Written by Sherrie Cook, Contributing Writer
Imagine with me for a moment: a crisp night, crackling fire, blankets, loved ones all around enjoying hot beverages and warm, fresh out of the oven, banana bread. Are you drooling yet? I was too until I looked at the thermometer and remembered it was over 100°F outside! I know it's Summer right now and many places are sweltering and hot fires are the last thing you would want in your den, but...isn't that one reason why we preserve all summer long? The garden's bounty is amazing right now and we know that come Fall and Winter we will thank ourselves for the time we've spent harvesting and canning while the produce is fresh.
Bananas are no different. Even though most of us can't grow them ourselves, it still makes sense to store them for use all year long. For example, I make banana-chip muffins for my family year round. They are a favorite breakfast treat here and since I make them with freshly milled Ezekiel 4:9 flour, I feel even better about what I'm serving my family. (I've included the recipe at the bottom.) When I first began making these delicious muffins, I always had to wait for my bananas to get really ripe squishy and brown and speckled on the outside. This waiting process was agonizing to my children - and you know what they say about a watched pot - "Mama, are they brown enough yet?"
It was quickly clear to me that we needed some of these monkey treats on hand! I'm a quick study - especially when impatient children are involved - and I learned to buy more bananas than what my family would eat in a week's time. As we consumed one bunch, the second bunch would turn a lovely brown and I could freeze them to start to build my stash. I was pleased with my new plan until the first time I went to the freezer to get bananas for our muffins. I was torn between peeling the bananas immediately and freezing my fingers or letting them thaw first and then making a huge peeling mess with mushy bananas. My decision? Peel the bananas first, then freeze them!
Some people call this method "flash freezing", while others are concerned that the term sends the wrong message and really refers to chemicals, etc. (Do a Google search, you'll see what a heated topic it really is, whew!) So, I've affectionately named the act of peeling bananas and putting them on a cookie sheet to freeze them and then transferring them to a more suitable storage container for long-term storage in the freezer - "cookie sheet freezing". (I know, real original, right? But it gives you a good visual.)
The bananas shown above have been peeled and laid separately on the cookie sheet. They are ready to go into the freezer. (I assure you the cookie sheet is clean. Interesting things happen to your bakeware when you're teaching four little ones to cook!) Sometimes I will lay a piece of wax paper over the cookie sheet before laying the bananas on it. This makes for a really easy transfer into the final storage container, but often times I feel a bit wasteful just throwing the paper away so I will skip that step.
Freezing times will vary depending on how much fruit you're freezing at once, but I usually set a timer in 20 minute increments so I won't forget about my bananas and ruin them. Once they are frozen, you can move them into your favorite freezer storage containers and label them appropriately.
You may know that roses love, love, love banana peels! They make a great fertilizer for rose bushes. Since it's Summer and I have rose bushes in need of some love, I make a puree' out of my banana peels. I simply put the peels - minus the hard stem at the top - into my blender and add some water. (Three banana peels need about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of water.)
I run the blender until I have liquid peels and then take the results out to my garden for my roses. (After pouring the puree' at the base of the roses, it is usually best to water it in to avoid attracting bugs.)
2 1/2 Cups flour 1/2 Cup honey
1 tsp salt 1/4 Cup ground flax seed
1 tsp baking soda 1 Cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp baking powder 1 Cup buttermilk
1 tsp cinnamon 1 egg
1/4 tsp nutmeg 1 tsp vanilla
1/2 Cup safflower oil 2 - 3 mashed bananas
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease muffin pan.
- Measure & toss dry ingredients in large bowl.
- Whisk together egg, remaining liquids & bananas in a medium bowl.
- Pour liquids into dry ingredients & mix just until well blended.
- Use an ice cream scoop to put batter into muffin cups.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
Yields 18 to 24 muffins.