Preserving the market bounty

basil in ice cube trays
You can preserve basil in ice cube trays for a wonderful addition to pastas and sauces in the winter. Photo by Sarah Woutat

It’s the middle of the market season and there is so much produce to choose from each week. Tomatoes are trickling in, beets and carrots are abundant, potatoes, cucumbers, cabbage and summer squash are here weekly, and the list goes on.

Although it may seem early to think about preserving for the winter, there are a number of simple things you can do to lock in the flavor of some of your summer favorites. Here are a few tips:

Basil: Put the leaves in a food processor with some olive oil and process until smooth. Then freeze in ice cube trays for a wonderful addition to pastas and sauces in the winter.

Parsley: Put the leaves in a food processor and chop. Then fill ice cube trays halfway with parsley and just enough water to cover. Add to soups and sauces in the winter.

Beans: Snap off ends and blanch in soft boiling water for three minutes, then immediately transfer to an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Drain and freeze in a zipper storage bag.

Peppers: Chop to your preferred size and freeze in a zipper bag.

Celery: Either trim stalks and freeze whole, or chop finely and freeze for mirepoix. I use the whole stalks for soups in the winter.

Eggplant: Cut into large chunks and toss with olive oil and salt. Roast at 450 degrees until browned. Let cool, then freeze on a cookie sheet (so they don’t stick together). Once frozen, place in a zipper bag in the freezer. To use, thaw and toss with pasta or rice, or warm in the oven as a side dish.

Broccoli and cauliflower: Cut into bite-size pieces. Blanch in boiling water for three minutes and move immediately into an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Drain and freeze in zipper bags.

Tomatoes: I freeze tomatoes whole, with skin and seeds on. Depending on the size of the tomato, you may want to cut it up. These can be made into sauce in the winter.

Kale: Tear the leaves into pieces and stuff into a zipper bag in the freezer. Break off a chunk when you’re ready to use them. They’re lovely in soups or as a side.

Make sure you ask your farmers if you can order large quantities of produce for preserving, including tomatoes for canning or cucumbers for pickling. And ask them how they preserve the harvest!

Fulton Farmers Market

When: 8:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Saturdays

Where: 4901 Chowen Ave. S.

Nokomis Farmers Market

When: 4 p.m.–8 p.m. Wednesdays

Where: 5167 Chicago Ave. S.

Kingfield Farmers Market

When: 8:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Sundays

Where: 4310 Nicollet Ave. S.