Having only just written that I plan to shrink the garden to where it provides fresh food in season for two people and that’s all, I’m now going to write about the satisfaction of food preservation. If I hadn’t put last year’s surplus into the freezer, fridge and dehydrator I wouldn’t have much to contribute to this week’s Garden-to-Table-Challenge. And as we cycle through our seasonal favorites I’m afraid of repeating myself too often, but here goes.
Herb Vinegar. A few drops of vinegar or citrus juice almost always improves whatever you’re cooking. That little bit of extra acidity seems to bring other flavors forward. But season the vinegar with herbs and you’ve added another dimension. Making herb vinegar is so easy and rewards you so much for very little work. The finished product will last a long time because you only use a few drops in any given dish. I even have some vintage herb vinegars from previous years still in the fridge. When I last wrote about herb vinegar, I was contemplating whether to combine garlic and herbs or to make a batch with garlic alone. I decided to combine garlic with ‘Kentucky Colonel’ spearmint in a base of apple cider vinegar. I strained it into another bottle after several months to conserve space in the fridge. Generally speaking, I liked the combination, but next time I think I’ll go back to my favorite rice vinegar as the base. It’s happy to be the quiet assistant while the herbs are the stars of the show. The apple cider vinegar added too much of its own flavor to suit me, but it might work better with different herbs.
Anyhow, I used it this week in a little relishy sort of thing to go on shrimp tacos. I make a sort of simplified version of Camarones Brochettes by threading a slice of bacon over and under shrimp on a skewer. Add a hot pepper to each skewer. The hot peppers were from last year’s garden via the freezer. More about that in a minute. Grill until the shrimp are cooked through (try not to incinerate them with bacon drippings on the charcoal…ahem) and have each diner assemble tacos in flour tortillas (or grocery store rotis in this case) with any toppings (s)he likes. This time it was salsa (store-bought, but the spouse likes it) and this relish: chopped green onions, minced ‘Peach Habanero’ pepper, salt and a few drops of mint/garlic vinegar. We dunk shrimp tacos in garlic butter as we eat.
The green onions from last year’s seed onions are starting to flower, so I need to use them up soon. So we had a few cebollitas with our tacos. I wrote about cebollitas last year, but the short version is throw some green onions on the grill; season with salt, pepper, and lime juice; eat.
OK, now about those hot peppers in the freezer. This is one area where I just can’t shrink the garden too much. We use a lot of hot peppers. There are so many types and flavors that I just can’t go back to buying them in the grocery store, not even in the big international supermarkets we have now.
Peppers are simple to freeze – no blanching or other preparation required. Pick them, put them in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer. Then be smug and happy until the next crop is ready.