Summer has finally arrived here in the Midwest, and that means one thing in my mind: fresh fruit and vegetables! Farmers markets pop up practically every day somewhere in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. I feel spoiled to have such great access to farm fresh food in the city. Being a pharmacist means you are an accessible health care provider by default. Patients often ask me not only about their medications, but also for advice on diets, recipes, and living in general. I sometimes wish I had a dietician working at my side to help answer these sorts of questions!
Most work days I strive to eat fresh and healthy. But let’s face it, we all have days that leave us exhausted and grabbing for the first quick calorie-ridden food on the shelf. Suggestions like planning and cooking meals ahead, developing good kitchen skills, shopping the outer aisles of the grocery store, counting calories, and controlling portions all make sense and work for many. But for me, having fresh food in the kitchen encourages me to cook, bake, and eat right on a regular basis. Recipe modifications are an easy quick fix so you can eat your seasonal favorites and not feel deprived. (Yes, I am talking to you, summer picnic salads coated with gooey mayonnaise). Summer also offers the opportunity to experiment with cooking on the grill.
In addition to using summer as an opportunity to change my winter eating habits, I stock up on those ripe berries and get ready for jam making and canning season. Canning is not rocket science, but there is some science to it nonetheless. There are rules to canning, and they need to be followed carefully to ensure that the food is well-preserved and kept safe to eat. Air is swarming with microorganisms, so food exposed to it will spoil. The purpose of canning is to:
Heat the canned food to kill any existing microorganisms, and
Seal the jars tightly to prevent any air from getting and contaminating the food
I can my summer jams using the hot water bath method. This involves submerging the canned jam jar in hot water and boiling for a certain length of time. The method of canning you use is determined by the acidity of the food you’re canning. Since jams are typically high in acid, I use the hot water bath method rather than the alternate method of pressure cooking.
What are some of your favorite seasonal summer things to cook or can?