Preserving the season’s bountiful produce is something home gardeners hope for when they plant their gardens. But it can be tough knowing where to begin. Many fruits and vegetables freeze well and most methods use items you probably already have on hand to help you prepare them for freezer storage. I’m sharing 5 of my favorite ways to freeze fruits and veggies:
- Blanch then freeze. Blanching is when you steam or boil a vegetable briefly but do not fully cook it. It helps foods retain more of their fresh color and is easy to do: Prepare a large bowl of ice water or cold water in a clean sink. Next, boil a pan of water large enough to hold your quantity of vegetables (or plan to work in batches). Once the water is boiling, add your vegetables. Work quickly as blanching in boiling water only takes 1-3 minutes for most vegetables (some denser veggies like artichokes or Brussels sprouts will take a bit longer). Immediately plunge the blanched vegetables into the ice water or cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well and pat dry or squeeze out excess water. Is great for variety of vegetables like asparagus, peas, summer squash, broccoli and green or wax beans. Steam or roast blanched vegetables straight from the freezer when you are ready to enjoy them or use them in sauce or soups like this 30-minute Veggie Tortellini Soup.
- Flash freeze. To do this, layer sliced or whole fruits (like grapes or berries) in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze on pan for a few hours or overnight until fully frozen. Then remove frozen produce and store in a Ziploc bag. This process works well for peppers, onions, peas, berries, grapes or sliced bananas. Enjoy your frozen produce in soups, sauces, casseroles, smoothies and much more. Fruits like berries and even grapes are great eating straight from the freezer!
- Juice it, zest it, freeze it. Some super juicy fruits like lemons, limes, oranges or watermelon are great for juicing. You can juice the peeled fruit in a blender or juicer, pour into an ice cube tray and freeze for several hours. Pop the frozen cubes out and store in a Ziploc bag. For citrus, use a zester to preserve the flavorful outer skin. Spread the zest in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and freeze. Transfer to a Ziploc bag. Just pinch what you need throughout the year to add to your favorite recipes.
- Shred it. Shredding vegetables is another way to preserve the season and use later. Carrots and squash shred up well and can easily be stored in a Ziploc bag. For best results, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet until frozen, then store in bag. This method means you’re less likely to end up with a giant chunk of shredded produce! Shredded produce can then be added to soups, sauces, and entrees such as casseroles or meatloaf or even used in baked goods such as zucchini bread or these Savory Carrot & Zucchini Squares.
- Puree and freeze. Similar to juicing, pureeing works especially well with root vegetables like carrots, squash, beets and greens like spinach or collard greens and just about any fruit. The difference between pureeing and juicing is that a puree generally includes the peels. To puree, add produce to a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Pour puree into an empty ice cube tray. Once cubes are frozen, pop them out and store in a labeled Ziploc bag. Pureed cubes are easy to add to soups and sauces and even smoothies!
It’s easy to preserve the season’s bounty when you have a few tricks up your sleeve that make it a little easier.