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Tomatoes, blueberries, corn, and peaches are rolling in off Jersey farms. Here’s what to preserve for winter, and how.
“The fruit picking in New Jersey is some of the best around,” says Marisa McClellan, an Oregon native who by day is a web producer for gophila.com. Most people, though, know her has the writer of Food in Jars, a blog about all things food preservation.
“Oregon has pretty darn good produce, but there's really nothing like New Jersey berries,” she says. “The strawberries this summer were particularly amazing.”
Her favorite South Jersey farms for fruit picking are Mood's Farm Market in Mullica Hill and A.L. Gaventa and Son in Swedesboro.
Blueberries, corn, and peaches, she says, are the easiest to freeze. I can attest to that. Last week, I froze 40 pounds for blueberries for winter. It was a snap: wash, rinse, sort, dry, freeze. The hard part is when you’re down to the last 10 pounds of blueberries and your eyes glaze over.
“Tomatoes and zucchini are pretty easy to preserve,” adds McClellan. “Canning whole peeled tomatoes is a snap and freezing grated zucchini in two-cup batches means you make zucchini bread and pasta sauces all year round.”
If you’re more interested in canning than just freezing foods, McClellan has resources on her blog. I don’t can, but I use So Easy To Preserve a book out of the University of Georgia, for instruction on how freeze and dehydrate produce. I also read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a book about how her family lived on a local foods diet for a year, for inspiration.
Is all this preserving a pain? Sometimes. I don’t have air conditioning, and peeling peaches or blanching corn in August heat is a sticky, sweaty affair. But it’s worth it when I defrost those peaches to drop in a Christmas sangria or cook frozen blueberries with oatmeal on a cold winter morning.
Nick DiUlio is New Jersey Monthly’s South Jersey Bureau Chief. In addition to regularly contributing to the magazine, he has written for Slate.com, Miller McCune, Paste magazine, and numerous regional and lifestyle publications. He is also an adjunct teacher of magazine writing at Rowan University. Email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org