Farmers Markets are great for buying fresh fruits and vegetables, and there’s no better time than September to take advantage of the best the market has to offer. Mike Jacobs, owner of Easy Bean Farm and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in Milan, Minnesota, says, “September is my favorite month on the farm. It’s the sweet spot where you get both summer crops like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, and you’re starting to get colder weather crops like leeks, potatoes and winter squash.”
Jacobs offers readers his tips for taking full advantage of September with easy tips for preserving the bounty of the late summer harvest.
Mike Jacobs of Easy Bean Farm shares tips for making the taste of the late summer harvest last into winter.
Removing Air for Freezer Preserving
“Freezing is the easiest way. You can preserve with almost no effort,” says Jacobs. “For all freezer preserving, the most important thing you can do for quality is get as much air out as possible. If you’re willing to invest some money, you can buy a vacuum sealer for about $30 to $300, but you can do perfectly good preserving with plain old [zip-top] bags. Press the air out and seal the bag quickly,” says Jacobs. “Or, you can put a straw in the bag, squeeze it to get as much air out as you can, and then suck more air out with the straw, and seal it right away.”
Jacobs takes us through different types of produce and how to preserve them to keep the taste of summer alive.
Many people would agree that if the summer sun had a taste, it would be the taste of ripe tomatoes. September is great for tomatoes because they are at peak ripeness, and because it’s the end of the season, September often brings the best prices of the season.
How: Wash tomatoes, dry and place in a zip-top freezer bag, removing as much air as possible and simply place in the freezer. When you’re ready to use the tomatoes, remove them from the zip-top and place in a colander with a large bowl underneath. As the tomatoes thaw, the skins will slip off and you can discard them. Excellent for sauces and soups.
“Or, Jacobs says, you can make a very simple roasted tomato sauce or homemade ketchup, and preserve the tomatoes that way.” (Turn page for recipes!)
Broccoli, Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts
These nutritional powerhouses can be stored in the freezer, but there’s one extra step—blanching. Jacobs explains, “Blanching is important with these vegetables because it breaks down the cellulose. If it’s not broken down, it causes the veggies to be mushy.” In addition to preserving the texture, blanching also preserves the nutrients and color.
[Editor’s note: If you’ve never done blanching, it’s nowhere near as intimidating as it may sound. Blanching is simply cooking a vegetable or fruit in boiling water briefly, removing it from the water and then plunging into an ice bath. For the ice bath, just fill a clean kitchen sink about half full of cold water and add about 4 trays of ice cubes. After you’ve done it once and conquered your fear, blanching will become your new best friend. It’s not only important for preserving—it can make things you already cook even better. Next time you cook asparagus, blanch it. It will have a bright green color that will make it the most beautiful asparagus you’ve ever had!]
For broccoli and cauliflower: Wash well and cut into florets. Immerse in boiling water for 3 minutes. (Broccoli will be ready when it turns bright green.) Remove from water. Transfer to ice bath. [Tip: Place a frying basket into the pot for easy transfer. If you don’t have one, use a slotted spoon, working quickly to avoid overheating the veggies.] Quick freeze to maintain the best texture. Place sprouts individually on a cookie sheet or baking sheet. Place in freezer. After veggies are frozen, place them in freezer bags. Remove as much air as possible from bags before sealing.
For Brussels sprouts: Choose sprouts that are all the same size. (Blanching times are based on the veggie’s size.) Immerse in boiling water. Blanch small sprouts for 3 minutes, medium for 4 minutes and large for 5. Remove with frying basket or slotted spoon. Transfer to ice bath. Quick freeze using method above.
You can use an online guide from University of Minnesota Extension for specific times for vegetables. Go to extension.umn.edu.
Nothing is easier to store than potatoes. Potatoes can be stored easily by keeping them in a cool place, like a basement. The key to cold storage is to keep the potatoes in their dirty state—washing them before storing lowers their storage time.
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Time: About 1 hour 20 minutes
Active Time: About 40 minutes
2 lbs. tomatoes (about 6 large or 8 medium), halved
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Preheat the oven 400°F.
Pour the olive oil on to a large baking sheet and spread to cover. (Lining the baking sheet with parchment paper makes for easy clean-up.) Sprinkle the garlic and salt evenly over the oil.
Place the tomatoes cut side down onto the baking sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until the skins start to separate from the tomatoes. Allow to cool. Remove skins if desired, and transfer into a large bowl and break up the tomatoes with a fork. If you want a smoother sauce, use blender or food processor to puree, or use immersion blender. Reheat sauce if using immediately. If freezing, cool and place into zip-top bags, being careful to remove excess air.
Curious about CSA?
When you become a member of a CSA, you buy a “share” of produce from a regional farmer—you pay in advance of the season, and in turn, get produce delivered either weekly or biweekly, usually between June and October. Costs vary among CSAs. Shares are delivered to drop-off locations convenient to various neighborhoods.
Plymouth residents pick up their Easy Shares at Adath Jeshurun synagogue or Bet Shalom synagogue in Minnetonka. Easy Bean is taking names to see if there are enough shareholders to have a drop-off in Plymouth. Go to easybean.com to learn more.