But I’ve completely embraced the concept of food preservation. My friend Katy and I had a child-free “girls night in” a couple weeks ago and we preserved a box each of peaches, okra, tomatoes and cucumbers. It was a long and messy experience, but by the end of the weekend — too much to preserve in just one night, it turns out — we had more than 20 quarts of cucumber pickles, eight quarts of pickled okra (the only way my daughter and I will eat those crunchy pods), 12 pints of peaches and nine bags of frozen tomatoes.
After staying up until 2 a.m. making pickles, we just froze the tomatoes whole instead of canning them. Once defrosted, the tomato skins peel right off and can then be canned whole, diced or used directly in a recipe or as a sauce.
Freezing is one of the easiest ways to preserve fruits and vegetables, especially if it’s just one or two pieces at a time. When a fruit gets bruised, you only have a day or two before the whole thing is toast and only fit for consumption by the compost bin. A good way to save it is to cut out the bad spot, peel (if needed), dice or slice the fruit and pop it in the freezer. Then you have tasty fresh fruit whenever you need it — for smoothies, baking or a tasty ice-cream topping.
Lately, instead of putting diced peaches in a freezer bag to use later, I go ahead and make them into a quick meal — breakfast pops.
In my house, “popsicle” is too much for 2- and 3-year old tongues to say, so the frozen treats are known as “pops.” And like most toddlers, my kids go through periods where they don’t want to eat — usually anything, but especially breakfast, that most important meal of the day.
But when I ask, “Do you want a pop for breakfast?” I’m not usually met by much opposition. (Except for my son — he has to be difficult and doesn’t like them, so it’s dry cereal for him.)
Homemade pops are really easy to make, as long as you have a popsicle mold, available in the kitchen goods department of most stores. For my breakfast pops, I fill the mold about a quarter to half full with diced peaches, squishing them down into the bottom with a spoon to remove any large air pockets. Then I spoon vanilla yogurt over the top until the mold is full, put in the stick and stick the whole thing in the freezer overnight. The next morning — viola, breakfast pops. It’s just as healthy as the fruit and yogurt that is my daughter’s usual breakfast, but a lot less messy.
While peaches and tomatoes can survive a day or two with a bruise and still be mostly useable, one fruit that won’t last is figs. My neighbors graciously agreed to let me harvest their fig tree, and I’m on my third or fourth Halloween-bucket full, which you may not know is the official measurement of fig picking. Figs are delicious and delicate fruits that only last a couple of days before they get squishy, gross and moldy. I accidentally left my last harvest out on the counter overnight, and several figs were already moldy the next morning. Not only is a counter full of fermenting figs gross, but it makes your house smell like a winery.
This last batch — or at least what I was able to salvage — was rinsed, stemmed, placed on a baking sheet and popped in the freezer. They freeze whole and will be good for making glazes and toppings later on down the road.
Maybe next I should pick up a book on wine making, so none of my bounty goes to waste next year.
Features Editor Deirdre Long: 256-294-4152. On Twitter @star_features.