Turn strawberries into jam and fruit leather and salsa

The strawberries are coming! The strawberries are coming! May is National Strawberry Month so you might start seeing sales or promotions in grocery stores and locally grown strawberries will be available soon at local farmers markets and pick-your-own sites.

Like other berries, a wonderfully ripe strawberry just bursts with juice and flavor. You can find strawberries year-round in stores, but the best quality and lowest prices will be in late spring and summer months when the berries are in-season.

Increasing Broccoli's Appeal

Along with green peas, broccoli might be tied as the most unpopular veggie with kids. I was an exception. As a kid and adult, broccoli is one of my favorite veggies - cooked at least. Raw broccoli doesn't appeal to me. Even a dietitian has food preferences, so this is a reminder that how food is presented changes its flavor, texture, and acceptability to kids and adults alike. If broccoli hasn't been a favorite veggie, try out some of the different recipes in this post. You might find one you enjoy.

gifts from the kitchen including pomander balls, chai, homemade tea bags and roasted nuts

When I think about the holidays, I think about getting crafty in the kitchen. Making food-related gifts for friends and family is a fun way to share your creative side and put a personal touch on the holiday season. In the past I have gifted home-preserved cranberry-orange chutney, herb ornaments, limoncello and my famous homemade chocolate-dipped peppermint-orange marshmallows.

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.

steam canner photo collage

I couldn’t be happier with my steam canner which I purchased 3 years ago. I most often use it for making jams and salsa. Being that it’s made out of aluminum, it is light-weight and easy to use. The boiling-water canner is quite heavy when full and takes longer to reach a rolling boil. The steam canner, however, takes much less time to heat up since it only holds 6-8 cups of water. I highly recommend giving it a try!

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.

photo of pickles

Sour, sweet, bread and butter, Kosher dills, spears, chips, sliced on a sandwich, or as a snack or side dish. Pickles are everywhere!

Pickling is an ancient form of food preservation, dating back to 2030 B.C. when cucumbers from India were pickled in the Tigris Valley. The word “pickle” comes from the Dutch pekel or northern German pókel, meaning “salt” or “brine.”

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 jellies

This summer is the perfect time to resurrect the time-honored practice of making jams and jellies. Many of us are able to spend more time at home and family schedules are more flexible.

Maybe you planted a garden or have access to a farmers market. If you are a novice to food preservation, jam is the best first project. All you need is fruit, sugar, pectin, and a few basic kitchen tools and you are on your way to delicious jam! Right now, strawberries are in season, to be followed by cherries, blackberries, and grapes. You can make jam all summer long!

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.