Organic Gardening Series: Preserving Produce by Freezing

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frozen pkin in frzr What can I freeze? It’s a common question as gardens begin to be ready for harvest and Farmer’s Markets tempt people with bushel baskets full of gorgeous fruits and vegetables. One of my early posts here at KS was when I granted myself the title of “freezer queen”: 10 Easy Prep Foods I Always Have in my Freezer.

If your garden is growing well, you, too, may be asking, “What can I freeze?”

Here’s the latest in the organic gardening series by Rene of Budget Saving Mom (with some commentary by Katie):

How To Preserve Your Produce Through Freezing

If you are fortunate enough to have extra produce, you can preserve some of it for use throughout the year through freezing. Freezing will help to maintain the nutrients found in your vegetables (whereas canning vegetables does not, with the exception of tomatoes). When you are freezing produce, the quicker it freezes, the better. Keep your freezer door shut while you are freezing your produce.

Also, as you add produce to your freezer, make sure that the food itself is cold so that it freezes more quickly. You can place the produce on a shelf near the rear of your freezer that has plenty of air circulating around it to reduce the freezing time. Also, when you are transferring produce from a cookie sheet to a storage container, make sure to move quickly so that it does not thaw. This will help to improve the texture of your frozen produce.

How To Freeze Pumpkin

I really love pumpkins! We planted about 500 feet of pumpkin this year, so I am hoping for a bumper crop. I love to make pumpkin bread, or even just sauté the pumpkin and make something similar to sweet potato casserole. To freeze pumpkin, I cook the pumpkin and then puree it. I then let it cool on the counter and in the refrigerator.

Once it has cooled, I take the pumpkin puree, and freeze it in containers in the amounts needed for my bread recipes. I figure that I can always pull out multiple bags when I make other recipes. However, the most common way that I use it is in bread. If your pumpkin seems too watery, you can hang it to drain the liquid out (like with yogurt cheese) until it reaches canned pumpkin consistency. I freeze it in ice cube trays (stuffed into my already stuffed freezer in the photo above). Here is my famous One Bowl Pumpkin Bread or Muffin Recipe!

How To Freeze Berries

  1. Wash your berries, and drain them well.
  2. Place the berries onto cookie sheets where they are not touching each other. I like to use a silicone liner, which makes it really easy to get the frozen berries off. I cover the cookie sheet with another silicone mat or cookie sheet.
  3. Once the berries are frozen, transfer them to plastic bags and remove the air.
  4. I love to use these berries in smoothies throughout the year. You can even freeze strawberries with the tops on if you’re going to put them into green smoothies anyway! Our favorite frozen berry use is to put them into plain homemade yogurt, still frozen. It’s almost like ice cream!

Note: Many people add sugar to their berries when they freeze them which can help their texture. However, we choose not to do this just because we don’t want to add sugar to our diet that is not needed. The texture of the fruit will change regardless of the added sugar, so frozen fruit really is best in smoothies or cooked.

Note: Blueberry skins get tough when washed, then frozen. If you trust the growing practices of the berries, you can freeze them unwashed for the best “eat-’em-like-candy” results!

How To Freeze Peaches and Nectarines

Peaches and nectarines will turn brown when frozen unless you add an acid to them to prevent discoloration. I usually just add some lemon juice to them before freezing to help prevent the discoloration. Many people also use ascorbic acid to help prevent the discoloration. I have frozen these plenty of times without lemon juice though and just added them to smoothies. If your blender can handle it, freeze them in halves for smoothies. For individual slices for yogurt or pies, use the cookie sheet method like berries, above.

How To Freeze Zucchini and Squash

I love zucchini and squash bread, so I try to always store quite a bit of this in the freezer. You can peel and shred your zucchini or squash, and then store it in shredded form in plastic bags. (Chopped up works too, good for soups.) When you are ready to make bread, just take it out of the freezer. Let it thaw. Drain the excess moisture, and bake your bread.

If you prefer to have sautéed zucchini or squash, you can just slice and prepare it the way that you typically would. However, you want to stop cooking it when it is still crisp. Cool the vegetables, and then freeze them. I would eat any zucchini or squash prepared in this way in 3-4 months for the best results. Also, do not peel the zucchini or squash if you are using this method.

How To Freeze Green Beans, Corn, Sugar Snaps, Asparagus, Peas, and Greens

Before freezing these vegetables, they really need to be blanched, and then quickly cooled in an ice bath.

Most of the vegetables listed above are blanched for two minutes. You want the vegetable color to look brighter, but you still want the vegetable to be crisp. Here are the exceptions: Corn on the cob will be blanched for 6 minutes, and corn off the cob for 4 minutes. Sugar snaps, snow peas and tender greens are delicate and only need to be blanched for one minute.

To blanche your vegetables, place them in boiling water (or a steamer basket for more retained nutrients) for the amount of time listed above. Have an ice water bath ready, and immediately place them into the ice water bath. Make sure that they are thoroughly cooled before freezing them. Dry the vegetables well. Then, place them on a cookie sheet in a single layer until frozen. You can then transfer them to bags for storage. I freeze greens in ice cube trays for green smoothies.

Asparagus will need to have the woody portions removed before freezing. If you have a problem with your vegetables being tough after blanching, you can look at your water. Really hard water can cause tougher vegetables.

How To Freeze Tomatoes

Tomatoes do not freeze very well. They become mushy and lose some of their flavor. The only tomatoes that I typically freeze are cherry tomatoes. I use them in cherry tomato tarts throughout the year. Since these are baked anyway, I don’t really notice a problem with the texture after freezing.

To freeze these, I just rinse them, and place them on a cookie sheet to freeze. Once frozen, I transfer them to storage containers in the amounts needed for one tart, and use them throughout the year.

I have heard many people say recently to just toss whole tomatoes in the freezer, then make sauce of them later, and that the skins just slip right off the thawed (still frozen?) tomatoes. Does anyone have experience with this? Sounds just like the kind of lazy man’s advice I love!

What Else can you Freeze?

A while back, I asked my readers what they froze and how. I got some great tips from them, that I posted here: “What You Can Freeze”, including the ever-elusive Can I Freeze Potatoes?

If you’ve missed the rest of the organic gardening series from Rene of Budget Saving Mom, click here to catch up.

I’m taking frozen peppers and onions camping with us tomorrow. Did you know you can freeze both those veggies without blanching? Did you know you can get a 48-page Family Camping Handbook with Real Food Options for only $4.95? 😉

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18 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    Since I like using glass over plastic, I’ve been freezing all of my meat and fish stocks in glass mason jars. I just leave plenty of headroom for expansion.

    If we get any tomatoes this year, I’m definitely trying freezing whole tomatoes!
    .-= kara´s last blog ..French Vanilla Ice Cream =-.

  2. Sandy Munroe says

    Hey Katie,

    That is true advice about the tomatoes. You can just toss them in a ziploc bag or whatever container you choose and freeze them. When you’re ready to use them you take it out and while it’s still in its frozen stage just peel the skin right off. It comes off really easily. Obviously can’t use these on a sandwhich or salad, but they’ve done me well in the winter when I just want to add some tomato to something. :)

  3. says

    I always freeze my tomatoes before canning. I find the freezing releases the water in the tomatoes. When I defrost the tomatoes, I pour off the water, and then finish with the canning process. However, we use our tomatoes to make sauce. This year I am skipping the canning step and just freezing them. We normally make sauce on the weekend so it’s no problem to pull the tomatoes out on Friday, left them defrost, and then puree them and make sauce on Saturday. Oh, and we never bother with removing the skins.

    I also don’t freeze my berries individually since I use mine to make juice. The juice is for kombucha or making jelly.

    I also don’t defrost my mixed veggies before cooking. I just throw them in the skillet and drain off the water as it’s released. Zucchinis usually release the most water and need the most draining. Very often I don’t need to drain the water off of the beans or broccoli.

    I’m a big fan of as few steps as possible!
    .-= Barb @ My Daily Round´s last blog ..stop and check out the moth =-.

  4. says

    Yup, I freeze pretty much all my tomatoes! I posted about it here. I wash and core them first (and cut off any bad spots), then just stuff into freezer bags. I have found that I can fit far more into a bag if I halve or quarter them, but then it’s a trick to get them out without thawing!

    I especially like to do this so I can get a rather large batch built up to make sauce or salsa and can… that way I’m not heating up the kitchen with teeny tiny batches.

    I also use them whole and frozen in some recipes like stuffed green peppers. I run them under water and slip the skins off, then either toss them right in the pot and let them thaw or zap them in the microwave if I’m in more of a hurry.
    .-= Lenetta @ Nettacow´s last blog ..Link Roundup – Wheat Harvest Edition Sorta =-.

  5. Sara says

    Do you HAVE to blanch things? Why do some veggies need blanched? I only ask because if my baby spinach is not getting used up quick enough, I have just tossed in a bag and frozen it fresh. Is this bad? :)

    • says

      Sara, I wouldn’t say it’s BAD! The things I’ve read indicate that blanching helps them retain quality and possibly some nutrients (writing off the top of my head here, so no sources, sorry). For a long time, I didn’t bother to blanch and stuff was fine. Plus I’m not sure I’d want to mess around with blanching a bit of baby spinach, especially if it was going to be used reasonably quickly.
      .-= Lenetta @ Nettacow´s last blog ..Link Roundup – Wheat Harvest Edition Sorta =-.

  6. cathy says

    I also puree my summer squash before freezing and later sneak it into all sorts of foods. Jennifer Seinfeld’s book, Deceptively Delicious, gives all sorts of tips on where you can sneak nutritious foods into common foods that picky eaters will eat!

  7. Annie says

    I’ve only frozen peaches so far and didn’t use any ascorbic acid – they turned out great! They were cling-stone(?) so I didn’t get nice even halves. More like odd shaped pieces, but they turned out really well! I just sliced up and froze a couple at a time, which may have helped the freezer freeze them faster. I wish I had more freezer space… I’ve heard of lacto-fermented peaches somewhere!

  8. Janine Hein says

    I have TONS of tomato plants of all varietals & size. I rinse, dry & freeze my tomatoes whole. I use them for home-made marinara, soups, etc. Yes, the skins will just slip off after defrosted if that is your preference. For my sauces, I figure why not get all of the nutrients & just leave the skins in & they break apart during the cooking. If you want to be more ‘refined’ however – break out the immersion blender & no one will know the better! Bamix professional immersion blender (from Williams-Sonoma) is my miracle tool!

  9. randa says

    We just put the organic tomatoes in the freezer in any space there is between bags no need to put them in anything just watch your toes they are rock hard.Let them thaw for a few minutes and the peelimg comes right off.Mkes great tomatoe soup or add to casseroles.

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