Healthy family: preserving summer flavors

  • Updated: October 2, 2013 - 1:06 PM

Take advantage of farmers’ bounty and freeze produce so you’ll have a taste of summer all winter long.

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Meredith Deeds Special to the Star Tribune Chicken and Corn Chili with Roasted Poblanos for healthy family.

Photo: Meredith Deeds • Special to the Star Tribune Chicken and Corn Chili with Roasted Poblanos.,

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Summer may be over, but you wouldn’t know it at the farmers market.

The markets are brimming with produce of all kinds: tomatoes, peppers, corn, melons, okra and much more.

What I love most about this time of year is the strange economic phenomenon that occurs when the highest-quality produce is available for the lowest prices.

I love a good deal. But just because I can get a huge bucket of jalapeños for $3 doesn’t mean it makes sense to buy them if most will go to waste. Finding ways to preserve them for my family’s enjoyment all fall and winter is the key to taking advantage of this seasonal bonanza.

While I admire those who make pickles, jellies, jams and sauces and can them in beautiful jars, it’s not a skill I have honed.

My preference is to oven-roast the tomatoes, husk the corn, and fire up the grill so I can blister and peel a large quantity of chile peppers at once, all in preparation for the freezer.

Here are few quick tips to freezing produce:

• Fruits and vegetables can be frozen for up to a year.

• Corn can be frozen on the cob or the kernels can be taken off the cob first. Either way, the corn must be blanched first to stop the enzyme action so the corn doesn’t continue ripening.

• Tomatoes can be halved or cut into thick wedges, placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet, seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper and slow roasted in a 225-degree oven for 4 to 6 hours.

Low and slow roasting brings out a depth of flavor in tomatoes that isn’t possible with high heat. Cool and freeze the tomatoes in the pan until they are solid, then transfer them to freezer bags.

• Peppers should be roasted on a grill, a gas burner or under the broiler just until blistered and slightly blackened.

Then the peppers should be placed in a bowl covered with plastic wrap to steam for 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully peel off skin, remove stems and seeds and place the peppers on a parchment-lined baking sheet to freeze. Once frozen solid, the peppers should be transferred to freezer bags.

• For hot chiles, such as jalapeños that aren’t typically used in large quantities: Roast them as directed for peppers, then peel and finely chop (removing the seeds if you want to eliminate some of the heat).

Scoop the chopped peppers onto a parchment-lined baking sheet in tablespoon increments, much as you would for cookie dough. Freeze the dollops and transfer to a freezer bag. This makes them easy to use while cooking or to have on the table for diners to mix into what’s on their plates.

Maybe next year I’ll master the art of canning, but for this year, I’ll be reaching into the freezer whenever I need a taste of summer.

Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at meredith@meredithdeeds.com. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.

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