In the comments to this post, Jennifer asked me to share my storing/freezing techniques for vegetables, so I will! Generally, I freeze as much as I can and then go to canning and drying for extras. For example, I froze tons of tomatoes last year but still had extras, so I also canned and sun dried the tomatoes. But for most vegetables, I just freeze them.
By the way, if you have a big garden or buy in bulk and have the space, one frugal appliance I swear by is a chest freezer, like the one above. These appliances cost a little bit–mine was $279–but make back the money in what you save in food bills.
The problem with freezing vegetables is that they tend to get waterlogged and mushy. Some vegetables, like cucumbers and lettuce, can’t be frozen at all because of this. (I pickle cucumbers.) Others can be frozen but then only cooked with, like summer squash. To freeze summer squash, I grind it up in a food processor, freeze it in ziplock baggies, and use it in cooking. (You can also pickle some squashes, like zucchini.) But for most vegetables–peas, green beans, peppers, corn, etc.–the trick to freezing them is to blanch them.
Blanching vegetables is a kind of home-kitchen flash cooking. You quickly dump the vegetables in boiling water to start the cooking process and then submerge them in ice water to stop the cooking process. Basically, you cook them enough so that the enzymes that cause vegetables to age die off, but then you stop the cooking so they are still raw vegetables. Then you can freeze them and then cook them the same way you would any frozen vegetable you get at the supermarket freezer case.
How to Blanch Veggies:
- A big pot for boiling
A bowl for ice water
A slotted spoon
1. Fill the pot with water and put it on the burner. Let it start to gently boil.
2. Fill the bowl with ice water and set it beside the pot.
3. Clean and cut your vegetables however you desire to freeze them.
4. When the water is hot, dump some of the vegetables in the water. You probably don’t want to do all at once–small batches work best.
5. Let the vegetables boil. How long? It depends on the vegetable, but not too long. Maybe 1-2 minutes. Your goal here is to start the cooking process but not actually cook them. You want the vegetables to remain firm and raw-like.
6. With a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to the ice water. This shuts down the cooking process you just started and preserves the texture.
7. Transfer the vegetables to the strainer and let them dry.
8. When they are dry, put the vegetables in the plastic bags. When you put them in the freezer, lay the bags flat at first. This ensures that the vegetables freeze properly and keeps them from getting clumped together with ice crystals.
That’s it! Keep in mind, I’m no expert at this, so if anyone has any tips, I’d like the hear them.