7 Ways to Make the Most of August’s Bounty

The following post is from Kate of Modern Alternative Mama:

source: Ajith_chatie

It’s August, and that means that many things are in season right now.  It’s that magical time of year when most of the early and mid-summer stuff is just finishing, and the late summer and early fall stuff is just coming up.  That means there’s tomatoes, corn, peaches, blackberries, pumpkins, apples, pears, squash, bell peppers, grapes, green beans, potatoes, and a lot more!

A quick run through any local produce market and you’ll find it full to bursting with all of this amazing goodness. The sad part?  It won’t last.  Within a few more weeks, most of it will be no longer in season, and you’ll have to wait until next year to savor the delicious freshness again.

Unless, of course, you take advantage of all of the bounty now and preserve a little to last through the winter!

(As I eat a fresh peach while I’m writing…so yummy.)

1. Freeze It

A lot of fruits and vegetables can be frozen.  I like to freeze peach slices, berries, and green peppers.  The best way is freezing them flat on a tray, then transferring them to bags once they’re cold, so they don’t all stick together.  Click the links for tutorials.

2. Can Tomatoes

Tomatoes, in my house, deserve their very own category.  This year, I plan to make a basic tomato sauce (without the oil), a burgundy wine marinara, salsa, diced tomatoes, and tomato soup.  You can also make your own ketchup, tomato paste, tomato juice, and lots of other neat things.  Maybe you don’t cook with tomatoes as much as I do (I’ll do over 100 quarts of various tomato products, and believe me, we’ll use them all), but tomato sauce is pretty awesome for a quick, healthy pasta or pizza dinner!  I like to use my pita bread and tomato sauce to make super easy pita pizzas for lunches!

3. Make Jelly

This one isn’t our favorite since we don’t eat a lot of jelly or jam, but many people do!  One type we will make this year is peach skin jelly.  We peel all those peaches (by using this method, super easy) before we can them, and then we have all these skins leftover!  Rather than waste, we’ll use them up with this neat recipe.  Sometimes we also make a fresh strawberry jam.  Maybe if I get really bold I’ll try a mixed fruit version too….when you make it at home, *you* control the ingredients!  (And the sugar content!  We tend to opt for small amounts of honey and no white sugar.)

4. Can Fruit

We love to can applesauce, peaches, and pears (and apple pie filling!  There is no easier breakfast than apple crisp with some fresh whipped cream).  These are great to start with because you can just use the simple water bath method, and you don’t really need any special equipment (I just use my big stock pot with a quilted pot holder on the bottom.  I’ve done it for two years and hundreds of jars and never had any break).  If you’ve been hesitant to try it because most of the recipes out there include quite a bit of white sugar, hesitate no more.  You don’t need all that sugar!  We mix a small amount of honey with water and some lemon juice (to preserve color safely and naturally) and use this as our “syrup.”  Sugar helps add sweetness and can help retain color, but it’s not needed for safety.  You may notice a bit of browning, especially in the peaches, but they are still safe and delicious.

5. Dehydrate It

Do  you have a dehydrator yet?  Why not? 🙂  I’ve had mine for almost three years and I love it!  I dry herbs, fresh fruits and vegetables (I have some elderberries in mine right now, to be used for some homemade medicine this winter), sprouted grain, and even use it as an incubator for yogurt and rising bread!  It’s so versatile.  You can make homemade fruit rolls — kids love these!  Dried apple slices (sprinkled with a little cinnamon) are awesome too.  It’s possible to dry bits of vegetables to toss in soups later.  Oh, and we can’t forget jerky….  The options are endless!

6. Ferment It

One great way to both preserve your bounty and increase the nutrition and digestibility is to ferment it!  I haven’t perfected fermenting fruits and vegetables yet (though I’m very eager to learn), but there are many great resources out there.  Wardeh from GNOWFGLINS and now KerryAnn from Cooking Traditional Foods both offer ecourses, and Wardeh’s just come out with a book called “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermentation.”  Of course there’s always the standard, Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation!  There are so many benefits to this practice and if you ferment properly, the food will last several months in cool storage, and they will really add to your family’s health over the winter.

7. Enjoy it Fresh

Of course the easiest way is to just enjoy it while you have it!  I love to make fresh salsa, blueberry crumble, ginger-peach crisp, strawberry-peach ice cream, and lots more wonderful treats.  The time available to make these foods with truly fresh, amazingly delicious produce is so short, so indulge while you can!  (And try out a little bacon-wrapped chicken with Italian salsa too…).

How do you enjoy and preserve the summer’s bounty?

Kate is a wife and mommy to 3 and is passionate about God, health and food. She has written 7 cookbooks and is planning to release more in 2012. When she’s not blogging, she’s in the kitchen, sewing, or home schooling her children. You can find her at Modern Alternative Mama or contributing to Keeper of the Home.