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Saving Summer

Four easy recipes to savor into darker days

Summer produce has arrived in abundance. Now’s the time to preserve can, pickle and ferment to keep your table local long past summer. Preserving is the trend of the times, and for good reason.
    Buying local in the summer supports community farmers, decreases foods’ shipping distances and yields delicious produce grown in season. Yet when winter arrives, many fall back on imported fruits and vegetables grown in distant hothouses. Preserving now, even in small amounts, can extend local foods long past their summer season, as well as enhance and intensify delicious summer flavors. A sun-kissed tomato sauce on a cold day brings warmth and sunshine to the kitchen.
    These recipes use similar equipment and techniques to preserve small amounts of produce procured from the farmers market, CSA or your own garden. Multiply recipe amounts by five or 10 times to make larger batches; this may require multiple canning rotations. Follow the same procedures unless otherwise noted.
    Canning is a method of preserving acidic foods by boiling in jars, forcing out air to create an airtight environment. The Bread and Butter Pickles are pickled in vinegar for a long-lasting sweet-and-sour snack. For sauerkraut, salty acidic lacto-fermentation relies on beneficial microbes to convert vegetable sugars into sour acids. These acids will preserve the sauerkraut as a crunchy, long-lasting condiment full of vitamin C and probiotics.


Spiced Cherry Preserves

This sweet, delectable spread relies on sugar and canning to save the fruit.

1½ pounds cherries, pitted and chopped
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 pint-sized jars with lids and bands

   Select cherries that are slightly firm with no soft spots. Rinse, pit, remove stems and lightly chop.
    In a tall, 8-quart stockpot, boil 6 quarts of water. Place the jars in the water to sterilize. Remove the water from heat, cover, and set aside. Do not boil lids and bands; rinse them with warm, soapy water.
    In a medium pot, combine cherries, sugar, cloves and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to incorporate sugar and to keep the bottom from burning. Boil for 20 minutes or until the temperature reaches 220 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
    Pour equal amounts into jars, leaving one-quarter-inch headspace. Wipe rims clean and put on lids.
    For the water-bath process, return water in the stockpot to a boil. Place filled jars upright in the bottom of the pot. The water should cover the jars. Boil pints 15 minutes, then remove from the water and leave to cool overnight. After 24 hours check for a tight seal. Reprocess any jars with loose seals. Store in a cool, dark location.


Bread and Butter Pickles

2 pounds pickling cucumbers (7 to 9 cucumbers)
1 sweet onion
¼ cup sugar
2 ½ teaspoons kosher or pickling salt
3 chai tea bags
1½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried turmeric
1 teaspoon dried ginger
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon mustard seed
3 pint jars with 2-part lids and bands

    Select small, firm, green pickling cucumbers. Wash and clean blossom ends.
    Cut onion into slices and cucumbers into one-quarter-inch coins.
    Measure 1 teaspoon of salt. In a large bowl, layer onion and cucumber slices, sprinkling each layer with some of the salt. Cover vegetables with ice water and soak for 90 minutes.
    In a tall 8-quart stockpot, boil 6 quarts of water. Place the jars in the water to sterilize. Remove the water from heat, cover and set aside.
    Do not boil lids and bands; rinse with warm, soapy water.
    In a medium pot, combine vinegar, 1½ teaspoon salt and sugar over high heat, stirring until boiling and dissolved.
    Drain and rinse cucumbers. Add the spices to the boiling vinegar and stir. Add cucumber slices and stir again. Turn off heat.
    Remove tags and staples from teabags and place one teabag into each jar. Pack jars with vegetables and spices, gently pushing vegetables down to compress. Pour the vinegar mixture over the vegetables, leaving one-half-inch headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars and screw on lids and bands.
    Move to refrigerator for short-term storage, up to three weeks, or process in a water-bath for long-term storage.
    For the water-bath process, return water in the stockpot to a boil. Place filled jars upright in the bottom of the pot. The water should cover the jars. Boil 10 minutes, then remove from the water and leave to cool overnight. After 24 hours check for a tight seal. Reprocess any jars with loose seals. Store pickles in a cool, dark location. The pickles will taste best after five days and will keep, sealed, for up to one year.


Canned Tomatoes with Italian Herbs

3 pounds tomatoes
1½ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice from 2-3 lemons
3 tablespoons fresh basil, lightly chopped
3 tablespoons fresh oregano, lightly chopped
¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional
3 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
3 pint sized jars with lids and bands

    Select tomatoes that are bright red, slightly firm and smooth-skinned without cracks or soft spots.
    In a tall 8-quart stockpot, boil 6 quarts of water.
    Rinse tomatoes. Cut a small, shallow cross in the bottom of each tomato.
    Using a steamer insert, canning rack or metal strainer, blanch tomatoes in boiling water for 25 seconds, until skins begin to split at the cross. Immediately move to cold water.
    Meanwhile, place the jars in the boiling water to sterilize. Remove the water from heat, cover and set aside. Do not boil lids and bands; rinse them with warm, soapy water.
    When the tomatoes have cooled enough to touch, peel away the skins and remove the stems.
    Pack jars half-full with tomatoes, pushing gently on them with a spatula to release juices. Add ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon basil, 1 tablespoon oregano, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes and 1 clove minced garlic to each jar.
    Fill jars with tomatoes, leaving one-quarter-inch headspace. Use spatula to push tomatoes until their juices rise to just cover. Move spatula around the insides of each jar to release any air bubbles. Wipe rims clean and put on lids.
    For the water-bath process, return water in the stockpot to a boil. Place filled jars upright in the bottom of the pot. The water should cover the jars. Boil pints 40 minutes; remove from the water and leave to cool overnight. After 24 hours check for a tight seal. Reprocess any jars with loose seals. Store tomatoes in a cool, dark location.


Summer Herb Sauerkraut

1 head green cabbage, approximately 2 pounds
½ cup loosely packed each fresh parsley, tarragon, and basil
1 tablespoon loosely packed rosemary
1½ to 2½ teaspoons Kosher or pickling salt
2 pint jars with lids

    Select firm, crisp cabbage with a tightly packed head.
    Remove outer leaves, rinse and set aside. Wash cabbage to remove dirt or bugs. Cut in quarters and slice off base and firm core.
    Using a food processor or knife, chop cabbage into shreds one-quarter-inch thick or to desired thickness. Aim to shred the cabbage to a consistent width.
    Place shreds into a large bowl. Sprinkle in 1½ teaspoon salt and work salt evenly through cabbage by grabbing small handfuls from different parts of the bowl and squeezing everything together. Continue for 5 to 10 minutes, until the cabbage becomes limp and releases liquid. If the cabbage seems dry, add additional salt every 5 minutes, ½ teaspoon at a time, up to 2½ teaspoons total.
    Press cabbage to the bottom of the bowl, cover with a plate, and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
    Sterilize jars in boiling water. Wash lids in warm, soapy water.
    Lightly chop and measure herbs.
    Remove plate. Mix herbs evenly into cabbage.
    Pack cabbage tightly into the jars, pressing down to release as much liquid as possible. Add any liquid in the bowl. The liquid should cover the cabbage. If it does not, press down more firmly. If the cabbage is still too dry, add extra brine, mixed at a ratio of 1½ teaspoons salt to 2 cups non-chlorinated water. Pour brine over the cabbage to submerge completely.
    Weight cabbage shreds beneath the surface of the brine, using a pickling weight, folded outer cabbage leaf or a plastic sandwich bag filled with 2 tablespoons of brine.
    Put on lids, and leave to ferment at room temperature, 60 to 78 degrees F for three to seven days. Taste daily to determine when the sauerkraut has fermented to the desired tang. Refrigerate for long-term storage, up to six months. Remove any surface molds that may form; the sauerkraut beneath is still safe to eat as long as it tastes good.
    For long-term, unrefrigerated storage, multiply amounts in the recipe above by 10 to make a two-gallon batch of sauerkraut. Follow the same procedures and pack into a 2½ gallon food grade bucket or crock with a tight fitting lid. Weight cabbage underneath brine with a sheet of plastic wrap, making sure the brine rises at least 1 inch above the surface of the cabbage. Ideal storage temperature ranges from 40 to 55 degrees F. The sauerkraut will continue slowly to evolve and ferment, so storage durability varies. If it smells and tastes good, it is!