Preserving Demo at BlogHer Food 2013 in Austin, TX


Photo courtesy of Andrew Wilder/Eating Rules.

This past weekend I had the unmitigated joy to run a demo on home food preservation with two of my favoritest people, Kate Payne from Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking and Sarah Tetreault of Go Gingham at the always amazing BlogHer Food conference, this year in Austin, TX. 

Anyone who is part of a CSA, has a garden or keeps chickens understands the problem of overabundance. Our goal was to illustrate that there are a multitude of ways to preserve food, and to ensure that as much of your bounty as possible ends up in your diet, and not in the compost bin. Each method has its own merits, and one may be better than another depending on your circumstances. 

We took on three different ingredients that one might be likely to end up with too much of: Peaches, eggs, and carrots. 

Peaches

When stone fruit come in, they come in big. One of the easiest ways to save them is by freezing. Sarah demonstrated how she freezes them by cutting them in half crosswise, removing the pits and laying them out on a sheet pan, cut side down. The sheet pan goes into the freezer, and when the fruit is frozen, it can be bagged up for more efficient storage. Some people use citric acid, or lemon or orange juice, to retard browning on the cut edges, but Sarah doesn't bother. It depends on how you intend to use the fruit later. 

We had a slow cooker on hand to show that you can simply cut up the fruit, skins and all, mix with a small amount of sugar and cook it down to a lovely fruit butter. Jams and jellies are always delicious, of  course, but fruit butters are easier, especially with the slow cooker, and tend to use less sugar. And with high-acid fruit like peaches and other stone fruit, they are totally safe to can. More fruit butter recipes here.

Kate makes her fruit butter slightly differently; she first purees the fruit and then cooks it down, whereas I cook the fruit down and then puree. The puree can be spread out onto parchment and dried out in a dehydrator or a very low oven to make fruit leather. Simply dry until it's slightly tacky but doesn't pull away from the parchment when touched, allow to cool, then cut into squares and roll up to store in an airtight container. More fruit leather recipes here.

If you have extra scraps of fruit and peels, you can combine them with twice as much of a very light syrup to make your own fruit vinegar. It's fresh, fruity and delicious. See the recipe on Kate's blog.

Finally, don't throw those pits away! Simply throw them in a clean mason jar and cover with vodka, and allow to steep, agitating occasionally. After a few weeks you'll have a base for a liqueur that you can sweeten to taste. After about three months you will have a more potent extract that you can use in baking. It'll have a nice almondy aroma with a tart, fruity flavor. For maximum extraction, you can crack the pits to release the noyaux within. More liqueur and extracts.

Eggs

Got hens? Then you probably have a heck of a lot of eggs during the long days of summer. We all love our frittatas, but you can only eat so many eggs in a day. Sarah again demonstrated freezing by cracking the eggs into freezer-safe containers. A good tip: Freeze them as you'd use them. So, if you know you're going to need four eggs for a future recipe, you can freeze four eggs all together. Yolks and whites can be frozen separately, too. 

Meanwhile, I had a double boiler going so everyone could watch as I magically transformed two eggs, four egg yolks, sugar, butter, lemon zest and juice into a rich, creamy lemon curd right before everyone's eyes, using the recipe from Food in Jars, which is safe for canning. More lemon curd recipes here.

Kate put some hard-boiled eggs in a mason jar and poured a vinegar brine over, and voilĂ ! Pickled eggs in the making. More pickled eggs, please.

Of course, at the end you have all those shells, but don't toss 'em. Sarah crumbles them up and lays them in the soil in her garden. Sharp, pointy egg shells make for very unhappy slugs and snails. 

Carrots

Sarah the freezing guru showed how to freeze excess carrots -- shred, don't cut into coins. The smaller the pieces, the less rubbery they'll become, and they'll still be great for soups, breads and more. 

When prepping carrots, you always end up with trimmings: Tips and tails, and peels if you bother. Simply throw those in a freezer-safe zip-top bag along with other aromatic trimmings like onion and garlic ends, celery butts and so on, and when you bag is full, simmer them for stock. 

Kate made a saline brine and began a simple, flavorful ferment, showing how to keep the carrots submerged and encourage growth of our friend lactobacillus. Check out lots of lactofermentation here.

And last but not least, make the most of those carrot greens! Sarah simply throws them into her stock, but I showed a little trick I learned from the lovely ladies at From Scratch Club: Chop very finely, and layer with kosher salt. As it ferments and dries, you make a lovely, fragrant bullion salt that adds depth and complexity to soups, stews and can even be used as a finishing salt. See the recipe on From Scratch Club.

And then? I tattooed EVERYBODY.

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