How to preserve your CSA box goodies!

This blog will get into how to preserve the goodies you’ll find inside the CSA box. I often get the question how to keep the fruits and veggies fresh.  First I will give you a few general guidelines:

  • Do Not Store Fruits and Vegetables together. Fruits that give off high levels of ethylene (the ripening agent) can prematurely ripen and spoil surrounding vegetables.
  • For Vegetables: Before storing, remove ties and rubber bands and trim any leafy ends. Leave an inch to keep the vegetable from drying out. Make sure the bag you store the veggies in has some holes punctured to allow for good air flow. Pack vegetables loosely in the refrigerator. The closer they are, the quicker they will rot.
  • Leafy greens can be washed before storing by soaking them in a sink full of water. Wrap the greens in a wet absorbent towel and leave them in the fridge. The absorbent towels do a great job of keeping the greens moist but not damp so they stay fresh and crispy all week long. I also got into the washing and preserving of greens in a former blogpost. csaproducerecipes.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/pimp-your-salad/
  • For Fruits: Non-cherry stone fruits, avocados, tomatoes, mangoes, melons, apples, and pears will continue to ripen if left sitting out on a countertop, while items like bell peppers, grapes, all citrus, and berries will only deteriorate and should be refrigerated. Bananas in particular ripen very quickly, and will also speed the ripening of any nearby fruits.

towle greens._w.540_h.359_s.fit_I will also share a few tools (other then canning) that don’t involve buying whole crates of produce or standing over a hot stove all afternoon. If you have a freezer, an oven, or even just a jar of vinegar, you’re just a few steps away from preserving.
The freezer is really our best friend. Besides freezing whole fruits and vegetables at the peak of their ripeness, we can freeze batches of summer pesto, containers of tomato sauce and apple sauce and even garden herbs. These are the foundation of quick weeknight meals in the busy months ahead.

If you have a dehydrator, you are likely already putting it to work making dried fruits, spices and “sun-dried” tomatoes. Our ovens or the St. Maarten sun actually make decent stand-ins for dehydrators.

And last but not least, infusing vinegars and alcohols with fresh summer fruits lets us bring those fresh flavors into our salads and marinades (and cocktails!) when the fruits themselves have gone out of season. Heads up for the upcoming holiday season, these summery infusions also make fantastic gifts!

I will give a summary of ideas for the items that are a regular item inside the CSA box.
If you have some other ideas please share it with our community and post it on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/FarmSxm/

Tomato
– You can ‘sun’dry them in your oven or dehydrator
– Why not make a tomatosauce and freeze it for later ? Pour it in icecube molds and when frozen put them in small bags back in the freezer for later use.

tomatosauce._w.540_h.347_s.fit_Roasted Tomato Sauce with Garlic (makes about 2 cups)
Ingredients:
– Olive oil
- 2 pounds fresh tomatoes
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 4 tablespoons unsalted (vegan) butter
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 350°F and line 9×13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil. (Note: This step is optional, but it will make cleanup faster.) Spray the baking dish with baking spray, or rub lightly with olive oil.
Chop the tomatoes roughly but evenly. Spread them in the baking dish. Stir in the minced garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, and about 1 teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Cut the butter into small cubes and scatter evenly over the tomatoes.
Bake the tomatoes for 2 to 3 hours. This is very flexible; you can bake them until the tomatoes simple begin to break down and release their juices. Or you can continue baking until their edges blacken, and the juices are reduced significantly. It also depends on your oven. I bake mine for about 3 hours.

Eggplant/aubergine
– The best place to store eggplant is not in the refrigerator, but at room temperature, where it’s likely to last longer. Keep eggplant in a cool spot, away from direct sunlight, and use it as soon as possible after harvesting or buying. Avoid sealing it in a plastic bag, which can increase decay.
– Eggplant is temperature sensitive — particularly when temps dip below 50°F, which can damage the texture and flavor.
– Eggplant is also highly sensitive to ethylene, a natural gas that causes certain foods to ripen (and eventually spoil) very quickly. So it’s best to keep eggplant stored separately from bananas, tomatoes, and melons, which are all high ethylene producers.
– And if you insist on keeping your eggplant in the fridge, limit it to no more than three days, and use it soon after removal.

Cucumber
– Cucumbers should be stored at room temperature – not in the refrigerator. Research has shown that cucumbers are sensitive to temperatures below 50°F. When stored at room temperature, cucumbers thrive and last longer. Stored below 50 degrees, they’re prone to developing “chilling injuries,” including water-soaked areas, pitting, and accelerated decay.
– But if you absolutely insist on chilling your cucumbers, limit it to no more than three days and eat them as soon as possible. We also suggest keeping them towards the front of the shelf, where temperatures are warmer, and off the bottom shelf, which is usually the coldest part of the fridge.
– And cucumbers are also highly sensitive to ethylene so keep them separately from bananas, tomatoes and melons.
– You can also pickle cucumbers so they will last longer. Pickled foods will last anywhere from 3 months to a year. If using cucumbers to make your own pickles, you must remove and discard a 1/16-inch slice from the blossom ends of each cucumber. (Blossoms may contain an enzyme that causes excessive softening of pickles.) In this link you can find a nice recipe for pickled cucumber.
http://goodfood.uktv.co.uk/recipe/cucumber-pickle-1/

Tumeric, Ginger, Season or hot peppers:
– These spices will last a couple of weeks in the fridge but you can also dry them. Wash and dry them and put the spices in your oven (50 degrees) or dehydrator. When dried you can grind them. The flavour will be a little more intense but peppers will get less spicy when dried like this.
– Store unpeeled ginger or tumeric root in a resealable plastic bag, with the air pushed out, in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. If part of the ginger or tumeric has been cut or peeled, be sure to blot it dry with a paper towel before storing. – Have a piece of peeled ginger or tumeric? You can use the same method for storing it, though it won’t keep quite as long
– But you can also freeze ginger and tumeric. To freeze them, first peel and mince, or grate it. Then spread or scoop onto a parchment-lined tray. Freeze until solid and transfer to an airtight container. It should keep for about six months.

herbs in oil._w.540_s.fit_Herbs (Basil, Cuban Oregano, chives):
– One of my favorite ingredients, a handful of fresh herbs from the garden, is one of the simplest things to preserve in the freezer. Wash them and dry them with a kitchentowel, put them in a clean bag and freeze.
– You can also freeze herbs in oil. Why? Preserving herbs in oil reduces some of the browning and freezer burn that herbs can get in the freezer. It’s also a great way to have herbs ready immediately for winter stews, roasts, soups, and potato dishes. These dishes usually call for oil to start with, and so you can take a cube of frozen oil, herbs inside, out of the freezer and use this as the base of your dish. Cook the onions and garlic in this herb-infused oil and let the taste of herbs spread through your whole dish.
– You can also make an oil with herbs. Just mix your favorite olive oil with herbs and let infuse a couple of days.                     – Another option is to dry the herbs. Wash and dry them and put the herbs in your oven (50 degrees) or dehydrator. When dried you can grind them. They will last forever!!!

– Why not make a pesto? Pesto will last a long time in the freezer as well. You can switch out the classic basil for another handy herb or leafy green (like arugula or watercress), replace the pine nuts with a different favorite nut, or swap the Parmesan for Pecorino or Asiago or nutritional yeast if you want a vegan pesto. Use more or less of anything to suit your tastes. You can even make a lower-fat pesto by replacing some of the olive oil with ricotta cheese! Bottom line: green + nuts + cheese + olive oil. Whiz it up in a blender and you can’t go wrong.
pesto._w.540_s.fit_
Avocado
– Just like mango’s, avocado’s get soft very quickly in this climate. They will also ripen quicker when put next to bananas so if you want to save your avocado for a longer period just leave it in the fridge.
– Soft avocado’s still make a great guacamole. Guacamole can also be preserved in the freezer. Freeze it in small batches for your tacoparty or burritodinner.

Passionfruit:
– Smooth-skinned passionfruit should be kept at room temperature until they start to wrinkle – when they are at their sweetest – then stored in the fridge. Keep the fruit as dry as possible.
– If you do not want to scoop them out to eat, blend the inside with a little bit of water and put trough a sif so you will loose the pits.
– Use the juice as a base for lemonade: mix with water and a natural sweetener.
– Or put the juice in icecube molds and freeze them to use later in a smoothie, sangria or infused water.
– You can also make fruitvinegar (see recipe below)

Mango:
– Sometimes mango’s get soft very quickly. Be careful not to put them in a bowl with bananas because then they will ripen even quicker.
– Blend them and freeze them in icecube molds and freeze them to use later in a smoothie, sangria or infused water.
– You can also make fruitvinegar (see recipe below)
– Mango’s are a great snack when dried. Cut the mango in small pieces and dry them in the oven or dehydrator on 50 degrees. Lemon juice may be added to prevent darkening.

 

Infused_herb vinegar_bottleMaking (Fruit) Vinegar at Home
Here is how I make my own fruit vinegar. If making vinegar with spices and herbs it is the same process.

– First, the base vinegar. It’s important to find a high-quality white wine vinegar to start with, one with minimal levels of ethyl acetate, the compound that shows up in lesser-quality vinegars. (You can tell if it’s there by the strong characteristic smell of nail polish remover.)
– Then the fruit. You want an equal weight of fruit to vinegar. I use mango, passionfruit, lemons, berries and figs
Crush the fruit lightly with a fork in a saucepan. Pour in the vinegar and bring everything to a simmer for just a minute to help release the fruity flavor into the vinegar. Turn off the heat and pour everything — vinegar and fruit — into a hot sterilized jar. Let it cool with the cap off and after it is cooled put it away in a dark cupboard.

 

freeze fruits._w.540_s.fit_Freezing fruit
It’s tempting — and maybe intuitive — to just throw fruits in a freezer bag and be done with it. But frozen this way, the fruits often freeze together into one solid brick, which makes things difficult when you need just a few cups to make a dessert or want to fit them nicely into a pie crust. Thawing the fruit turns them into a watery, pulpy mess — fine if they’re already encased in pastry dough, but less ideal for working with initially.
A better and easier way to freeze fresh fruits is to first prepare them just as you would if you were going to use them immediately — peel and core apples and pears, remove the pits from peaches, and chop them into small bite-sized pieces. Berries and other small fruits can be left whole. Then freeze all the fruits in a single layer on a baking sheet. The small individual pieces freeze solid and can easily be transferred into a freezer container for longer storage. Removing as much air as possible from the bag or container will also help protect the fruit from freezer burn.

 

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