Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Tyranny of the Produce

It's a strange feeling, being haunted by produce to preserve.  If I don't bow to its demands, it will go bad or split the refrigerator.  I like to plan things, but summer preserving does not lend itself to plans.  I make emergency shopping trips.  I find myself canning at midnight.  I guess at the ripeness of the fruit and try to make plans for babysitting and canning with a friend.  It's an open invitation for busted plans, I tell you.
One of our friends is a CSA host, so any produce left after people pick up their shares is his to deal with.  He gives it to me.  I have a reputation for being willing to take anybody's leftovers - food, clothes, fabric, whatever (tonight my dad dropped off a box of old-school printer paper that was junk at his business - now my kids have blank paper to work with, not recycling bin cast offs!).  I am very disturbed by waste, so I am usually game to try to use things up.

Recently, I dealt with cabbages and cucumbers from our friend's CSA.  I made one cabbage into German slaw and froze it; I still have two cabbages in the fridge (it's cracking).  Do you have other preservation ideas for cabbage?  I should want to make sauerkraut, but I have something like four quarts in the freezer already, thanks to an industrious friend.

After the slaw, I gathered up all the lemon cucumbers and pickled them, screeching to the end of the process at the time I usually serve supper.  It's the Tyranny of the Produce, I tell you.  Unlike the slaw, the cukes are very photogenic.

I'm bracing for an onslaught of CSA zucchinis.  Please share your ideas in the comments for managing the zucchini explosion.  You know this is why all the Mennonites lock their car doors at church in the summer, right?  No one wants a surprise sack of zucchini.


Melanie said...

I'm having a harder time keeping up with my preserving than *ever* this summer. My job has me traveling a ton, vacation thrown in the middle, and every weekend seems to be booked. Next year, I swear, in January I'm turning to May-October and reserving canning weekends for myself (we all know how well that will work...).

I've given a lot of thought to the zucchini conundrum. Here's what I frequently end up doing:

-shred, pat dry and freeze in measured amounts for later inclusion in pancake batter, cake batter, quick breads, and pasta sauces

-make and freeze several small loaves of zucchini bread, which are spectacular to pull out for last-minute guests for a snack or to tie a pretty ribbon around and take as a hostess gift to a party

-shred or cube and add to quarts of tomatoes to can; this one is a little trickier, and to be very safe I add a tsp. of lemon juice to those batches (2/3 tomatoes to 1/3 zucchini) to make sure the acidity is high enough. I also pressure can them. These quarts of mixed tomatoes and zucchini make the best pasta sauce *ever.*

When all else fails, make copious baked goods with hidden zucchini and leave them on the counter at the office ;-)

I must go freeze green beans!!

Laura said...

I like Melanie's ideas for dealing with zucchini. We just eat it as many ways as we can - fresh in salads, grilled, sauteed in olive oil, roasted with other vegetables, and of course, in zucchini bread.

Margo said...

Melanie, last year I froze some marinara, so maybe this year I will add zucchini to it. I've never used a pressure canner, although I'm sure Rebecca would loan me hers. Thanks for the ideas!

Deanna Beth said...

Margo, maybe explain in a post about CSA and what a "CSA host" is. I have some idea because of knowing Reb, but I wonder if all your readers know. In fact, I would love to have an explanation that is concretely recorded, so that I can process it better. I just raise my own stuff, so I'm not intimate with a CSA.

A said...

I'm learning that "Sautee some shredded zuccini in butter and..." is the beginning to simple deliciousness.

1. ...and scramble with eggs and cheese
2. ...and toss (as mentioned)into pasta sauce you're already having for dinner.

Believe it or not I just caught on to breaded zucchini this year. I only ever had it growing up sliced and boiled plain, so I didn't know there were more tasty ways it could stand on its own. (Slice how you want, dip in egg, dip into cracker crumbs or some other sort of seasoned crumbly something), fry and dip in ketchup or cocktail sauce for a kick.

On cabbage--I don't have a pres plan for you but I have a cook plan if you're game--Palestinian stuffed cabbage. It's not like its Eastern European counterparts. Lemme know if you want the details.

Margo said...

A, I'm definitely going to be using your zucchini ideas. And yes, give me the Palestinian recipe, please.

Deanna Beth, I'm going to give you my firsthand experience definition, not a dictionary/google definition. I'm not sure it's post-length yet, but thanks for the idea.

CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture." Basically, you pay a farmer several hundred dollars before the season in exchange for a box of their (usually organic)farm produce every week, whatever is growing that week. Most CSAs (I think) try to deliver the produce to the buyer. CSA consumers learn to respect the seasonal ebb and flow of food, managing the excess through preserving and pining for the goodies coming up.

My friend hosts a drop off point in our city: the CSA drops off the weekly shares for a number of city households, and then those households come to his garage to pick them up. If a household doesn't show up or someone doesn't want all their veggies, then my friend unloads the extra on me.

The reason I don't subscribe to a CSA is because I have a gorgeously adequate farmer's market down the street AND I've noticed that CSAs tend not to include my summer favorites like orchard fruits and berries and corn. I know the fruits are hard to establish and labor intensive, plus corn is hard to grow organically.

Christian - Modobject@Home said...

Lightly steam the zuchini then puree it, freeze in 1/2 cup portions, thaw and stir into almost anything you're cooking or baking.

Margo said...

Christian, how does this work in baked goods? Like adding fruit, not changing the texture? I just made some zucchini brownies and they didn't have any eggs: I think the shredded zucchini replaced the eggs.