The heat and drought are hard on fruits and vegetables, so production at home and at farmers markets is down. But, you might still be able to find some great tasting fruits and/or vegetables to can, freeze, pickle, dry or make into jam. Using current tested recipes and procedures is very important, both to make sure your food is safe and to get the best tasting results.
Sometimes I freeze tomatoes to use in chili and soup and berries (when I can get them for a bargain). My sisters and I make jam and salsa from our garden and give them away to our friends and relatives. We have fun working together and the food gifts seem a little more special when you make them instead of buy them.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has new on-line classes, regional workshops, and a new series of free publications with the latest recommendations on food preservation called Preserve the Taste of Summer. Plus ISU Extension Answerline, toll-free in Iowa 800-262-3804, is still available and answered by friendly, patient Home Economists.
We have a list of resources and links to our free publications. Check it out.
I have been enjoying grilled chicken, sirloin steak and fish for lunch the past couple of weeks even though I haven’t taken the cover off the grill. How do I do it? I grill extra when I have the marinade prepared and the grill heated. When everything is cooked I make 2 ounce portions, just enough to top my salad. Then, before work, I prepare my lunch by putting greens and whatever raw vegetables I have in the vegetable drawer – carrots, broccoli, onion, mushrooms, or cucumbers – in a plastic container, add one of my meat/fish packets and a piece of fruit to my lunch bag and I am good to go. When lunch time comes, I finish defrosting my meat/fish packet, slice it up and top my salad. Yum.
The keys to this whole process are 1) working quickly so your food doesn’t sit out at room temperature for too long and 2)getting a tight seal. Meat frozen incorrectly will suffer freezer burn in a few weeks. This means that air dries the meat and causes loss of flavor.
Pack foods in quantities that will be used for a single meal. I used foil because I have very small amounts. If you are freezing several portions, plastic freezer bags (not plastic storage bags, they are different) or commercial freezer paper may work better. When packing several cuts in one package, put two layers of freezer paper between the pieces. This makes it easy to separate pieces for fast thawing.
When using plastic bags, take care to get all the air out of the bag before you seal it. Press air from the bag by beginning at the bottom of the bag and moving toward the unfilled top part of the bag to prevent air from reentering. Or you can use a clean straw inserted in the bag and inhale to remove the air before quickly closing the bag.
Illustrations in Methods of Wrapping show how to wrap food using foil, drugstore wrap, or butcher wrap.
After your food is wrapped, label it with the date and contents. This helps you remember which foods need to be eaten first and what is in each package.
The last step is to store your food in a location in the freezer where you can easily grab it when you are making your lunch.
-pointers from Peggy
Last week after a program, I offered to leave some of the sandwich samples for the staff. One of them commented that they had a bunch of other snacks and that the sandwiches might not get eaten. I said, “Well, you can take these home and freeze them for another day.” The look I received was that of total shock. “You can freeze sandwiches?” was the reply. The individual was just sure the bread would be all soggy and the overall quality so bad that you would never want to consider it. But, the quality isn’t diminished. It’s time to use the freezer and save a few dollars…
Sandwiches you make ahead and freeze can save money and time. Just about any sandwich—other than those with a mayonnaise base (such as chopped meat or egg salad)—can be frozen. It’s best to apply condiments such as mayonnaise when ready to use. Some great filling choices include: peanut butter and jelly; deli meat; plain canned tuna; cheese; or cheese along with a meat. Or, you might consider buying a whole roast or chicken, cook it in the slow cooker or oven the day before, and use the meat from that for sandwiches. It will be cheaper than the deli meat and definitely lower in sodium. Dicing these larger meat cuts will make them stretch further. Make the sandwiches and wrap them in plastic wrap or a sandwich bag, put them in a larger freezer-weight plastic bag (being sure to mark the bag with the contents), then pop in the freezer. For more on freezing sandwiches, Nebraska Extension has a great tip sheet.
When you are ready to pack your lunch, just grab one of the sandwiches from the freezer and place in an insulated bag with an ice block. It should be thawed in time for lunch. You could add to this lunch a bag of vegetable sticks (prep several bags and have ready for grabbing from the fridge), fruit, string cheese, and cookie. Fast! Easy! And easily less than $2.00 for lunch.
-Jottings from Jan