Fruits of Summer

June has me craving garden sweets. Rhubarb has been gracing my table for weeks; now strawberries are reddening to join it. In warmer areas, you’re probably anticipating blackberries, blueberries, and tart cherries before the month is out. As we roll into July, raspberries, apricots, and early plums will all start to appear. It’s hard to resist summer’s sweet bounty.

It’s also hard to overcome the desire for fruit out of season. Although American grocery stores stock nearly every vegetable imaginable all year, some fruits can be harder to come by outside their harvest window. Those that do appear year-round, or close to it, lack that fresh summer flavor that makes them so appealing. How they are grown is also of concern; more than half of the Dirty Dozen list (foods with the worst pesticide residue based on USDA and FDA data) is fruit. These are all good reasons to grow—and save—fruit yourself.
Read more about preserving the fruits of summer

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Botulism and Canning Safely

When I mention this blog, it rarely takes noncanners long to reveal they are afraid of making their family sick and to ask for the secret to canning safely. Their fear is of the big, scary B word: botulism. But what strikes me is their belief that they need to be let in on a secret to avoid it.

Honestly, there is no secret to safe canning. Everything you need to know is in every decent book and on every decent website that covers the topic. Canning is a process, but it’s not a mysterious one: If you can follow directions, you can get it right. Or, in the words of Kevin West, author of the fabulously informative Saving the Season, “If you can safely prepare chicken, a potential vector for food-borne pathogens such as salmonella, then you can handle home canning.”

Unfortunately, botulism has become a boogeyman, the arch villain of a cautionary tale who peers over the rim of a boiling water bath at many home canners. It doesn’t have to be that way. Read more about botulism and canning safely

Rhubarb

I grew up in a rhubarb family: large patches growing in my dad’s and grandpa’s gardens, rhubarb pie at Thanksgiving (never diluted with strawberries), and a stash of rhubarb sauce in my mom’s fridge that I put on everything from ice cream to Cheerios. Among the first things I planted when I moved to Montana were rhubarb eyes taken from my dad’s plants; they’ve since spread out into a garden patch that produces all summer long and never bolts—one of the few perks of gardening in the shady woods.

After a winter of playing with various combinations of produce-influenced cocktails that put a splash of summer into the grayest day, I instantly saw “beverage” when I cut my first stalks of rhubarb in spring. The straight rhubarb needed another flavor to balance the bright pink syrup, and I knew from making sorbet that rosemary would add just the right touch in a summer cocktail. Learn to make Rhubarb–Rosemary Syrup and Rhubarb–Orange–Ginger Marmalade