The Carolina

Savor summer produce all year

July 7, 2010 

Where to begin? There’s so much going on this time of year.

Summer produce is at its peak. Peaches, sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, beans and peas, just to name a few, are fresh from the garden and farm.

The heat of June seemed to stunt the growth of some of the plants in my garden. But it only took this past week of cooler temperatures to see my tomato plants literally double in size and my cucumber and pepper plants become covered in blossoms.

While I wait for my plants to produce, I’ve been enjoying tomatoes from Johns Island and sweet corn on the cob.

Now is the time to take advantage of summer’s abundance and put some fruits and veggies up for fall and winter, when we’ve all but forgotten the days of sun and 100-plus temperatures.

Here are some tips from Clemson Extension Service on how to freeze and can your tomatoes and corn. For more tips, contact your local Clemson Extension office at (803) 865-1216 (Richland), (803) 359-8515 (Lexington), and (803) 432-9071 (Kershaw). Or visit the Clemson University Home and Garden Information Center: hgic.clemson.edu.

To freeze tomatoes, start with mature, deep red ripe fruit. Wash them thoroughly and dip each tomato in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skins. Run cold water over the tomatoes to cool them down. The skins should slip off easily.

Then peel, core, cut and pack the tomatoes into containers, leaving an inch of head space. The pack can be raw or cooked for 10 to 20 minutes until the tomatoes are tender then cooled and packed. Seal and freeze. Frozen tomatoes won’t hold their shape as well as canned, but once thawed they will be excellent in casseroles and sauces.

To can tomatoes, remove the peel and either leave the tomatoes whole or halve them. Put them in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil gently for five minutes. Then add a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice and a half teaspoon of salt to each pint jar.

Pack the hot tomatoes into hot jars, leaving a half inch of headspace. Fill the jars to within a half-inch of the top with hot cooking liquid. Remove air bubbles and wipe the jar rims. Then process the tomatoes in a pressure canner at 10 pounds of pressure for 10 minutes or in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes.

To freeze cream-style corn, husk the ears, remove the silks and trim out damaged kernels. Trim off the ends and wash the ears. Blanch the cleaned ears in boiling water for four minutes.

Cool the ears in ice water and cut the kernels from the cob at about one-half their depth. Scrape the cob with the back of a knife to remove the rest of the kernels and combine the scrapings with the half-kernels. Fill pint or quart freezer bags to within three or four inches of the top. Squeeze out the air, leaving a headspace of one inch. Label and freeze.

While I was out...

It never fails, take some time away from the job and come back to more than you expect.

• I’d like to pass along congratulations to Candy McMenamin, of Lexington, who won third place in Allens Inc.’s “Feast Your Veggies on This” recipe contest. McMenamin won in the Southern Favorites category for her Low Country Southern Stew recipe (listed).

• Missed out on the debate as to what constitutes true Southern cooking? Then check out ETV’s “Take on the South” program featuring Charleston natives and cookbook authors Bill and Ted Lee and John T. Edge, writer and director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. The Lees and Edge discuss the issue at 7 p.m. Monday on ETV (Time Warner channel 11). The program is hosted by Dr. Walter Edgar and will have an encore presentation 9 p.m. July 16 on the South Carolina Channel. So set your DVRs for what may be a polite discussion that you can continue with your friends and neighbors over an ice cold glass of tea (sweet, naturally).

• Think grilling is just for guys? Not any more. Elizabeth Karmel, originally of North Carolina, has paired up with St. Francis Winery & Vineyards of Sonoma, Calif., to produce “Girl’s Guide to Grilling,” a free downloadable booklet of tips for summer entertaining. The guide contains favorite grilling recipes (including a great one for Silver Queen corn, tomato and basil salad), wine pairing ideas and other ideas and can be found at stfSavortheFlavor.com.

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