandma insisted were still there even though we were sure we’d gotten them all. Read more on strawberry freezer jam-boree…

tomatoes for pasta sauce

15 pounds of Opalka Plum tomatoes

I’m making pasta sauce today. Woo! It calls for 45 pounds of tomatoes. Check this out, dudes. It’s nearly 15 pounds of tomatoes. See? 45 pounds isn’t that bad. The recipe, which is from the unfortunately-named Ball Blue Book, claims to make 14 pints or 7 quarts.

Read more on tomatoes for pasta sauce…