Freezing Peaches, Berries and Herbs

freeze.GIF (40362 bytes)Summer's Bounty "Chills Out"

Pam's Freezing, Canning, and Preserving Class has always been well attended but in recent years Pam has noticed an increased concern for "dietary challenges," the need to reduce consumption of fats, sugars, or salts or the desire to feed baby only the "purest" foods. It is, and has always been, an economical way to stretch a food budget — buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season when prices are low and preserve them for use during periods when prices are not. But one factor remains constant, everyone enjoys that "farm-fresh flavor" of Terhune Orchards produce.

Lucky for us consumers, the process of food preservation is not all that complicated. Peaches, corn, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, which are indescribably juicy and luscious, are also easy to freeze. Pick all you want and then just follow these simple directions. Next winter, you'll have welcome reminders of delightful summer days spent picking-your-own at Terhune Orchards!

Peaches

This year, our farm-grown and luscious peaches will only be available at the Farm Store. Our Pick-Your-Own peach orchards are in the process of being replaced. So when you "pick" your peaches at the Farm Store, choose fully ripe, firm Terhune Orchards freestone peaches. Wash, peel, and pit. (Hint: To loosen their skins, dip a few peaches at a time into boiling water for 15 seconds.) Place peaches into a bowl of cold water and lemon juice. Slip off the skins, and slice peaches into a plastic freezing container to within 1/2 inch of the top. Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon of crystallized ascorbic acid (available at drug stores or supermarkets) in 1/4 cup of water and pour over the peaches. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of sugar over peaches (amounts are for one-quart containers). Seal the container, shake a few times to distribute the sugar, and immediately freeze. To defrost, place plastic container in a pan of warm water for 10 to 20 minutes. Use immediately.

Try Pam Mount's easy freezin' idea and you'll have fresh-tasting peach pie all winter! Just make the filling, place into a pie tin without crust, and freeze. Remove the pie filling now frozen into the shape of a pie tin, seal in a freezer bag, and return to the freezer. (Eliminates the soggy-bottom-crust syndrome!) When you've had enough of winter, transfer the frozen peach pie filling into a pie crust and pop into the oven preheated to 400 degrees F. One hour later, savor the flavor of summer and Terhune Orchards peaches.

PAM'S FREEZING TIPS

Before freezing fruit first decide how you will be using it.

For use as a garnish or to eat with cereal, freeze each berry or slice individually and store in containers or plastic bags.

For use in a pie, fruit breads, etc. measure out amounts used by your favorite recipes and store in individual containers. For example, freeze 5 cups of sliced peaches in one container if you plan on baking Pam's Perfect Peach Pie this winter.

Blueberries

Pick only those firm, plump, ripe Terhune Orchards blueberries that are an even blue in color. Discard the leaves and twigs that invariably fall into your basket. Remember, DON'T WASH THE BERRIES! On a cookie sheet, spread the berries in a single layer leaving spaces between them. Place the filled cookie sheet in the freezer until the berries are frozen solid. Transfer the frozen berries from the cookie sheet to a plastic bag or container. Seal and date the package. That's it!

Raspberries & Blackberries

Raspberries & blackberries freeze easily, so pick as many as you like. Place undamaged, unwashed berries in a single layer on a tray. Set tray in the freezer. After the berries are frozen solid, transfer them to a pint or quart container, and return it to the freezer for storage. This method preserves the texture and allows you to use only the amount you need since each berry is frozen separately. Defrosted raspberries become very soft, so expect to use them immediately.

To preserve berries that have been bruised or crushed during handling, simply fill containers in amounts used by your favorite berry recipes and freeze. Now you can enjoy your favorite berry pies, breads, and ice creams all winter long.

Peaches, corn, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are available at Terhune Orchards Farm Store, or enjoy an afternoon of fresh air and pick-your-own blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Call ahead to ensure availability, 609-924-2310.

Preserving Herbs

Herbs have long enjoyed the reputation for enhancing romance, curing illnesses both common and bizarre, improving a meal, freshening the air, relieving an itch, soothing the savage beast, and the list goes on! But, many of us like Charlemagne (himself an avid herb gardener who even kept records!), delight in the mystery of herbs — the savory flavors, subtle scents, and delicate blossoms. But, what to do if your herb garden "groweth" over? Preserve them, of course!

Green Basil, an herb noted for its rich aroma and flavor, is easily grown and easily harvested. Once harvested, fresh basil lasts longer if stored in a container of water — as you would cut flowers. Pesto is a quick and tasty way to use basil leaves. To make fresh pesto, puree in blender or food processor 2 cloves fresh garlic, 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, ½ cup olive oil, and ½ cup finely freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve on hot or cold pasta.

Freezing herbs faithfully preserves their flavor although they'll never look quite as good as when they are fresh. If necessary (and always for basil), wash herbs and shake dry. Remove leaves and soft stems. Discard hard stems. Arrange on a baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, gather herbs in plastic bags; seal, label, date, and return to freezer. Remove herbs as needed, using them still frozen.

Another convenient method is to make herbed ice cubes. Chop fresh herbs (wash first, if necessary) and place in an empty ice cube tray, filling compartments about two-thirds full. Fill the tray with cold water and freeze. When frozen, transfer the cubes to a plastic bag, label, date, and return to the freezer. Pop an herbed ice cube directly into soups, stews, and sauces as needed. If you have a favorite combination of herbs, freeze them together, using either of these methods.

Drying herbs is a time-honored method of preservation. Various ways of drying herbs include: hanging them in bunches, leaves downward; drying them on racks or screens one layer deep; drying in a very low oven with door the open; or in the open air. Most herbs require between four and ten days to dry. They're dry when the leaves are completely crisp. Place crisp leaves, flowers, and stems in an opaque, air-tight container. Label and date the contents. Store containers in a cool, dark place.

Herbal vinegars are another tasty way to use herbs. Rinse and dry the herbs and discard the hard stems and roots. Crush remaining material in your hands and loosely fill a wide-mouth container until it's two-thirds full. Add cider or wine vinegar, making sure the herb is completely covered. Store in a cool, dark place.

Didn't grow your own this year? Come to the Farm Store for a large selection of freshly cut herbs — such as tarragon, mint, chives, summer savory, winter savory, dill, lovage, thyme, sage, oregano, parsley, marjoram, woodruff, and many more.