As it starts to feel increasingly more like late summer, preserving the flavors of summer looms larger in many minds. There are folks who are fantastic at preserving all season long — starting with jam from the first strawberries. And then there are others that do it inconsistently — some pickled beans here, some frozen peaches there. Of course, not everyone takes part; some folks prefer to buy fresh each week throughout the whole year, only eating summer’s bounty at the point it’s harvested.
There are many ways to preserve the produce from area farmers tailgate markets — pickling, fermenting, freezing, canning, dehydrating, etc. Some of these processes are easier than others. If you’re new to it, pick up a book — local bookstores such as Malaprop’s and Firestorm usually have such books in stock. Villagers, Asheville’s urban homestead supply store, also has a range of books available on the subject. If you want more hands-on learning, try taking a class or workshop. Classes on preservation techniques are offered throughout Western North Carolina over the year. Visit the websites of such organizations as Living Web Farms and Villagers to learn of upcoming workshops. Check out other local food and farm classes and events at ASAP’s community calendar.
Pickling is perfect for preserving your produce and is arguably the easiest preservation method. Either lacto-ferment (using sea salt and water) or use a vinegar brine. You can pickle almost anything: cucumbers, green beans, carrots, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, and more!
Dehydrating and freezing can both be quite manageable. You can purchase a dehydrator for a fairly affordable price these days. You can also dehydrate using a home oven at low temperature over many hours. Freezing usually requires that you blanch the produce first, making it a multistep process. If you want your pieces to not freeze together, you need to first lay them flat on a tray to freeze before transferring them to bags.
Farmers have been preserving their harvests for generations. They’re amazing stores of knowledge for methods, recipes, tips, and more! Ask the farmers you shop from at market about their favorite ways to keep things over the winter.
Here in the mountains, there’s a farmers market almost every day of the week. Check out ASAP’s Tailgate Markets by Day to see which markets you might want to explore! Mid-week markets are a great opportunity to swing by on your way home from work to grab any last-minute ingredients you might need for dinner that night.
Each week farmers have a wide array of fruits and vegetables. In addition to produce, you can always find a range of meats, cheeses, eggs, breads, baked goods, value-added items, fresh flowers, and other treats!
Area farmers tailgate markets take place throughout the region. As always, you can find information about farms, tailgate markets, and farm stands, including locations and hours, by visiting ASAP’s online Local Food Guide.