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Extend the life of your summer produce with pickles, jams and more

Enjoy all the fresh flavors of summer for months to come with easy pickling, preserving and freezing recipes and techniques.
/ Source: TODAY

Television host and food writer Alejandra Ramos is joining TODAY to share a few of her favorite recipes to preserve the fresh flavors of summer produce and her best tips on how to freeze berries. She shows us how to make no-cook pickled cucumbers, sweet brandied apricots and an easy mixed-berry jam.

How to freeze fresh berries

  1. Pick through berries and pull out any that are overripe, moldy or otherwise slightly spoiled. Also remove leaves or twigs that may be mixed in with the berries. If freezing strawberries, hull and remove stems and leaves. Large blackberries can also be cut in half, if preferred.
  2. Rinse berries with cold water in a colander then spread out on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Pat the berries gently and roll the sheet pan around to allow the berries to release the water, then allow to sit for 20 minutes or until the berries are completely dry.
  3. Transfer the berries to fresh paper towel or parchment-lined sheet pan and place in freezer until frozen solid (about four hours or overnight). Freezing berries in a flat layer like this will keep them from sticking together and will make it easier to measure and use in the future.
  4. Once berries are frozen solid, transfer to freezer bags and seal tightly.

Berry-freezing tips

  • Make life easier for yourself by using measuring cups to determine how many berries are going in each bag (e.g. 2 cups blueberries) so you can easily grab the amount you need for future recipes.
  • If you already know how you'll be using the berries (say your favorite morning smoothie or go-to blueberry muffin recipe) you may prefer to pre-portion the exact amount the recipe calls for and store in a single bag.
No-Cook Refrigerator Cucumber Pickles

Last year, the cucumber plants in my garden ended up being my most plentiful crop. As much as I enjoy fresh cucumber salads, cocktails and crudité, I soon found myself in need of a way to make sure the crispy cukes I'd worked so hard to grow could last long enough for me to enjoy before they spoiled. Enter refrigerator pickles. This easy pickling method takes just a few minutes, no cooking and absolutely zero skill — the exact vibe I look for this sweltering time of year.

Brandied Apricots

Brandied Apricots

Alejandra Ramos

Fresh apricots are one of the loveliest gifts of summer but their season is incredibly short. Preserving them in a simple combination of brandy and sugar is an easy way to capture the sweetness to enjoy later in the year. Brandied apricots are wonderful served with simple cakes, on top of yogurt or ice cream, or on their own with a dollop of crème fraîche. Once the fruit is gone, you can use the remaining apricot-scented liqueur in cocktails. These jars will keep sealed for months in the refrigerator, but once opened, you should plan to consume them within two weeks.

Basic No-Pectin Berry Jam

This simple, no-pectin jam recipe can be made with your favorite berries or even a combination. Using simple ingredients you already likely have at home, you can enjoy fresh homemade jam in less than an hour from start to finish. This small-batch jam is meant for short term storage and should be kept in a refrigerator and consumed within three months (sealed) or two weeks (once jars are opened).

If you like those simple summer recipes, you should also try these:

Drunken Cherries

Elizabeth Heiskell