Do you wish the summer season would never end? It does not have to! The days of juicy, deep-red tomatoes and sweet, plump berries do not have to be numbered.
You can save stellar produce at its peak and let the fruits and vegetables liven up recipes for months to come.
Why preserve summer produce?
Preserving fruits and vegetables at their peak of ripeness means they will provide more nutrition and will taste better. If you grow the produce yourself or know who farmed it, you will know where it came from and if it is organic.
You are also eliminating preservatives and additives, like sugar and salt. Plus, if you plan wisely by buying produce when it is in season, you will save time and money.
If you do not have to go to the shop to buy that can of tomatoes because you already have it in the pantry, you will save time. It is a win all the way around.
Here are some of our favourite ways to preserve summer produce.
Freeze food for a smoothie
Freezing is one of the easiest food preservation methods and is a quick and easy way to keep fruit and vegetables for longer if you have the space. Blending it into smoothies means you will not have to deal with your preserved produce turning to mush when defrosted.
Chop up your favourite smoothie ingredients, such as strawberries, raspberries, cucumber and spinach, then place portion sizes in ziplock bags or containers and freeze to use later.
Make a syrup
As proud South Africans, we all appreciate a good syrup. While this may not be maple syrup, you can still make great simple syrups for cocktails and other drinks.
Just bring equal parts sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan, add chopped fruit and/or fresh herbs, reduce heat, and simmer until syrupy. Then strain out the solids (without pressing down on the fruit) into a jar.
Let it cool, then cover and chill for up to two weeks. Try with strawberries, blackberries or peaches.
Making jam is an easy and delicious way to preserve the flavour of summer fruit. Did you know you can make a number of low-sugar, no-cook freezer jams in less than 30 minutes?
With so many options available, it is fun and easy to make a small number of unique jams and jellies. Just be sure to follow whatever recipe you choose and use the specific type of sweet condiment or thickener listed.
Make herb ice cubes
Basil, chives, mint and cilantro are the perfect herbs to freeze, and it is so simple. Chop up the herbs, pack them into an ice cube tray, and top with olive oil.
They can be stored for months and add incredible, fresh flavour to all of your favourite autumn and winter recipes.
Sauces and soups
Home-made sauces, soups, and chillies are some of the best ways to preserve summer produce. When it comes to making sauces, tomatoes are the star of the show – and the sky's the limit.
Turn your summer veg into crisps
Children and adults alike enjoy a crispy snack, perfect for an afternoon energy boost.
Use summer produce to create your own and use up any excess seasonal vegetables or fruit. Consider using vegetables such as new potatoes, spring greens, carrots and beetroot, and fruits like strawberries and raspberries.
Use a sharp knife to slice the vegetables or fruits very finely, then use a dehydrator to remove the moisture. If you do not have a dehydrator, the slices can be cooked in a low-heat oven for around eight hours.
Season the vegetable crisps with sea salt or nutritional yeast, perfect as a snack or as an alternative to soups or salads.
Store in airtight containers, away from moisture, and these crisps should last for four to six weeks.
Many of your favourite garden veggies can be made into tangy, delicious pickles. Pickled veggies add a high note and a touch of crunch to sandwiches and burgers while also making great side dishes and snacks, straight out of the jar.
To try your hand at pickling, boil two cups each of vinegar and water and add two tablespoons of kosher salt and anywhere from three to six tablespoons of white sugar, depending on how sweet you want them.
Add the prepared veggies to sterile jars and fill to the top with brine, allowing to cool, uncovered, for two hours. Finally, store the sealed jars in the fridge and enjoy for up to three weeks.