Food ‘From Scratch’: Preserving summer

Living in the valley, as fabulous as it is, sometimes means having summers that fly by, especially when you run your own business locally.

Living in the valley, as fabulous as it is, sometimes means having summers that fly by, especially when you run your own business locally.

I am currently in the moment of ‘where has the summer gone’?  as I think about getting the kids ready for school, and I look forward to another busy weekend in our restaurant.

Not a day goes by in the summer where I am not thankful for the abundance of food we have here our valley. My challenge is how to keep appreciating this in the winter months when the fruit tastes bland in the grocery stores. So here’s the secret — preserving!

Ok – our grandmothers did it, some mothers did, but guess what?  It’s a huge trend again thanks to current food magazines, the Food Network and in many ways, the state of our current economy.  Saving what is coming from your garden, from the Farmer’s Markets, and from the grocery store at its peak flavour is the best way to enjoy it in the months to come.

Here are some of my favourite techniques:

1. Pick fresh basil and place in a freezer bag.  Blow air into it, quickly close it and freeze immediately.  When you pull it out, crumble it over your dish and it smells and tastes like fresh basil. (Thanks to my great friend Holly for this tip!)

2. Cut an “X” at the top of a tomato. Place fresh tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds, then place them in cold water. Then peel them – the skin comes off easily.  Freeze on a cookie sheet for 24 hours then place in a freezer bag in the freezer. Pull out in the winter months to replace a fresh tomato, or use in sauces for that “summer taste”.

3. Blanch your beans, peas, kale, and spinach in hot water until it’s still a bit crisp, then put into a cold bath. Freeze them on a tray then place into a freezer bag — you’ll have “fresh” veggies for the winter!

4. Take your favourite herbs and dry them upside down for about six weeks, then place in a jar.  Even better, invest in a dehydrator! You can even mix these up for a great cup of tea!

5. Again, take your favourite herbs and buy your favourite plain oils and vinegars. Stuff your bottles with your fresh herbs for seasoning in the winter months.  Just make sure all the bugs are off!

6. Jam it, sauce it, liqueur it, pickle it — use your imagination and taste buds!

As I am here writing about this, I need to get onto this. My freezer is full of fruit, but I need those veggies.

Don’t forget we have some fabulous people in our valley that you can find at the Invermere Farmer’s Market who make a living off of this. It always tastes better when someone makes it for you!

Enjoy the rest of the summer, and may you continue to enjoy its flavours in the cooler months ahead!

Lara McCormack is one of the owners of From Scratch – A Mountain Kitchen in Fairmont Hot Springs where one can savour great seasonal food, sip from a selection of beverages including B.C. wines and enjoy the views of our gorgeous valley landscape.