6 Ways to Savor Summer
The Northwest is big on summer flavor. We have an abundance of top quality fresh local produce. It may be coming from your garden, the farmers market or even local grocery peak season specials. And if you are savy, you even may be receiving a weekly box from a your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that delivers fresh organic produce and local products to your door.
The fact is we have an “embarrassment of riches” here in the NW that starts early spring and runs through late fall. Winter though not extreme seems long here. So beginning with spring I start to gather the bounty with the idea of figuring ways I can sustain and savor the season long after it has ended.
Here are a few things I do to savor summer and carry it through winter.
- Freeze peak season fruit starting in the spring
Start right away with cherries. Washington Cherries are the best and they are easy to capture. Simply pit them and put them in one layer on a bake sheet. Freeze them until they are firm. Once they are set pack them into freezer containers or bags. The giant Bings are the best and a few Rainiers are great as well. Think about making Cherries Jubilee as quick last minute dessert.
- Next move into the seasonal sequence of berries
Use the same freezing system to set aside strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. How about berry muffins, pancakes and fruit sauce for ice cream. Add them to your batters in the frozen state. They will hold their flavor and their shape. The secret to frozen fruit is to not defrost it before you use it. Or defrost part of it to make a sauce and stir in whole frozen fruit.
As melon prices dip in peak fall season start to make melon balls (or small chunks) and freeze them in mixed flavors. As a growing family we would travel east of the mountains to Yakima. In late summer many varieties of ripe, peak season melons were being sold everywhere. Once back at home we grabbed a melon baller and filled containers with an assortment of cantaloupe, honeydew, Crenshaw and watermelon balls and froze them. When the kids watched TV these were their snacks, cold melon popsicles, tasty, healthy and fun. As young parents we were proud of the time we took to give them healthy snacks and they loved it.
- Make small batch jams
One of my favorite ways to savor summer is to make jam. Just 2-4 cups of sliced or whole small fruit layered with an equal amount of sugar in a pan simmering while dinner is being prepared will yield a few 1/2 pints of jam. Keep it simple. Not everything has to be a project. I love to make a jam with the few whole small early strawberries from my garden. It is such a treat for the memory during the winter.
Stopped at a fruit stand? Make a few small batches of tomato sauce and stash them in your freezer. Some cold, dark evening when you are arriving home late, your tomato sauce, dried pasta, a pot of water and some fresh grated parmesan and you are on the way to dinner with the memory and flavor of summer on your palate.
I know, when your Mom or Grandmother made pickles is was a big operation. But you can make just a few treasured jars just for the family with little effort. I like to make just a couple quarts of dill pickles and a small batch or sweet pickle chips. They are so tangy and delicious.
If any of these tasks seem difficult to you then consult your local cooking school. That is what Bon Vivant School of Cooking is all about. We are having a “Pickling Party” on Wednesday, September 17th. It will be great fun and you will have some treasure to bring home.
Louise Hasson is owner and lead chef of Bon Vivant School of Cooking. Seattle’s premier cooking school for beginning and experienced chefs. At Bon Vivant Louise and her team of chefs strive to teach culinary creativity, not just recipes, in a relaxed home environment. Visit Bon Vivant on Facebook and get more recipes on her Blog.