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Jessica’s Garden: Enjoying the Edibles of Summer in Winter

I tried to deny the onset of Winter this week by integrating many fresh and canned veggies from this past garden and pick-your-own season into my cooking schedule. After gifting many of my jams and jellies for Christmas this year, I decided to crack open the freezer and use some of the frozen fruits that I had prepped and premeasured into ready-to-use quantities. I had an abundance of farm-fresh peaches waiting to be canned once inspiration struck.

Peach Preserves
Peach Preserves

One of my favorite and basic jams is peach preserves. While there’s a time and a place for strained jelly, I generally prefer jams over jellies. I like the reminder that it was once a whole piece of fruit. I usually peel fruits prior to canning, as the peel can sometimes be not only unpleasant in texture, but also aesthetically less desirable–but seeds and chunks of fruit don’t turn me off. I ended up using a mix of chopped and sliced peaches in anticipation of a hunk of candied fruit on a fresh scone or hearty piece of toast.

Vanilla Sugar
Vanilla Sugar

I had a few vanilla beans left over from making homemade vanilla for Christmas gifts. I tied up a sachet of mulling spice and sliced a leftover vanilla bean lengthwise to perfume the preserves. Once steeped and infused, I pulled the vanilla bean and mulling spice pouch out prior to ladling into jars. Rather than tossing out a vanilla bean with plenty of life left to live, I placed it in a mason jar with granulated white sugar to sit a few weeks and make vanilla sugar. Just a few days later, the sugar already smells good enough to eat.

Homegrown-Purple-Peruvian Potatoes Prepped for Dehydrating

I was pleased with how much garden produce I was able to incorporate into our meals this week. Here it is January, and I am able to use produce that I began growing last April; amazing. To preserve the few pounds of heirloom Purple Peruvian potatoes that I had lingering, I decided to slice and dehydrate the remainder. My hope is that they will cook up into a quick and easy scalloped potato supper side dish later this Winter.

Homegrown Roasted Butternut Squash with Seasoned Salt

I had a small harvest of butternut squash that has been aging and sweetening on the kitchen counter. With only two squash left, I made roasted butternut squash soup, seasoned in part with the savory sea salt I concocted at the end of the Fall from fresh garden herbs and sea salt. With the weather turning quite chilly, it seemed appropriate to whip up a creamy vegetable soup. I also used a quart of the crushed heirloom tomatoes I canned this summer with my husband, in a batch of Sixteen Bean and Chorizo Soup.

It’s a week like this that reinforces why I do the sometimes crazy things that I do throughout the year. It’s fun and exciting and rewarding to pull homegrown and homemade items out of the pantry all year long. My hopes for the future are to grow and preserve in one way or another, enough everyday fruits and vegetables to replace having to purchase them at the grocery store and farmer’s market. We’re hoping that the little bit of land our farmhouse is situated on will provide us this opportunity.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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