Monday, July 25, 2011

Bulk Buying & Berries

We pay for convenience in this society. It is no secret. However, it is a sentiment that comes with a definite abundance of wealth. Currently, a lot of us (myself included) are feeling that wealth is no longer something to be counted on. So I am of the mind to rely more on my own hard work than someone else's. Mine: I can control what goes into my food, guarantee its healthiness and minimize my overall expenses.

So while grains are the most common bulk foods, what do you do when you have perishables? And how hard is it to preserve fruit, veggies and such?

My favorite option is freezing.

As we plug on toward the end of berry season here in Northern California, my favorite bits of summer will vanish from the farmer's market. However it is the best time to buy berries in bulk at your local market, or right off of the farm.

To freeze berries I use plastic ziplock baggies. I cut up strawberries, measure them into 1 cup portions, and place in the freezer. They keep very well this way.

Rinse blueberries in warm water. Portion out appropriately, and store in baggies. Make certain when you close the bags, you have eliminated as much air as possible.

Blackberries, raspberries can be kept the same.

If you bought a lot of berries, save this task for a day you have at least an hour free. If you have to wait a few days for this, make sure that your berries are rinsed well and stored in the fridge. Do your best to freeze within a week of purchasing them. Realize that if you buy from a grocery store, your timeline is much shorter as your berries have been off the plant for a longer time and so have less life in them.

Plop frozen berries into a touch of water and add seasonings for a quick pie or fruit tart. Defrost in the microwave just enough that the berries can be pulled apart and add to a smoothie. Berries + water + cinnamon, sugar (or honey), nutmeg, vanilla = perfect topping for pancakes,french toast, crepes, granola, yogurt, cottage cheese.

Defrost, drain, and toss with sugar to dry before using frozen berries in baking: breads, muffins, scones.

Berries also make a good topping for ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet and gelato.

To turn frozen berries into fruit juice, cook in water until your pan is full of liquid only. Then allow to cool, store in fridge.

You can add juice to a liqour and drink--or freeze and turn into a granita, a frozen dessert that chases away a hot day.

To use frozen fruit to make creaming popsicles, cook in vanilla and honey then add to vanilla yogurt, and freeze in cups with popsicle sticks in the center. If you keep the fruit just a bit chunky, it adds texture to the treat. However, you could just make it a strawberry frozen yogurt pop by combining fruitjuice and yogurt, as well.

I love the diversity of dishes I can make with berries. They are small so generally very easy to work with. They are among some of the healthiest of fruits, loaded with antioxidants, and some even help to fight depression. So if you are working on obtaining more fruit in your diet, berries are a good way to go.