Saturday, June 12, 2010

CSA Share #1, and Three Ways to Save Strawberries: Frozen, Dried, and in a Quick Jam

Iowa has jumped from spring to summer very quickly, and now we have days of long sunlight, thunderstorms, and humidity that discourages straightened hair and physical exertion.
Market season is in full swing, and this week we picked up our first CSA share from ZJ Farms.  This box was perfect for us because we love greens of all kinds.  Check out this bounty:

In an effort to declutter my main page, I'm adding breaks to my posts.  So, read more about the share and three easy ways to preserve your strawberries after the jump.

For reference, that big beautiful yellow bowl holds three heads of lettuce, three kinds of kale, and chard. On the table, we've got TONS of baby bok choi, a few sugar snap peas, broccoli, green onions, rhubarb, garlic chives, savory, dill, and oregano.  

We've been adding the greens to stir-fry dishes, tomato sauces, or just fried up with a little sliced garlic in oil.  I learned that it's fine to clean lettuce once you get it and eat it later, but that you shouldn't pre-wash kale or chard.  So, I prepped the lettuce by chopping it up and putting it in the bowl of my salad spinner (worth every.penny.) filled with cold water.  I let it sit for a few minutes so the dirt could sink to the bottom.  Then I spun it like crazy and wrapped it up in paper towels.  I stored them in a large plastic container, leaving the lid cracked.

We ate the lettuce with hard boiled eggs and a quick vinaigrette with lots of fresh dill.  It was one of the best salads I've had in a while.

We pick up our share ever Wednesday, so expect to see a lot more of them on the blog.

While at market, the strawberries caught my eye, as usual, and I decided that I'd do a post about preserving them while they're in season.  These techniques work for all kinds of food, so I hope you'll try them out in your own kitchen so you can enjoy local seasonal food all year.

Begin with tons of ripe strawberries.

They need to be cleaned and hulled.  I use this little strawberry huller (yeah, it's called spee-dee), but you could easily use a paring knife if you don't have one.  

First, I'll show you how I froze these strawberries.  I put them on a cookie sheet and left them in the freezer until they were frozen solid.

From this point, you could throw these into a freezer bag.  I'm lucky enough to have gotten a vacuum sealer as a gift, so I vacuum sealed it.

Another easy eay to preserve food is to dry it.  I don't have a dehydrator, so I used my oven.  First, slice your strawberries very thinly, as thinly as possible.  This would be a great time to use a mandoline.  If your slices are too thick you won't be able to remove all the water and the slices will rot.  

To dehydrate, we need very low heat and good air circulation.  I used a cooling rack on top of a sheet pan in a 150 oven with the door propped open.  Set your oven as low as it will go.  The drying process took around eight hours.


Unfortunately, not one of these slices survived a week in storage.  Hopefully you'll have better self-control than us.  These are perfect snacks for kids.  

Finally, I'd like to show you a quick jam.  This jam does not include pectin, and it isn't technically preserved, so it must be kept in the fridge or freezer.  

In a heavy pot, combine equal parts strawberries and rhubarb, and sugar to taste.  I used 1/2 c. sugar to 2 c. fruit.  Bring this all to a simmer and cook until it's soft and thick.  Skim off any foam that rises to the top.  

I jarred this up and stuck it in the fridge, and we've been eating it on toast all week.

Oh, I got an adorable new apron.  I think the bff shows it off better than I can, no?

I encourage you to scoop up some of what is flooding our markets right now and do your best to preserve it.  Until next time, enjoy!


Ally @ Sweet & Savory said...

I had made tons of freezer jam last week - I could eat it by the spoonful! Gotta love this time of year!

Diana@Spain in Iowa said...

What a gorgeous CSA share! I love the jam without pectin! I'll have to make myself a batch. Thanks for the inspiration!

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