On Monday night, my pal Alice and I were sweltering in my third floor apartment kitchen. I was blanching and skinning peaches while she hacked up a pile of jalapenos for a big batch of peach salsa. We both have vegetable gardens - mine in a community plot and hers guerilla-style on vacant land near her work - and production is getting pretty serious.
"This," I said to her, sniffling through a cloud of capsaicin, "is when it gets to be too much."
This being right now. It being peach and pepper season. Tomato and eggplant season. Corn and bean and okra and maybe, if the rain holds off long enough, melon season. Everything all at once. The time of apocryphal piles of garden zucchini short-dumped in the night onto neighbors' porches. I find myself offering thick handfuls of monstrous kale leaves to strangers I see waiting for the trolley on my walk back from my plot - not because I don't want it, but because - between the garden and the CSA and my compulsive produce shopping at the Farmstand - there is really and truly no room to store it in my fridge.
How does one cope? To really take advantage of summertime's produce glut is to save for later, through canning or drying or fermenting or freezing. Until way later, when that jar of peach salsa is more than a preserve - it's a memory you really can taste.
So this week, if you reel a bit at the myriad produce possibilities you see before you at the Farmstand - if you can't choose between YELLOW PEACHES and WHITE NECTARINES, SUGARPLUMS and yet more, always more, BLUEBERRIES - think of ways you can make this feeling last. Urban preserving in batches from small to teeny has never been easier with great instructors like Marisa McClellan of Food In Jars - hey, there are a few spots left in her tomato canning class with us in August! (Marisa's cookbook of the same title is where my peach salsa recipe came from - it's a must for canners, whether seasoned or just starting out.)
Fernbrook Farm and Paradise Organics have SLICING CUCUMBERS for us - turn some into a light cucumber salad and make a jar of super-quick, almost-stovetop-free fridge pickles to snack on in a week. Pick up RAINBOW CARROTS from Sunny Harvest and Fernbrook's FENNEL for a sweet summer slaw, then brine the thinly sliced leftovers with cider vinegar, salt, and black peppercorns for the perfect sandwich addition. EGGPLANT in a variety of shapes and sizes makes velvety-textured pickles, caponata (savory Sicilian relish), or baba ghanoush.
Pick up a few pints of any of our CHERRY TOMATOES - Taproot's SUNGOLDS, Sunny Harvest's RAINBOW blend - and use one for this salad (and add some Wayside Acres' GOAT FETA) and one or two to put up any of these diverse ways. Or make a small batch of tomato jam - with their skins and seeds, little tomatoes give the jam a better body than large ones. In other mini-foods: BABY PATTYPAN SQUASH make the most adorable (and delicious) pickles, if you have any left over after making this braise.
Overbuy on John and Rachel Glick's immaculate, no-spray RASPBERRIES to snack on (the first thing I do with these when I get them home is eat at least a half pint), then combine the other container with equal parts vinegar and sugar, mash the berries, and let them sit in the fridge for a few days. Strain out the solids (I'm sure you can find something tasty to do with those - try adding to a marinade for pork or chicken) and you've got a mini-bottle of delicious shrub to add to fizzy water, lemonade, and your favorite cocktails. Or you can just buy the ready-made RASPBERRY SHRUB we sell from Tait Farm Foods and keep all those delicious berries to yourself.