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Dining In: Holiday an opportunity to preserve fresh food

Labor Day weekend is here, and if you don’t have plans to head for the Jersey Shore or host a big picnic, you might use some of your free time laboring to preserve local produce for the months ahead.

In the depths of winter it’s a cheerful reminder of summer to pull local peaches or corn out of the freezer. It does take some work to pull this off, but the rewards are a delight.

Freezing peaches is simple; you allow them to ripen on your countertop, then peel and slice and add to a plastic freezer bag or box. Mix a combination of two tablespoons of water and an eighth of a teaspoon of powdered ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and pour over fruit. Add sugar (the amount depends on how sweet the fruit is and how sweet you want it to be) and combine.

I like to press out the air of a freezer bag (leaving a little room for expansion during freezing), then close it and shake it so everything dissolves. Lay your containers flat in the freezer, where they will wait until you need them.

Freezing corn begins with husking, then blanching the ears for two to three minutes. Next, pull them out of the boiling water and drop them into an iced water bath to stop the cooking process.

When they are cool enough to handle, stand each ear on end in a container with sides and slice off the kernels, making sure you get all the white corn “milk.” (Pam Mount, who owns Terhune Orchards in Princeton, N.J. with her husband Gary, likes to stand the ears on an inverted angel food cake pan to keep them stable.) Spoon the kernels into freezer bags or containers and they are ready to go into the freezer.

If you prefer your corn on its cob, follow the same directions, but increase the blanching and cooling time to 3 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of the ears. Then place the cooled ears in bags, seal and freeze.

This is also a great weekend to enjoy eating fresh corn, peaches and tomatoes while they are at the height of their season. This award-winning recipe from combines corn and tomatoes for a salad perfect for holiday picnics or dinner at home.

Corn and Tomato Salad

3 large tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, halved
and thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped green onions
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons minced fresh
1 tablespoon minced fresh
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
4 cups fresh corn (about 9 ears
of corn)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and
thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. In a large skillet, sauté corn in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in mustard. Add to vegetable mixture; toss to coat. Serve with a slotted spoon.

Nutrition: ¾ cup: 140 calories, 5g fat (1g saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 410mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 4g fiber), 4g protein. Diabetic exchanges: 1 starch, 1 vegetable, ½ fat.