Hanging on to summer flavors

This summer will go down in the record books as one of the hottest and driest on record. We’ve been lucky in New York. The worry of drought damage hasn’t disappeared, but the summer storms have finally hit parched fields. In my farm family at least, people are breathing a little easier. And while analysts and economists predict a rise in food costs come fall, I’m currently focused on savoring the taste of summer for as long as possible – well into winter.

 Summertime is the peak for New York vegetables and right now farms are ripe with edible possibilities. My family owns and operates a dairy farm. This means that the fields are full of corn and soybeans, both crops intended solely for the animals we keep and care for. Our garden is pretty pathetic too, thanks to a fertilizer mishap by my father. What it doesn’t mean though is that we can’t reap the bounty of fresh veggies summer offers.

 Anyone can easily enjoy the delicious harvest New York farmers provide. Local farm stands, farmers’ markets and produce auctions are great resources for produce – either a few ears of sweet corn for diner or a few bushels of beans to pickle, can or freeze. My father and mother spend Saturday or Sunday afternoons doing the latter. Freezing farm fresh veggies is an economical, convenient and amazingly delicious endeavor. One afternoon’s labor and $25 or so provides green beans as a side dish for nearly a year. And don’t get me started on the corn which tastes just as sweet and summery in January as it does right off the cob in July.

 Taking the time to preserve local produce connects the consumer to the farmer who raised the fruit and veggies. It continues the heritage of agriculture that has shaped New York State and ensures local agriculture continues in our communities. Most importantly though, it brings a smile to your face in the middle of winter as you savor the taste of summer.

 Here is quick and easy pickle. Though it isn’t processed, or sealed tight to keep in the cupboard till winter, it will keep in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for a month or so.

 Hungarian Pickles

3 large cucumbers (sliced paper thin)
1 t. salt
¼ c. sugar
1/8 c. water
¼ c. distilled white vinegar
½ t. celery seed
¼ t. paprika
½ medium onion (sliced thin)
  1.  In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers and salt. Mix well and set aside for 30 minutes.
  2.  In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and stir until everything is incorporated.
  3. After 30 minutes have passed, squeeze the cucumbers to remove most of the liquid. Add the squeezed cucumbers to the brine mixture. Mix thoroughly. Let sit in the refrigerator for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. After the mixture has had time to marinate, remove (with a slotted spoon) the cucumbers and onions and fill canning jars tightly, pressing down often with the back of a spoon. Pour the remaining brine over the cucumber mixture in the jars, filling the jars with liquid up to ¼ inch from the top.
  5.  Place sterilized lids on top of the jars and seal.

 Pickles can be kept in refrigerator for up to one month. I also pickle green beans using this quick and easy recipe.

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Filed under Basics, Food

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