Even though ice cubes have been around since the 20’s, you’d think they’re the latest, greatest invention around our house. We’ve become devout cubists. Have you got a bowl of perfectly ripe fruit that no one can possibly eat? Make juice or puree and freeze it. This time of year it’s practically impossible to keep up with the bounty from the garden even if you give away as much as you can. Recently we were the lucky recipients of a beautiful bowl of plums from Joan’s garden and then there was a fruit-laden sour cherry tree on a vacant lot Charlie spotted and couldn’t resist. We’ve been enjoying these fruity cubes ever since, popped into a frosty gin, rum or vodka tonic for a fast summertime cocktail.
When we got married 20 years ago, Charlie brought along a hefty Champion juicer to add to our mix of mismatched kitchenware. It’s not the kind of appliance you want to have sitting out on your counter all the time but it’s perfect for times like this. He juiced all the fruit and made ice cubes even before those pesky fruit flies could start to multiply (more on how to eliminate fruit flies later). His motivation is clearly with seasonal fruit cocktails in mind but even if you don’t partake, ice cubes are the fastest, easiest form of food preservation I know of.
If you don’t have a juicer, don’t worry. You can use a blender or food processor to puree. Freeze fruit as a puree or add water and put through a fine-mesh sieve to make juice. I juiced a luscious yellow honeydew melon with about a cup of water using a food processor. It required some pushing with a spoon to get it through the sieve but made the most beautiful cubes. Now I can easily add one or two to the peach smoothie I’ve been enjoying nearly everyday.
Speaking of cocktails, we invented an extra-healthy one made with super powerful antioxidant ice cubes of blackberries, blueberries and beet juice. Use about 20 fresh blueberries, a small peeled beet and 10 blackberries (I used the Chester berry variety from Schuh Farms at the farmers market but wild ones are perfectly fine too as long as you strain out the seeds). Blend or process and strain through a fine-mesh strainer adding water if the mixture is too thick.
The Berry Best Cocktail Recipe (2 drinks)
Handful of fresh blueberries
Handful of fresh blackberries
2 anti-oxidant ice cubes (recipe above)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
4 oz. vodka (we used Koenig Idaho potato vodka)
1/2 oz. creme de cassis
Place blueberries and blackberries to fill the bottom of your shaker. Add 1 anti-oxidant ice cube and muddle. Put lemon juice, vodka, creme de cassis and remaining anti-oxidant ice cube in the shaker. Shake.
Fill glasses with cracked ice cubes. Divide drink from shaker into 2 glasses. Top off with tonic and garnish with blue or blackberry and thin slice of lemon.
I feel healthier already!
More great ways to save by freezing in ice cube trays: freeze leftover red wine, broth, pesto, herbs — especially cilantro, parsley & mint — chop and cover with a small amount of water or oil, baby food, tomato sauce, etc. The list goes on and on. Use a yogurt container to make larger flavored cubes for sangria or punches. Muffin tins work too. Just freeze whatever you can’t eat right away in cubes, remove from the tray and save in a freezer proof bag or container. Not a bad idea to label as well.
A wonderful book I checked out of the library has lots of recipes for unusual water drinks and ice cubes. Cool Waters by Brian Preston-Campbell.
And oh, I almost forgot to tell you about the trick I learned to get rid of those pesky fruit flies. Fill a small bowl or cup with a squirt of dishwashing soap, a little water and apple cider vinegar. Cover the top with plastic wrap, secure with a rubber band and punch a few small holes for them to crawl in. I don’t know how you feel about torturing these harmless insects but a little population control can’t hurt.