Farm to Table! Keep’n it Real, Keep’n it Fresh, Keep’n it Local!
Purchasing, preparing and consuming vegetables grown locally is the best, most nutritious choice for you and your family. Even better would be to grow and harvest vegetables right in your backyard or out of your porch containers, but if you have a local farmer (as I do!) you have a very valuable resource for fresh food to serve on your table year-round.
I’m thankful for mine, Larry Bruce Gardens! Larry and Sara Bruce grow seasonal vegetables and herbs, then cut and clean them for local buyers. They also can many of their vegetables since Larry is a state certified master canner. The pickled okra and relish are our favorites. Larry Bruce Gardens doesn’t just sell the food from their farm to local buyers, they have an enormous commercial kitchen, cater lunch Tuesday to Friday providing some of the best sandwiches and salads I’ve ever eaten (many are Sara’s creations), have an open (and gorgeous I might add) dining room where a world renown chef serves lunch for guests every Sunday, they have special events, cooking and canning classes. Sara is also an interior designer and Larry a master gardener who specializes in stone work. It is one special place. And… Larry is also a pastor and teacher of the Word of God, so he and Sara hold Sunday service for the whosoevers to come and spend time learning and growing together! You can watch videos of his teaching on YouTube at The Blessed Life with Larry Bruce channel. I love my local farmers! Can you tell?
Recently I purchased two pounds of fresh broccoli for freezing, which I’ve learned is easier than I ever imagined. All you have to do is blanch (boil) the veggies for 5 minutes, shock them in ice water to cool for 2 minutes, then pack them in either Ziploc freezer bags or use a food sealer for packaging to seal in the freshness. Check this out!
First, gather all the items needed for blanching, shocking, draining, and storage.
Next, fill your pot with water, cover and bring to a boil.
Place the strainer in the sink, then fill a large mixing bowl with water and ice; preferably filtered water.
When the water begins to boil, put 1lb of the broccoli into the boiling water and set a timer for 5 minutes. If you prefer to steam the vegetables, you can, just reduce the time to 3 minutes. Have a large ladle ready for dipping out the broccoli when the timer beeps.
When the timer goes off, dip broccoli out and put into the bowl of iced water. This process is called shocking! The cold water stops the cooking process immediately.
The vegetable should remain in the cold water for 2 minutes, then put into the strainer to drain all excess water.
Once the excess water is drained, just use stainless steel tongs to put broccoli into the storage bags. Plan one handful per serving. Now, here comes the tricky part. Since I don’t have a food saver to package the broccoli, I’m using Ziploc freezer bags. For optimum freezer life, I have to get as much of the air out of the bag as I can. It’s actually very simple. All you do is insert a straw into the bag, then seal the bag snugly to the straw, suck all the air out, slide the straw out with your lips, while finishing the zip to lock out all the air.
Be sure to write on the bag the month and year it was frozen. Hopefully you will gobble up all the goodness as quickly as you can, but if your freezer is full of lots of frozen veggies, the broccoli will last up to 12 months.
This sure beats spending at least $3.00 per bag of frozen broccoli at retail grocers. I made 9 bags for a third of the price. And, it’s FRESH from the farm!
After finishing all the bags and getting them into the freezer, I looked at the water in the bowl I used for shocking. I thought, “that looks like some tasty vegetable broth.” I was ready to freeze it too! BUT, after doing some research, the experts agree the water should be discarded, so I used it to water my pansies instead!
Now the pansies are happy and so is Mr. Kelly! Broccoli is his favorite vegetable and I have to admit mine too!
So here’s to local farmers, farm to table ventures, and all who feed us well! Next time you see that fruit and vegetable stand stop in and load up on all they have. Don’t just buy enough for dinner, buy a bushel or two! Freeze, can, and ferment your way to good health!
My next food prep adventure will involve a cabbage and fermenting!!! I can’t wait! Stay tuned!