Save the Summer Bonanza! How to Freeze Berries for Later
Maybe you pick them yourself. Or maybe you purchase them from one of our producers. (Our newest producer, delli Carpini Farm, has a limited quantity of wild-foraged berries this week, and Agriberry has fresh farm-grown berries in large quantities.) But certainly, you'll want to save some of this summer goodness for later!
There's no doubt that, in the middle of February, when there's snow on the ground and it's cold outside, there's nothing better than being able to make yourself a nice berry cobbler or delicious, hot muffins filled with summer berries. Freezing your summer berry haul ensures that you can enjoy them all year, until next year's crop comes in!
Freezing berries is easy and quick, and freezing them individually makes them easier to measure out later for recipes. If you just put unfrozen berries in a bag and seal them up, they stick together and aren't as versatile.
To freeze individually, spread the berries out on a jelly roll pan in a single layer. You can put parchment or wax paper under them if you like, but you can also just put them straight onto the pan. Make a level spot to stash the pan in the freezer. Leave your berries in the freezer overnight--or at least for five or six hours. You want the individual fruits to roll around like marbles on the sheet pan when you take them out.
Using a wide spatula, scoop the frozen berries into a freezer bag. Press the extra air out of the bag. You'll be able to just dip a measuring cup in later to use your fruit for a recipe.
We use a vacuum sealer at my house to freeze berries in two-cup batches. Freezing them individually first means that they aren't crushed by the sealer. (I usually freeze in 2-cup batches.)
Store the berries in the back of the freezer, where they are less likely to melt and stick together. You'll enjoy fresh, local berries well into the winter season.
By Katie Hoffman, FLF&LR Marketing Director
It's Time for Ratatouille!
Garlicy, tender, sweet, and filling. This stew is the Italians’ way of using summer abundance to make a delicious vegetable stew. Ratatouille is an old Italian recipe incorporating whatever is coming in at the moment, with a few staples to anchor the dish. (Like eggplant and squash).
There’s lots of room for your imagination! Riff on this if what you have on hand is a little different from what’s listed below in the recipe. If you don’t like one of the ingredients listed below, leave it out. You have total permission to tinker!
One element that I always include is eggplant (see the beauties pictured above, from Broadfork Farm) and always squash. If I don’t have zucchini, I use yellow squash. If I’m feeling like it, I mix the two. And onions. Lots of onions and garlic! (Like the Thistledowne Farm onions pictures above). Best of all, you’ll find virtually every ingredient on this list on the Fall Line Farms and Local Roots page this week—just enter each one into the search bar to find your options.
Having company? Ratatouille can be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered. Bring it to room temperature or reheat it before serving.
I’ve also had success with freezing ratatouille if I stop cooking it before it’s all the way done (while the vegetables are still firm). Imagine pulling a pint out of the freezer in February and tasting all that summer goodness while snow is on the ground!
Fresh or from the freezer, I usually serve ratatouille as is with curls of parmesan cheese on top and crusty bread on the side. I also serve it as a side dish to tasty, tender, sustainably raised meats like the ones on our pages.
Fall Line Farms and Local Roots Ratatouille
(Adapted by Katie Hoffman, FLF&LR Marketing and Promotions Director, from a recipe found in Gourmet magazine, 2003)
• 3 or 4 large tomatoes
• 8 large garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
• 20 fresh basil leaves, torn
• 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 lbs eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
• 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
• 2 large onions, quartered and sliced (Like the ones from
Thistledowne Farm, pictured above)
• 3 assorted bell peppers any color, cut into bite-sized pieces
cut into 1-inch pieces
• 4 medium squash (yellow crookneck or zucchini) cut into 3/4"
• teaspoon black pepper
Blanch and peel tomatoes. (You can cut off the stem end of each tomato or core out the stem and put them in boiling water for one minute. Transfer them immediately to a bowl or sink filled with ice water and let them sit for a minute to cool. The peels will slip off easily.)
Coarsely chop the tomatoes and transfer them to a 5-quart heavy pot with the garlic, parsley, basil, and 1/3 cup oil. Simmer, partially covered, and stir them occasionally until the tomatoes begin to break down and the sauce is slightly thickened. This takes about 30 minutes.
While the sauce cooks, toss the eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a large colander and let it stand in sink 30 minutes.
As the eggplant drains, cook the onions in 3 tablespoons oil with 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened (about 10 to 12 minutes). Transfer the onions to a large bowl, adding 3 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and cooking the bell peppers with 1/4 teaspoon of salt over moderate heat. Stir them occasionally, until softened (about 10 minutes).
Transfer the peppers into the same bowl as the onions. Add 3 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and cook the zucchini with 1/4 teaspoon of salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is just tender (6 to 8 minutes). Transfer the zucchini into the bowl with the other vegetables.
Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels. Add the remaining oil (about 1/4 cup) to the skillet and cook the eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened (10 to12 minutes).
Add the vegetables, the remaining teaspoon of salt, and the black pepper to the tomato sauce and simmer the stew, covered, until the vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour. Stir it occasionally as it cooks. Cool it uncovered, and it serve warm or at room temperature.
When the stew is ready to serve, garnish it with Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings and fresh basil.
8 to 10 side-dish servings/4 main-dish servings.
Buy Local for You--But for Your Community, Too!
A guest column by Bailey Mennona, The Food Systems Nutritionist.
(Pictured above, Bailey herself--and her warm carrot and spinach salad.)
Local food is often touted as being super beneficial for consumers. And it is!
When consumers buy local, they enjoy personal interactions at farmers markets and fresher food than when they buy at supermarkets. Food is tastier and more nutritious due to not having to travel as far.
But buying local also extends outward from our own tables and benefits our communities. It helps improve the local economy by keeping money at home, thus creating more jobs. And consumers gain influence when they can talk directly with farmers about their farming methods and ask for what they want.
But what about the producers? How does purchasing local food help those who work tirelessly in the fields to feed their communities?
1. Farmers can set their own fair prices.
We are made to believe that food is cheaper at the grocery store, and it usually is. But what does this mean for the farmers who produced it? Are producers able to live off this pay, or is most of the money consumers spend at the grocery store going toward overhead, like paying truckdrivers and maintaining buildings?
Are farmers able to pay their farm workers a liveable wage? Are they able to adopt sustainable farming methods to keep our water-ways and food safe and to keep us healthier?
All of these questions are important in considering the price of a product. When you support small and mid-size local farmers, you may spend a little more money. But that money goes directly to supporting a family instead of to an industrialized agri-food company.
Consumers are also able to talk with farmers about their farming methods, building lasting relationships and increasing local identity and also helping determine what fresh, seasonal foods are available at the market.
2. Buying local helps shape future farming policy supporting small and mid-size farmers.
Currently, our food policy is shaped and supported by industrialized farms. Purchasing local food creates a shift in our communities. If local farmers are having issues with specific food policy, consumers can mobilize to create local food policy changes that benefit small and mid-size farmers. Then, consumers empower farmers to deliver what the consumers really want.
3. Purchasing from local farmers can increase efficiency and decrease waste--if the right policy is enacted.
Small Farmers can sell more hard-to-sell items directly to consumers and avoid wasting them. This includes chicken feet, bones for broth, liver, etc. They can also offer niche items, like delicious but delicate heirloom varieties of vegetables that wouldn’t survive cross-country travel.
Buying local decreases food waste through the purchase of bulk items. Food left over at farmers markets can be repurposed as specialty items such as canned and baked goods. Any other leftover food can be recycled back into the local food system through livestock feed, compost, and/or bio-fuels.
Buying locally is good for you, but it's good for your community and your environment too!
ABOUT BAILEY: Bailey Mennona is Virginia Beach mom and military spouse who's a big fan of Fall Line Farms and Local Roots, even though she lives too far away to be a member. She has a BS in Nutrition and a Masters in Sustainable Food Systems. She is "constantly questioning the status quo of nutrition and the food system." This is her first guest column for our weekly newsletter. You can find her on Twitter (@FSnutritionist) on Instagram (@thefoodsystemsnutritionist) and on Facebook as The Food Systems Nutritionist.