Freezing Raspberries

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Last weekend my daughters and I went to a berry farm in my home town to pick some raspberries.  Of course a few were eaten while picking but we left with 5 lbs. of berries by the time we left.  After making 6 pints of raspberry jam and eating a few cups at snacks we still had some extra left, unfortunately ripe berries will go bad and begin to mold quickly…scary how the berries I buy in the store that traveled hundreds of miles do not have this problem…the also do not taste anywhere near as delicious either.

Long story short…I ended up with some extra berries I know would go to waste if I didn’t do something with them quickly so I decided to freeze them.

1. Wash and Dry.  Give the raspberries a quick wash and let the water drain for the strainer for a couple minutes to allow the water to drain off.

2. Pour berries into a container.  I chose a cake pan because it was the right size to fit all my berries.  Do your best to spread the berries out into as single layer but if a few are touching that is not a problem (will explain later)

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3. Freeze berries.  Allow 6-8 hours for berries to completely freeze.  As you can see in the picture below I was lacking freezer space so opted to use the ice tray for this short freeze (remembering to turn off the ice maker to avoid an incident)

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4. Separate and store the berries.  If you were not careful like me and the berries seem to be frozen in a single blob, never fear.  Simply take the cake pan and move inside a gallon Ziploc container and flip upside down and smack the back of the cake pan.  Now you should have a circle of frozen berries.  Remove the pan and use your hands (outside the bag) to break apart the berries.  With just a few seconds of effort you should have nearly no big chunks of raspberries.  Finish off with the poor mans vacuum sealer (stick a straw into the Ziploc bag and suck and you should have some berries good for at least 6 months.

Growing peppers during a cold Pacific Northwest summer

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Nearly August and I decided it is finally time to bring the peppers out from the garage, though in some ways they are doing so well in the heated grow box with a killer 120 watt Extreme Flower LED lighting not sure if I should chance it but looking at the upcoming forecast this might be as good as it gets.

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So far my peppers in the Topsy Turvy strawberry planter appears to be a success.  Even with the cold wet summer we have been having plants have survived and even has at least one baby cayenne pepper growing on it.

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Though they are just now starting to see their first rays of sunshine have a good looking Rossi Italian Pepper growing here.

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Here I have a couple of banana peppers I can pick anytime.

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I am also excited to see these jalapeno peppers provided I ran out of jalapeno pepper powder a few months ago and have been missing it in my omelets in the mornings.

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Finally I have my cayenne plants which was a survivor from last year, I pulled it into the garage to let some of the last few peppers ripen up as the temperatures got cool and forgot about it.  After a few months I assumed it was dead until I saw some new growth on the plant and quickly put it under the LEDs where it fully recovered and started flowering and producing fruit.  Currently drying some of the pods and also saving some of the extra mature ones to save for seeds might have a hearty specimen here.

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Easy Ways to Eat Local

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Whether you want to eat local just to know where your food comes from, to support your local farmers, or possibly an environmental perspective of promoting organic farming or going for a challenge of a 100 mile diet, here is a guest post to help you out.

Eating local has tons of benefits. Fresh food, less environmental damage, preserving farm land, supporting local economy, the list goes on and on. So how can you go local in your meal planning? Here are some easy ways that you can give your environment (and your stomach) a little boost.

Join a CSA

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a program which allows individuals to support a farming operation by giving money to farmers upfront in exchange for a weekly box of food. Find CSA farmers on the Local Harvest website. The website also provides information on how to find a CSA program that will best suit you and your families needs. If you live by yourself, split the food with a neighbor or friend.

Preserve Local Food for the Winter

Make a jelly or jam, pickle vegetables, make some applesauce. These are just a few ways that you can preserve your local food for the winter. Go to the National Center for Food Preservation website to learn how to preserve food.

Go to a Farmers’ Market

Rather than going through a “middle man,” like a supermarket, go straight to the source. Farmers’ markets allow you to buy directly from the person who has grown your food. This is also a great way to get involved in your community. Find a farmers’ market near you on the USDA website.

Build a Backyard Garden

Do you have a green thumb? If you haven’t already, you should consider building a fruit and/or vegetable garden in your backyard. Do some research to find some plants that thrive in your region. If you’re less than confidant about your gardening skills, start small with a windowsill herb garden.

So there you have it — several ways to integrate some local eats into your diet. Once you start eating local, you will feel not only closer to your food, but to your community too.

James Kim is a writer for foodonthetable.com.  Food on the Table is a company that provides online budget meal planning services.  Their goal is to help families eat better and save money.