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It's finally fall! It's still tomato season!
Issue 22: The lazy person's guide to preserving summer produce.
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Hi folks -
It’s no secret that I do not enjoy summer. I’ve covered it a few times in this here newsletter and every day it’s hot in New York City I just grumble to myself about how much I can’t wait for fall.
Well grab your sweaters people, IT’S OFFICIALLY FALL!
The fact that the best produce of the year falls during my least favorite season is an irony not lost on me, but just because it’s fall does not mean that summer produce is over! You’ll still see tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and all your favorite late-summer hits for a few more fleeting weeks.
Living in New York City, I don’t necessarily have room to store hundreds of cans of food to prepare for the long winter, but because I try to eat seasonally and locally, I still like to save what I can. I have done proper canning in the past, but one year the steam was so aggressive in my house that the carbon monoxide detector wouldn’t stop going off and I had to call the FDNY. Another year I spent a two weekends canning tomatoes only to have a few jars explode in an upper cabinet and slowly rot and produce a smell that was really something. Since then, I’ve returned to the freezer method of saving summer produce.
I grew up in a two freezer house where the second freezer was used to hold a truly insane backstock of meats, bread, home-prepared foods like sauces and jams, and more recently, the nearly 100 lbs of wild-caught Alaskan salmon that my dad catches every summer. We’re such a freezer-forward family that when I moved off campus in college, I got a chest freezer from my parents. I had that freezer for nearly a decade and it was with me in 5 apartments across 2 states. I finally sold it when I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn, but if I still had it, I bet it would still be going strong.
This is all to say that you should be using your freezer to stash your favorite summer produce to use when it’s wintery out. But because canning is hard and I am inherently a bit lazy, I don’t want to make things overly complicated either.
I present to you — drumroll please —
The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving Summer Produce
This is a very non scientific approach, so feel free to adapt to what you like and how you cook.
Corn: Cut off the cob and freeze in 1-2 cup portions. Toss in soups or use for a quick side for tacos.
Basil: Quickly blanch, remove from water and pat try, freeze on a tray then toss in a bag. I toss a handful in sauces and soups.
Sweet/hot peppers: You can leave whole and freeze on a tray then toss in a bag to store. If they’re bigger, feel free to dice.
Broccoli/cauliflower/romanesco: Cut down into small bites then freeze on a tray then toss in a bag to store.
Eggplant: I don’t have a lot of experience freezing eggplant, but you could probably roast it off in bigger slices, freeze on a tray, then store.
Late summer stone fruits: If you’re a smoothie person, cut and freeze peaches, nectarines, and plums to use all year round!
Tomatoes: I use a lot of tomatoes so this is where I focus a lot of my energy. You can truly use any variety, but less liquidy tomatoes like plum, roma, and san marzano are best for sauces. If you intend to make a lot, most vendors at the farmers market will give you a good discount if you buy in bulk. I usually buy 25-35lbs at a time at about $2-$2.50/lb.
Plain: Dice your tomatoes and toss in a pot with nothing else, bring to boil until it’s saucy, simmer for a bit, then let cool. Store in 1-2 cup bags or in pint/quart containers. These are tomatoes at their most plain so you can add them to anything.
Prepared: I used to use the above method for years but last summer, Alison Roman showcased an oven-roasting method that is way more passive. I can pop these in the oven and do other things and the result is basically a ready-made sauce or a really flavorful base for other things. If you go this route, be sure to watch out for seasoning since this version already has salt in it.
Tomato Jam: Prepare tomatoes however you want and once they’re cooked down a bit, add a healthy glug of tomato paste (you can also add harissa here!) and cook down until the tomatoes are rich, dark, and thick. Use on sandwiches or on a mezze plate. Freeze in small jars.
Tomato soup/sauce/salsa: You can also make whatever sauce, soup, or salsa you want and freeze that so it’s ready to use whenever you need it!
No matter what you do, make sure you label the bag/jar and organize your freezer so you can see everything. This way you won’t be have the “what is all this stuff?” internal conversation in February.
I hope you can find some time to stock your freezer before all this great produce is gone for the season — your future self will thank you!
Three ways to use summer produce ~
When it’s corn season, that means it’s time to make this Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil from the NYTimes and enthusiastically shout “IT’S CORN PASTA SEASON!”
This Eggplant and Tomato Pie freezes really well so I usually make a pie and freeze most of it for lunches at a later date. I’ve made it as is in pie form and modified it to make a galette and I think I like the galette version better. It’s basically the same, sans the milk and egg.
The recipe for Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango is an adaptation from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. This recipe calls for mango but I always sub with peaches and it’s incredible.