Make Meals and Messes with Kids in the Kitchen this Summer

School is out for the year and kids everywhere are excited to start their summers! Whatever the kids are doing, let them practice making meals and snacks for themselves this summer. This gives them autonomy with their food choices, lets them develop self-sufficiency, and may encourage them to explore new foods.

Apple Pie Filling in Mason Jars

It’s apple season! The leaves are changing colors, and your local orchards are filled with apples. Drying apples for chips, freezing apples, and canning apple pie filling are all great ways to enjoy fall flavors all year round! Extension offices have received numerous calls asking for safe canning recipes for pie filling. One of the main ingredients in canning pie filling is Clear Jel®, a flavorless modified corn starch that works as a thickener for canning pie filling. Clear Jel® doesn’t break down through the canning and eventual baking process.

photo of tomatoes

It’s almost tomato time! As I look at my raised garden bed, I am patiently waiting on my cherry, Rutgers, and Early Girl tomato plants to ripen. I plan to can pint jars of tomatoes that are perfect for making spaghetti sauce and chili, dehydrate tomatoes when I don’t have enough ready to can, roast and freeze cherry tomatoes, and use fresh tomatoes for salsas and BLT’s. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! If you have a garden full of tomatoes, what are your plans on using them?

Blanching broccoli for freezing

Freezing has many benefits. It maintains the fresh flavor, natural color, and nutritional value better than canning or dehydrating. Plus, it is easy, convenient and requires less time compared to other food preservation methods. Making it an excellent way to preserve the summer harvest.

Variety of Apples

There are over 7,500 different varieties of apples worldwide. In the United States, 2,500 different types of apples are available. Apples are grown in all 50 states. For the first time in 50 years, the Gala apple beat out Red Delicious as America’s favorite apple. Did you know the Illinois state apple is the Gold Rush? With so many different varieties to choose, knowing which ones are best for freezing, drying, or making apple sauce can be difficult. This list emphasizes the best apples for quality and flavor.

slicing apples

Apples are a fruit available all year, but taste the best when freshly picked from a local orchard or picked up at a farmers markets in the fall. Whether making apple butter, sauce, pie, salad, drying, freezing, canning, or cutting them up to snack on later, one universal struggle is slicing them fast enough before they start turning brown. Working against the clock in the kitchen to peel and prepare apples before they start browning can feel stressful.

Apples on a cutting board

Are you patiently waiting for the apple season? The abundance of apples may come from an apple tree, a visit to the orchard or a local farmers market, or your local market. Right now in Illinois, the hot summer sun is preparing this delicious fruit for the harvest season.

Many apple varieties are available all year. In Illinois, the apple harvest season runs July to  November. During this time, I find local varieties that I look forward to each year, such as McIntosh, Ever Crisp, or Blushing Gold.

Horizontal dehydrator with trays of drying apples and tomatoes

Our statewide nutrition and wellness team is hosting the "Fill Your Pantry" webinar series from June 3 to July 22. The "Drying at Home" webinar will be on June 24. Register at go.illinois.edu/preserveathome.

 

photo of canning jars

Canning season is upon us! While many are busy planting their summer gardens, others are already preparing to harvest spring vegetables, herbs, and berries. Canning is a great way to use the foods you have grown in your garden or have purchased from your local farmer’s market. Moreover, canning allows you to enjoy the wonderful tastes of summer all year long while keeping food safely preserved on your shelf.