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Summer Harvest; Capture the freshness

By Phyllis HanesFood editor of The Christian Science Monitor / August 24, 1981



Midsummer is the time most gardens reach their peak and for many vegetable buffs iths the best time of the whole year for fresh, truly vine-ripened tomatoes in full, adequate, all-you-can-eat supply.

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Cooks often feel less ambitious in the kitchen during these sultry days. They may decide, with good logic, that some of these vegetables and fruits are so fresh and ripe they don't need cooking at all.

But remember the wise remark that says a garden is only successful if you can spread the food out over the whole year.

If your garden is producing more food than your family can handle, you certainly don't want any of it to go to waste.

Get out the pressure canner, make room in the freezer, and turn that surplus into next winter's garden-fresh meals and special treats.

Or find some of the easy recipes for making "quick" refrigerator pickled vegetables, easy to fix and a crispy addition to a summer meal, even though they won't keep for months on end.

Although freezing is popular for the summer harvest, many people are going back to canning, either because freezing isn't practical or the canned product tastes better, or the freezer is full, or it's cheaper.

"Most people realize that neither canning or freezing food is truly economical unless done in tremendous amounts," says Nancy Stutzman, home economist with the Middlesex County Extension Service, Concord.

"People who are preserving this year, are concerned about amounts of sugar and salt in the end product and are interested in putting up recipes for foods that they can't buy at the supermarket," she said.

"Some are substituting fruit juices for sugar, such as using pineapple juice or white grape juice for the sugar syrup with fresh peaches. Choosing which vegetables to store in a matter of your own particular needs and taste."

It did seem for a while that canning would go out of style because freezing is much easier. But as the price of electricity goes higher, canning doesn't seem so bad after all. But it is also important to remember that the more you use your freezer the cheaper it will be per pound of food.

Here are some recipes that will help use up some vegetables if you have a garden overflow.

The meatless spaghetti sauce and the pickle recipe were originated by Maxine Kuhn, who has done research on home canning at Pennsylvania State and who used produce from her own garden. Meatless Spaghetti Sauce 16 large ripe tomatoes 1 chopped onion 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon canning or pickling salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 teaspoon ground bay leaves 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon basil leaves 1 teaspoon oregano leaves 1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Dip tomatoes in boiling water for 1/2 minute to loosen skins. Cool, drain, remove skins and cores, then quarter.

In 12-quart kettle, saute onions in olive oil until soft but not brown. Add tomatoes, bring to boil and simmer uncovered 20 minutes.

Put through sieve or food mill. Return to kettle, add remaining ingredients. Simmer uncovered 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until thick and mixture rounds up on spoon.

Pour into 3 hot pint jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of jar top. Wipe jar rim. Adjust lids. Process in boiling water bath 20 minutes.

Start to count processing time when water in canner returns to boiling. Remove jars and complete seals unless closures are self-sealing type. Makes 3 pints.

The following recipe for pickles eliminates the old-fashioned additive alum as a way to make pickles crisp. Sweet Pickle Slices 4 pounds 3 to 5-inc pickling cucumbers 4 cups 5 percent acid strength cider vinegar 1/4 cup sugar 3 tablespoons canning/pickling salt 1 tablespoon mustard seeds 2 cups 5 percent acid strength cider vinegar 3 cup sugar 2 1/4 teaspoons celery seeds 1 tablespoon whole allspice

Wash cucumber, cut 1/8-inch slice off both ends. Cut crosswise in 1/8 to 1/4 -inch slices, making 4 quarts.

Combine 4 cups vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, and mustard seeds in 6-quart kettle; bring to boil. Add cucumber slices. Bring to boil; simmer until all slices turn slightly yellow stirring often, about 8 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain well.

Combine 2 cups vinegar, 3 cups sugar, celery seeds, and allspice in 2-quart saucepan.Bring mixture to boiling.

Pack cucumber slices into 5 sterilized hot pint jars. Pour boiling liquid over cucumbers, filling to within 1/4-inch of jar top. Wipe jar rim; adjust lids.

Process in boiling water bath 15 minutes. Start to count processing time when water in canner returns to boiling. Remove jars and complete seals unless closures are self-sealing type. Makes 5 pints. Watermelon Rind Pickles 4 quarts prepared watermelon rind 1 cup salt 2 quarts cold water 2 tablespoons whole cloves 3 sticks cinnamon 2 pieces ginger root 1 lemon, thinly sliced 8 cups sugar 1 quart white vinegar 1 quart water

To prepare watermelon rind, trim dark skin and pink flesh from thick rind and cut in 1-inch pieces. Dissolve salt in 2 quarts of water, pour over rind, add enough water to cover.

Let stand 6 hours. Drain, rinse, and cover with cold water. Cook until just tender and drain. Combine spices in cheesecloth bag, add with remaining ingredients, and simmer 10 minutes. Add watermelon rind and simmer until clear.

Add boiling water if syrup becomes too thick before rind is clear. Remove spice bag. Pack, boiling hot, into hot Ball jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Adjust caps. Process 10 minutes. Yield about 7 pints.