Feeds:
Posts
Comments

With all the lovely produce we are getting from Paddy every week, there will inevitably be times when you have too much to eat right away. This might especially be the case over the coming months as we reach the end of the growing season and perhaps are lucky enough to have some of our own home grown produce to add into the mix!

We thought it would be useful over the next couple of newsletters to give you some ideas of the different methods which are available to store your vegetables and fruit for year-round indulgence. We will look at a number of the more common approaches including freezing, natural storage, drying and Jams/Pickles/Chutneys.

We will also include some recipes for jams, preserves and chutneys for those of your creative enough and brave enough to make your own! (For those of you who aren’t, I can seriously recommend Paddy’s jams and chutneys – which are available at the market every week!). This month, we will start by looking at Freezing.

Freezing Vegetables

The key to freezing vegetables is to blanch them first. Blanching is just another name for scalding – a quick immersion in boiling water – and basically is a way of preserving the colour and flavour of your vegetables. Frozen vegetables which have been blanched also retain more vitamin C than those that haven’t. Generally aim to use your frozen vegetables within six months of freezing.

What equipment will you need?

A big saucepan – big enough to hold 3-4 litres of boiling water

 A net, basket or strainer for immersing the vegetables in the boiling water. Could be a chip-pan basket, a simple muslin bag, or a nylon wine-straining bag.

 A plentiful supply of really cold water. For example, a big batch of ice cubes and a big basin of cold water. You can add more ice cubes as they melt to keep the water really cold.

 How to blanch your vegetables

Wash and clean your vegetables, then prepare as shown in the chart below (if it’s not listed, choose the type of vegetable nearest to the one you are freezing, and go by that, adjusting for size difference if necessary).

Bring 4 litres of water to a good fast boil.

Weigh out 500g of vegetable and lower it into the boiling water in your strainer. Wait till the water comes back to the boil, then start timing straight away. Timings for the different vegetables are listed in the chart below.

Watch the timing carefully. Don’t let the temptation to ‘just get on with something else’ distract you from what you are doing, or you will end up with mushy vegetables.

As soon as the time is up, take the vegetables out of the hot water and plunge straight into the cold water. Leave them there for the same length of time you blanched them for. If you don’t cool properly, the vegetables will carry on cooking, with the same disappointing results.

Remove from the water and put into your colander or other drainer and leave to drain thoroughly. When they have stopped dripping, you can choose to open freeze or pack in portions. Open freezing is the best method—just spread the vegetables on shallow trays (try not to let them touch each other) and put into the fast freeze section of your freezer. When completely frozen, pack into polythene bags, label and put into the regular vegetable section.

NOTE: There’s no need to change the water for every batch. You can do 6-7 consecutive batches of veg in the same water (bringing it back up to the boil each time, of course) and in fact this helps to retain the vitamin C content of the vegetables.

Freezing your garden produce

Freezing food is fast and easy – and is actually one of the oldest methods known to mankind to preserve food. There are several tips to keep in mind:

  • Use produce that is ripe but not overripe. Check the produce for blemishes or bad spots.
  • Make sure it is clean and rinsed well.
  • Most produce freezes better and has a better taste if it is blanched first
  • The fresher the food you freeze, the better the flavor will be when you come to defrost and eat it. It’s best to harvest small amounts of produce at a time and freeze on the same day, than to harvest everything in one go and freeze the next day.
  • You can use plastic containers, cardboard containers or freezer bags.

PREPARATION, BLANCHING AND COOLING OF VEGETABLES

Vegetable Preparation Blanching and Cooling time (same for both)
Asparagus Wash asparagus and remove woody portions and scales of spears.  Cut asparagus into 6”

 

Generally asparagus does not work too well as a frozen vegetable – making it into a soup and freezing this is better. 

Thin stalks – 2 minutes.

Medium stalks – 3 minutes.

 Thick stalks – 4 minutes

Aubergines Wash, cut into 1 inch slices.

After blanching and cooling, dry on absorbent paper towels. Pack in layers, separated by non-stick paper.

4 minutes
Beans (French or Runner) Leave small French beans whole. Runner beans should have strings removed, ends cut off. Cut into 2.5-5 cm (1-2″) lengths (best for flavour) or slice if preferred. Whole beans and bigger pieces – 2 minutes. Sliced – 1 minute
Beans (Broad) Choose small, young beans. Pod. 3 minutes
Broccoli Trim to even lengths with compact heads and cut off any tough stalks. Thin stalks – 3 minutes

 Thicker – 4 minutes

Brussels sprouts Trim off outer leaves to achieve small tight sprouts evenly sized. 3 minutes
Carrots Leave small young carrots whole, slice or dice larger ones. Small or whole – 5 minutes. Diced or sliced – 3 minutes.
Cauliflower Separate into small sprigs (florets). Wash well. 3 minutes
Courgettes Choose young ones. Wash and cut into 1

2.5 cm (1 inch) slices.

3 minutes
Leeks Remove outer leaves. Trim ends. Wash well. Cut into 2.5 cm (1″) slices. 2 minutes
Mushrooms Wash and dry well.  Do not blanch in water – instead sauté in butter, cool, drain, then freeze
Onions Peel, slice or chop. 1 minute
Parsnips Choose small young ones. Scrape, wash, slice or dice. 2 minutes
Peas Only very young tender ones should be used. Sort carefully. Peas freeze really well. 1 minute
Potatoes, New Potatoes are best frozen in a cooked form.
Potatoes, Chips Peel, cut into chips. Use oil to deep fry for 2 minutes. Cool on kitchen paper. Open freeze.
Spinach Use young tender leaves or remove tough midrib of older leaves. Wash well. 2 minutes
Swede Remove peel, cut into cubes. 3 minutes
Turnips Remove peel, cut into cubes. 3 minutes

Freezing Fruit

 Fruits are quite easy to prepare for freezing as they do not require blanching. However, fruits that are frozen are generally only best used for jams/chutneys/smoothies or for use in pies and puddings. Fruits will generally keep for up to a year in the freezer. Citrus fruits and fruit juices are best consumed within six months.

The initial preparation is just as you would before eating or cooking. Sort through, remove any fruits which are damaged, and wash. Remove any stems and stone where appropriate.

There are two main ways to freeze fruit – dry-freezing, or Puree.

Dry-Freezing

Also known as open freezing, this approach is best for small whole berries, which can be washed without breaking the skin or for fruits that will be made into jams/pies.
For example: gooseberries, blueberries, rhubarb, redcurrants, raspberries, strawberries or blackberries.

Method

1. Wash hard skin berries in very cold water, which will firm up the skin and then dry them with kitchen paper. Soft fruits should not be washed before freezing.

2. Place the fruit in a single layer on a baking tray lined with a piece of greaseproof paper.

3. Place the baking tray into the freezer, making sure that the tray is flat and freeze until the fruit is solid.

4. Remove from the freezer and transfer the fruit either to a rigid container or into polythene freezer bags.

 Fruit purée

Puréeing fruit before freezing is most suitable for fruit that is not in its prime condition or for fruit that is overripe. For example: apples, apricots, plums, strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, pears, blackcurrants, rhubarb, blackberries and damsons.
Method

1. Wash and prepare the fruit by peeling and removing the pips and blemishes.

2. Cut the fruit into slices if whole or larger firm fruits.

3. Place 1 lb (455 g) of fruit into a large saucepan with 4 tbsp of water. The water is only required in order to prevent the fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan with the lid.

4. Heat gently and simmer until the fruit is soft. Stir occasionally.

5. Stir in 3 -4 oz (85 – 115 g) of caster sugar.

6. Continue to cook and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Do not bring to the boil.

7. Allow to cool slightly and then process in a food blender or processor. Alternatively, pass through a fine sieve.

8. Pack into plastic containers leaving a little room at the top for expansion.

9. Freeze and use within 6 – 8 months.

 Freezing Herbs

 You can preserve most of your garden herbs by freezing. When storing fresh herbs in your freezer, it is best to first chop the herbs as you would if you were going to cook with them today. This will make using them later easier. Spread the chopped herbs on a metal baking sheet and place in the freezer. This will ensure that the herbs freeze quickly and will not freeze together in a large clump. Once the herbs are frozen, you can transfer them into a plastic freezer bag. They should last for 12 months like this.

 Another approach which can be used when preparing for storing fresh herbs in the freezer is to store in ice cube trays. You can measure out typical measurements, like a tablespoon, of the chopped herbs into ice cube trays and then fill the trays the remaining way with water. This is a good way how to keep cut herbs if you plan on using them frequently in soups, stews and marinades where the water will not affect the outcome of the dish.

Making jam, preserves and chutney is growing increasingly popular, and nothing tastes better than homemade jams and chutneys made from your own home-grown fruit and vegetables. They also make for wonderful gifts, especially around Christmas.

In this month’s article, we are going to look at chutney making. Along with the usual suggestions of recipes to try with your veg, we have provided some delicious recipes for you to try with any surplus produce you have left.  Today, we tend to think of chutneys as an accompaniment to a meal- but in fact, as far back as the 17th century, chutney was a method of preserving foods for use the year round and formed a major part of a meal. The scope of chutneys is endless and the combinations and permutations can be varied according to personal taste and the ingredients available. They can be sweet, sour, hot or mild.

Ingredients

Unlike other storage methods, where you really want the best quality produce, with chutney you can use damaged fruits, end of season produce etc. They are a great way of using these up. The vinegar you use is critical to successful storage – it doesn’t matter whether you use malt, wine or white vinegar as long as the acetic acid content is over 5%. This is usually marked on the bottle – if it’s not, assume the acid content is low and buy another brand. The sugar you use can be brown or white – do not substitute this for artificial sweeteners. The sugar is there as much as a preservative as for the sweetness, and artificial sweeteners will not do the job.

Storage

Chutneys store really well – we have just finished the last jar of our green-tomato chutney which we made last September. It’s best to store in a dark, airy place. Under the stairs is the storage spot in our house! It’s recommended that you store your chutney for at least a month after making to allow it develop its final flavour.

Equipment

A big saucepan – this should be either stainless steel or enamel lined. Do not use brass, copper or iron pans as they may react with the vinegar and add a metallic flavour to your chutney

A long handled wooden or stainless steel spoon for stirring – note that wooden spoons tend to absorb the spicy flavours, so if you are going to use  a wooden spoon, keep one just for chutney making

Muslin or cotton squares – to tie up spices

Weighing scales – for measuring ingredients

Slotted spoon – for removing spices

Heat proof glass jars – Kilner or Mason style ones with glass lids are ideal, but any old jam jars are fine as long as the metal lids are plastic coated.

Heatproof jug or wide necked stainless steel funnel – a heatproof glass, stainless steel or enamel jug is useful for pouring the chutney into the jars. Alternatively a wide necked stainless steel funnel or a large ladle can be used.

Chopping boards and stainless steel knife.

Labels – For the front of the jars to identify the chutney and the date made.

 Sterilising jars

If you have a dishwasher, you can put your jars and lids through on the hottest programme – or check if your dishwasher has a sterilize programme.

Otherwise, wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water, rinse well in hot water and leave to drain. When you start cooking, pop the jars and the lids into a low oven (140 deg C) for about 10 minutes.

Alternatively you can put them in a saucepan of cold water, bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes.

Don’t use jars that are cracked or chipped.

Most jams, chutneys and marmalade should be poured into warm jars to stop the preserve from cooling too quickly before it’s sealed – so try to time your sterilising to tie in with when the preserve will be ready for potting. 

Don’t put hot jars directly onto a cold surface (such as a marble worktop)- the sudden change in temperature can cause the jar to crack. As a general rule of thumb – cold contents should be placed into cold jars, hot content into hot jars.

Things that can go wrong when you are cooking chutney:

If the chutney has shrunk in the jar, then the cover is not airtight and moisture has evaporated.

If loose liquid has collected on the top of the chutney, it has not been cooked sufficiently. It may be possible to rescue the chutney by tipping it back into the pan, bringing it to the boil again and cooking until the liquid disappears. While you are re-cooking, don’t forget to wash and re-sterilize the jars.

Farm Update

Farm Update

 

I visited Paddy a few evenings ago to get a quick update and hear about the highs and lows of the season so far.

We’ve all had reason to lament the dreadful weather this summer – no opportunity to wheel out the barbeque, no balmy evenings chatting on the patio – but for the growers of north county Dublin the last few months have presented one costly challenge to production after the next. Some great weather in April and early May was followed by winds that ripped fleece from the fields and literally tore crops out of the ground. Trees were shredded and young plants decimated. A very average June was followed by the driest, coolest July in almost fifty years. The last few weeks have been mixed but the rain has been welcomed by growers and their thirsty plants. On Paddy’s farm, the fields are dotted with patches of weeds where crops should have been. He filled me in on how he lost five settings of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, which equates to about €1500 worth of seed, not to mention the thousands of Euro worth of produce he expected and the lost hours of labour involved in sowing and re-sowing crops. Ninety per cent of the pumpkins have been wiped out and production on many of the fruit trees and bushes is way down on expectations. The conditions this year have made the instillation of an irrigation system for next year the top priority for Paddy. To this end, he is currently exploring options for funding through grants and loans. Other priorities for 2012 will be getting a more powerful tractor, to cut down on manual labour, and the development of the farm shop as an outlet for an expanded range of farm produce.

 On a positive note, Paddy can’t say enough about the help he’s had over the last while from the WWOOFers who have stayed on the farm. WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a worldwide network of organisations linking volunteers with organic farmers, to help people share more sustainable ways of living. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles. Paddy’s volunteers have done an enormous amount of weeding, watering and preparation for next year, and in his own words they are ‘the key to the future’. With their help, the winter cabbage, kale and broccoli has been set, fleeced, weeded and top dressed. They have also been invaluable in adding to the range of produce on the stall. There’s now an even wider selection of chutneys and jams to choose from, and some fabulous cordials which I can recommend whole heartedly.

This year has been a huge learning curve for Paddy and the insights he has gained in 2011 will go a long way in influencing his plans and decisions for next year. The potato crop was a great success so he will dedicate a lot more land to spuds next year. He had a lull in egg production over the last while as the older flock of hens began to produce fewer eggs before their replacements were ready. In fact, production waned from about 115 dozen eggs a week to only about 20 dozen a week at the time of year when demand is highest so Paddy already has plans afoot to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

As for the rest of this growing season, crops doing well at the moment include several varieties of runner and French beans, tomatoes and cucumbers and even some pepper which were set in the tunnels as a bit of an experiment. There are late plums ripening on the trees near the hen house and the apples are looking good too. The winter salad and veg are getting established in the tunnels and fields and there’s still lots to look forward to before the end of the year.

 

Sustainable Skerries Hosts Éanna ní Lamhna of RTÉ Radio’s Mooney Show Wednesday 8th June 7.30pm – Little Theatre In conjunction with Vita a charity supporting sustainable development in the Horn of Africa – Donations welcomed

 

Everyone Welcome

 

Come along, listen or contribute to Bio-diversity, conservation, food and water issues relevant to Skerries

 

Water Conservation –We promote water conservation in Skerries, encouraging rain water harvesting and raising awareness on ways to reduce water consumption in the home and in business.

 

Food Supply – We work with a local farmer in the Community Harvest Group and with Fingal Co. Co. in the establishment of the Skerries Allotments, as we aim to ensure that our Community has a sustainable food supply.

 

Energy Smart Skerries – We assist initiatives to improve the energy efficiency of homes and businesses in Skerries, through better insulation, more efficient lighting and other smart energy saving measures.

 

Resilience – Our goal is to prepare Skerries to become a resilient Community, able to provide basic needs of Food, Water and Energy in the years ahead.

 

For more information and / or to get involved please contact us on :

 

email: sustskerries@yahoo.ie

 

phone:

 087 2266922 Frank

 

086 0643498 Mary

 

087 2417930 Marjorie

 

http://www.sustainableskerries.wordpress.com

 

2× 290g jar of artichoke hearts, halved

225g/7.5oz gruyere or emmental cheese, grated

8 eggs whisked

Salt & pepper

Handful of basil, roughly chopped

1. Drain artichokes but save the oil. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in frying pan.

2. Arrange artichoke hearts in a single layer on the bottom of the pan, sprinkle over half the cheese, and then pour the eggs evenly over. Season with salt and pepper and top with basil and remaining cheese.

3. Set pan over moderate heat, cover with lid or plate and cook for about 5 minutes or until base is set and getting browned. Meanwhile preheat grill to high.

4. Remove covering from the pan and put under the grill for about 10 minutes, or until the frittata has puffed up and browned, and is set in the centre. Serve straight away.

Notes

Leftovers can be served cold.

Can also use other mixture of veg: asparagus, courgette (lightly boiled) & sundried tomatoes or cauliflower, carrot (lightly boiled) & petit pois…..

These are great on rhubarb but can be used on any fruit—apple, pear, peaches, whatever is in season. Just peel and chop. Both are delicious served hot or cold and accompanied by custard, vanilla ice-cream, cream, mascarpone or crème fraiche, depending on your own taste.

 Sponge topping—This is a take on the classic Eve’s pudding

2 bunches of rhubarb

4 heaped teaspoons Demerara sugar (less if using a sweeter fruit)

2 tablespoons water

4oz butter

4oz caster sugar

2 large eggs

4 oz self raising flour

 1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Chop the rhubarb into half inch lengths and put into an oven proof dish. Sprinkle with the Demerara sugar and add two tablespoons of water.

2. Beat together the butter, caster sugar and eggs until light and fluffy then fold in the flour and spread over the fruit.

3. Bake for about 40 minutes (I find with my fan oven it’s done in about 30).

 Crumble topping

1lb rhubarb

2 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons Demerara sugar

4oz plain flour

4oz porridge oats

4oz butter

3oz caster sugar

Pinch of salt

 1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 .Put the butter, flour, oats,  caster sugar and salt into the food processor and combine until it resembles fine bread crumbs.

 2 Cut the rhubarb into half inch lengths and put the fruit into a shallow ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with the Demerara sugar then spread on the crumble topping but don’t firm down.

 3. Bake for half an hour. Keep an eye on it and turn down the oven if the edges start to brown too much.

Serves about 8 as a starter course

1 Kilo /2lb (about 16 small) cooked beetroot peeled and cut in ¼

1 tablespoon olive oil

150 grams pecan nuts

200 grams feta – crumbled lightly

200 grams mixed salad leaves (rocket, baby spinach, watercress or any mixed leaves)

Dressing

200 grams good quality natural yogurt

½ teaspoon sugar

Pinch salt

1. Place beets in a shallow roasting tray and add olive oil.  Roast in oven for approx 20 minutes @ 200C (gas 6).  Remove from oven and allow to cool. 

2. Toast pecans in oven @ 200C for aboout 3 – 4 minutes, allow to cool.

3. Arrange leaves on a dish.  Toss pecans, beetroot and feta over the leaves.  Combine the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the salad.  Serve immediately.  Will still be lovely next day.