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Preserving the Harvest: Canning, Freezing, and Drying for Your CSA

June 26, 2024

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Preserving the Harvest: Canning, Freezing, and Drying for Your CSA

The Summer Canning Frenzy

Ah, the summer canning frenzy – it’s a love-hate relationship, isn’t it? Every year, as the garden and the CSA share start overflowing with fresh, ripe produce, I get this irresistible urge to can, pickle, and preserve it all. There’s just something so immensely satisfying about seeing those jars lined up, filled to the brim with the vibrant colors and flavors of the season.

Yet, the sheer amount of work involved can quickly become exhausting. I remember one particular summer, I was canning tomatoes, making salsa, pickling cucumbers, and whipping up batch after batch of jam – by the end of it, I was ready to swear off canning forever! The kitchen would be a disaster zone, the pots and pans piling up, and my feet would ache from standing for hours on end. As much as I loved the end result, the process itself felt more like drudgery than joy.

In Comes the Freezer

But this year, something shifted. Maybe it was the hot, humid weather, or the fact that my freezer was finally big enough to handle the overflow. Whatever the reason, I found myself gravitating more and more towards freezing as my preferred preservation method. And let me tell you, it has been a game-changer.

The folks over at The Farm Project first clued me in to the wonders of freezing whole tomatoes. No more fussing with boiling water baths, peeling and chopping – just wash, bag, and freeze. When I’m ready to use them, a quick plunge in warm water and the skins slip right off. It’s so simple, yet so brilliant.

And the taste? Unbeatable. I find that the flavor of frozen tomatoes is often richer and more concentrated than their canned counterparts. Plus, I can control the texture, whether I want them chunky for stews and sauces or puréed for a smooth tomato soup.

Embracing the Freezer Bounty

But tomatoes are just the beginning. The folks at Hennepin County opened my eyes to the world of freezing all sorts of fruits and veggies. Zucchini, green beans, berries – you name it, it can be frozen. And the best part? No need for fancy equipment or complicated techniques. Just wash, chop, and pop it in the freezer.

I’ve even started experimenting with freezing prepared dishes, like roasted vegetable pasta sauce and eggplant parmigiana. The blog In My Kitchen Garden gave me the confidence to try this, and let me tell you, it’s a lifesaver on those busy weeknights when I’m craving a homemade meal but don’t have the time or energy to start from scratch.

The Joy of Rediscovery

But perhaps the biggest perk of this newfound freezer love is the joy of rediscovery. Remember those zucchini and eggplant that seemed to multiply overnight in the garden? Instead of frantically trying to use them all up before they spoil, I can just toss them in the freezer and enjoy them months down the line. It’s like opening a little time capsule, a delicious reminder of summer’s abundance.

And let’s not forget the space-saving benefits. With my freezer stocked to the brim, I don’t have to worry about running out of room for all those Mason jars. No more scrambling to find extra shelves or basements to store the harvest. Everything is neatly tucked away, ready to be thawed and savored when the mood strikes.

Balancing the Preserving Act

Of course, I haven’t completely abandoned canning. There are still some things that I prefer to preserve that way, like jams, pickles, and salsa. But I’ve learned to be more selective, focusing on the items that truly benefit from the canning process or that I know we’ll go through quickly.

And you know what? I’ve even started to enjoy the canning sessions a bit more. I’ve recruited a few willing volunteers to join me, turning it into a social affair complete with music, snacks, and plenty of laughter. As Jamie Levato from The Farm Project says, “It’s better with a friend!”

The Freezer as a Trusted Ally

So while my canning days may not be entirely behind me, I have to say, the freezer has become my trusted ally in preserving the bounty of the Thornapple Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share. It’s a simple, versatile, and low-stress way to ensure that I can enjoy the flavors of summer all year round.

And let’s be honest, with the way the world has been these past couple of years, the ability to stock up on nutritious, homegrown produce gives me a sense of security and control that I find incredibly comforting. No matter what curveballs life throws my way, I know I can reach into that freezer and pull out a taste of summer’s glory.

The Frozen Flavor Vault

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of your garden or CSA share, I encourage you to embrace the freezer. It might take a little bit of trial and error to figure out what works best for your family, but the payoff is well worth it. Imagine the delight of pulling out a bag of frozen roasted tomatoes in the middle of winter, or enjoying the fresh, bright flavor of frozen pesto on your pasta. It’s like having a flavor vault at your fingertips, ready to transport you back to those carefree summer days.

And who knows, maybe you’ll even find yourself rediscovering the joys of canning in the process. But for now, I’m content to let my freezer do the heavy lifting, while I focus on savoring every last bite of the season’s bounty.

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Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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