Friday, May 25, 2012

Eating Omily: Freeze, Infuse, and Be Merry!

As we close in on that ambiguous moment of having 'made it through the Winter', (I know, Memorial Day means Summer to you guys, but my fingers are staying crossed till my quarts of tomatoes have been used up, and fresh ones are right around the corner...), I get to evaluate my first year as a home preserver.  That sounds like the opposite of a home wrecker, but no, I don't go around counseling men to use their head instead of their...anyway.

I've got one or two quarts of tomatoes left, so it looks like nine was about the magic number for those...ten wouldn't have hurt, and I would have liked to have more dried tomatos on hand.  Dill pickles were my personal favorite, with dilly beans playing a close second at first...but I'm over them now.  I may do two batches of dills instead!  And I give up on preserving beats!  I don't think much of them fresh, and no canning recipe I've tried makes me like them more.

We definitely had enough jams and jellies to sustain us, even though I didn't make those classics: strawberry and blueberry jam.  My blood orange marmalade was the hit of the house!  I found a last jar tucked in the back of the canned goods cupboard the other day, and we waxed jubilant!   I'll just have to break the seasonal rules and do a batch this Spring, before canning gets underway big-time.  I never did get a hold of a big watermelon to do watermelon jelly with.  I'd really like to do that, but it will definitely mean extra jelly on my hands, unless I skip rhubarb jam this year.  That's a shame, since rhubarb jam is without a doubt the easiest spread to make, but if I'm honest I prefer rhubarb cooked up in a fruit crisp, where it can retain some of its toothsome tartness, and it's not the cheapest flavor around, with its short season, so maybe I'll freeze some for future crisps, instead of jamming it. 

I shirked on apples and pears this Fall, which really is alright, because those are around all year round at my Farmer's Market; there are just more varieties during Apple and Pear Season.  I really enjoyed the chewy dried apple rings I made, though, and am interested in doing dried pear chips this year.  The frozen asparagus didn't retain its texture as well as I had hoped; it came out better if I chopped it into bite-sized pieces instead of serving it whole.  My husband loved the mustard asparagus pickles, but I'll be toning down the mustard in the recipe just the same, in the hopes of tasting the asparagus.  The frozen green beans were good, but the jury is still out on the dried ones.  I love their chewier texture, but my husband isn't a fan, so we still have half my airtight container left, waiting to add extra nutrients to brown rice, and soups.  I'll do less this year for sure.

I just finished up my frozen (rasp, black, and blue)berry stash this morning, and I never did infuse brandy with two cups of it, so that confirms that berries are a hot commodity, and I need to get as many as possible into my freezer when they come rolling in.  Strawberries, on the other hand, probably because they take longer to thaw, and the difference in texture between fresh and frozen/thawed is more obvious, didn't get all eaten.  Even after using two cups to infuse vodka with, there are still some left, and the fresh ones are already coming in!  So I can definitely enjoy eating those fresh, and if I find myself with a bunch frozen at the end of the season, they'll be going into vodka bottles, and jam pots, and maybe one jar of infused vinegar, for sunny, strawberry vinaigrettes...

And I think that's it...this year there will be more infusing, different jams, different, freezing, and different drying, and a little less canning.  Sounds about right!

 But, before I go, I have to show you what I'm the most excited about right now...
What is this dark, and juicy stranger??
It's...an infusion in progress!  Two cups of last season's frozen strawberries are working alchemical magic with two cups of vodka to form sweet, ruby red, decadent strawberry vodka!  Perfect for Summer cocktails.  I cannot wait.
As you can see, the berries are already losing a lot of color to the vodka, and by the end of a week, they'll be looking pretty sad, so we'll strain them out, press them for every ounce of strawberry vodka goodness, then eat them!  Hoohoohahaha!!!

Did I mention how simple infusions are?  Take the fruit (or veggie if you're feeling creative) of your choice, and mix it in a clean jar with approximately an equal amount of not-your-best liquor.  Any subleties will be lost to the fruit, so as long as it's not gag-inducing on its own, it will be great as an infusion.  We use Tito's, which is the best vodka for the money...ever.  Brandy, rum, tequila, or whiskey can all be infused, too, just think carefully about how the flavors will go together, and how you'll serve your resulting tipple.  Let the jar sit in a cool, dark place for about a week, and give it a shake every couple days to encourage full flavor mingling.  Stone fruits, like cherries or peaches, tend to hold their shape and color better than others, so you can potentially leave those in the booze, for an enticing snack or garnish!  Have fun stocking your hipster-rific bar!

Drink Omily!
~em

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