Ever since I was a kid, August has been my favorite month of the year. The leisure schedule of no alarm clocks and doing as we pleased late into the evening became the routine. The hot days reach their peak this time of year, with lots of swimming, popsicles on the porch, camping trips and family barbecues, complete with a rainbow cornucopia of fresh summer produce. Now, as an adult, I don’t have all the play time of a child, but still enjoy this time of year for what nature offers us, delicious sun-ripened, juicy fruits and vegetables that could never compare to their tasteless winter grocery store counterparts.
If there ever was a month to go vegetarian, this would be the one! I could survive on fruits and vegetables alone this time of year, with so many fresh options to choose from. This month’s bounty includes:
With this sweet and savory abundance in full swing, I think back to the cold dreary winter months, lacking in fresh food options. Storing some of summer’s tasty offerings would be a blessing during those days when we’ve had our fill of squash, greens and apples. Preserving fruits and vegetables is a perfect way to extend the season and eat well into the colder months.
This month will be a busy one in my kitchen, canning my own tomato sauce, peaches in rosy syrup, spiced pears and plums, making fruit jam and stocking my freezer to the brim with a variety of summer berries. Stocked and ready, I can look towards fall and winter with ease, knowing my family will be set for a delicious, nourishing and interesting post-summer season.
For those of you less-inclined to process and can your own foods, there are many other ways to put up the season’s best. Pickling, freezing, or drying are also wonderful food preservation options. With a little extra work now, you will be enjoying the sun-soaked summer harvest throughout the year, and so grateful you did.
Pickled Serrano Peppers
1 pound fresh serrano peppers
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons salt
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
Poke each pepper a few times with a knife. Pack in a large glass canning jar.
In a saucepan, bring the other ingredients to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.
Remove from heat and pour over the peppers. Place the lid on the jar and let cool. Once cool, refrigerate for at least a week before using. Will keep in refrigerator for up to a month.
To preserve without refrigeration, process in hot water bath for 35 minutes. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when pressed in center. Store in cool dark place for up to a year.
Apricot Jam with Vanilla and Honey
2 pounds apricots, pitted and halved
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey
juice from one lemon
1 vanilla bean, split
Toss apricots, lemon juice, vanilla bean and honey together in a bowl, cover with sugar and let sit for an hour. Transfer mixture to an pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until jam begins to thicken, about 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat and allow the jam to cool for a minute, then pass through a food mill or food processor to produce a coarse puree.
Return puree to pot and continue cooking. Keep a close eye on it, as the puree will stick to the pot and burn, if unattended. When the jell point is reached, about another 10 minutes, ladle into jars. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when pressed in center. Store in cool dark place for up to a year.
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
5 fresh ears of corn, cut from cob
2 tomatoes, small diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
½ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Place all ingredients in a large, thick-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Spoon the relish into clean jars and seal. Will last for a month refrigerated or process in hot water bath for 15 minutes to preserve without refrigeration.
How to freeze berries
Select berries at the peak of ripeness. Wash, remove any leaves, and drain. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet or pan that will fit flat in your freezer. Freeze overnight. Remove from pan, pour into a plastic freezer bag, squeeze excess air out and seal tight. Will keep in freezer for up to a year.