How to Freeze and keep the Vegetables You’ve Grown

There is nothing that compares to the rewards of harvesting vegetables from one’s own summer vegetable garden. If we are fortunate enough to have bumper crops of some of our vegetables, we need to figure out what the best method for preserving our bounty.

Most gardeners are aware that canning is an alternative, but canning is very labor intensive and exacting. Canning does, however assure you that you’ve preserved the vegetables in such a manner as to prevent or eliminate possible contamination from bacteria causing microbes.

Another method for preserving vegetables is to dehydrate them. They can be dried in a dehydrator, or they can be dried in the oven. Vegetables that are dehydrated can be reconstituted by tossing them into boiling water for about 3 minutes. Dehydrated vegetables are good to use in soups, stews and casseroles.

How then, do we go about freezing vegetables?

When freezing vegetables, the best way to blanch them before freezing is to pack the vegetables in freezer bags, making sure to let all of the air out of the bags. To blanch them, throw the bags into a large pot of boiling water. It is only necessary to blanch them for about a minute.

Vegetables with a high water content tend to get mushy when they are frozen. One way to minimize the amount of mushiness in vegetables like zucchini is to grill or roast it and then freeze it. When grilling or roasting these vegetables with high water content, the salt tends to draw some of the water out. This will make it possible to freeze these vegetables.

PEAS AND BEANS

When it comes to peas and beans, it is best not to cook the vegetables before freezing them. Snap the peas and beans, and remove the strings from the snow peas and the sugar snaps. Pack them into a heavy duty freezer bag. Ziploc makes a vacuum pump that goes with their new freezer bags. The pump will remove all of the air from the bag, and then they can be well protected while they are frozen. Blanch them in the freezer bag and then they won’t get overly soggy.

The ideal way to package your bounty is to pack the stuff in smaller freezer bags. Fill each bag with enough for two portions. By limiting the contents of each bag to no more than two portions, you will only remove what you can use at one time. This will eliminate the need to take a bag out of the freezer, remove some of the contents, and then refreeze things again. Thawing and refreezing is not a safe food practice.

If possible, use bags that can be vacuum sealed. Reynolds and Glad now make devices that make it possible to pump air out of bags in order to create a vacuum seal. The devices are relatively inexpensive and work quite well, but only with specially designed freezer bags.

TOMATOES:

Tomatoes are one of those vegetables with a high water content. It is possible to freeze tomatoes, but freezing tomatoes doesn’t provide you with the sort of tomato you would want to eat. Nonetheless, they are useful for adding to stews or other cooked dishes. To freeze whole tomatoes, cut the core out and throw them in a freezer bag.

Another way to freeze tomatoes is by turning them into a sauce or a tomato paste and then freezing that. If you make a lot of dishes that require a small amount of tomato sauce or paste, you can fill the spots in an ice cube tray with tomato sauce or paste. Each cube will be the equivalent of about two tablespoons of sauce or paste.

PEPPERS:

Peppers can be frozen after they are grilled or roasted. Bright colored peppers are delicious and because they are so expensive (even in season,) freezing them when them in a cooked state is advantageous. They don’t get soggy that way. Grocery stores regularly sell colored peppers that are roasted and frozen, and they are very expensive even in the frozen state.

BROCCOLI:

Broccoli can be frozen too. Rather than trying to freeze the entire head, it might be wiser to separate it into smaller pieces. Put the pieces of broccoli into plastic bags and throw them into a pot of boiling water for no more than a minute.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS:

Brussels sprouts can be frozen in an uncooked state. The best way to freeze them is by cutting the hard node off the bottom and removing any outer leaves that are not perfect looking. Cut an x in the bottom of each Brussels sprout. Package them into small bags with enough sprouts in each bag for no more than one or two servings. Make sure to expel all of the air from the bag.

CARROTS:

Carrots are easily frozen. Again, do not bother to wash the carrots. Cut the tops off, and while doing so, remove the core from the carrot. Peel the carrots and cut them into slices that can be used in soups, in dishes, or just cooked on their own. Put them into freezer bags, only filling the bags with enough for one or two servings. When blanching them, just leave them in the water for a minute. Anything more may result in over cooking.

BEETS:

Beets can also be frozen. If you roast them before freezing them, it will be much easier to remove the skin. Beets can be pickled and or canned.

HOT PEPPERS:

The best and easiest way to keep hot peppers is to dry them. If they are small enough, you can take a needle and thread and string a bunch of peppers onto one piece of thread or string. Put them in a cool and dry place where they will be away from too much sun. Just allow them to air dry. Once they are dry, anytime you need to add hot peppers to a dish, you can remove a single pepper.

Be careful about touching your face when you’ve handled hot peppers. Be sure not to touch your eyes after touching peppers.

ONIONS, GARLIC, SHALLOTS, POTATOES, LEEKS:

Onions, garlic, potatoes and shallots and leeks don’t necessarily need to be frozen. Onions, garlic, shallots and potatoes can be kept in a cool dark place. A root cellar is ideal. Leeks can be kept for a short period of time in a root cellar, but they can also be frozen. It isn’t the best way to keep them, but in a pinch, it’s fine.

Cut the roots off of the bottom, and remove the dry hard part that is attached to the roots. Leeks are almost always filled with lots of dirt, and the only way to get rid of the dirt is by cutting them lengthwise. Remove the dirt, by wiping with a damp cloth, but don’t get them fully wet. Put the cut pieces in freezer bags and expel the air before putting them in the freezer.

This is just the simplest way to freeze vegetables from the vegetable garden. Some root vegetables don’t require refrigeration, but most vegetables will not keep unless they are kept in a cool place. When keeping vegetables in the refrigerator until they are to be used, make sure that they aren’t kept in the same drawer as apples. The ethylene gas from the apples will hasten the spoilage.


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