Freeze in Summer Flavor

The time is now or never to preserve your favorite flavors of local summer produce. While I am certainly not ready for a cold freeze just yet, I am all about freezing up summer bounty, particularly all the tomatoes and berries, to enjoy throughout the winter months. Freezing is the simplest thing you can do to preserve these flavors. All you need is some storage space, freezer bags, and an afternoon.

So, before I share my tips and tricks, why should you do this? If supporting local farms, and the incredible flavor of produce picked at its peak aren’t enough, then consider the economic impacts on your own budget. Products are available now in bulk, at bulk prices! Farms are aiming to sell what they harvest and waste as little as possible, so you can save by buying now in large quantities. 

A Guide to Freezing Summer Produce

Clean Out your Freezer Space

It’s always best to start fresh, so take a good hard look at what is currently in your freezer and get rid of anything that has been there too long or you aren’t going to use. Not only does it keep things clean, but it also makes room for more of the tasty local produce you will eat.

How to Blanche Vegetables

Most vegetables, like green beans, corn or dark leafy greens, freeze better and are easier to use later if you give them a quick blanche first. Here’s how to blanche vegetables:

  1. Clean and cut up your veggies
  2. Add to a pot of boiling water for a few minutes until cooked, but firm
  3. Carefully add produce to an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

If you’re freezing tomatoes, score the bottom of the tomato, place them in the boiling water and as soon as the skin starts to peel (30-45 seconds) drop them in the ice bath and easily remove all the skin.

Keep Portions in Mind

Freeze with realistic portions in mind, so that you don’t have to thaw a large bag if you’ll only be using a little. Consider freezing a variety of sizes so that your freezer will be stocked for any occasion. This is particularly important if you’re (creating sauce, salsa, soups in bulk before freezing it. 

Label and Lay Flat

Use a permanent marker to label and date your freezer bags in advance of filling them. Veggies, like corn and beans, that can hold their shape I will place directly into the bag fully dried after their blanche bath and stack them flat on-top of one another in the freezer. If you’d like to avoid things getting squished, freeze it first on a cookie sheet and then transfer to a bag. I do this with all my summer berries —  about 2 hours in the freezer on the cookie sheet is plenty to make sure they’re solid. Either way you do it, be sure to fill the bag just over halfway, lay flat and get all the remaining air out before placing it in the freezer.

To Thaw or Not to Thaw

Most of your raw produce does not have to be thawed and can simply be tossed into smoothies, soups or stews and cooked immediately, as needed. Anything that has been processed is usually easier to thaw in the fridge overnight before using, that way you can get it all out of the container and bring to temperature. 

Do you have tips for saving your summer produce in the freezer? Tag us on Instagram @tastethelocaldifference!

Tricia Phelps is the CEO of Taste the Local Difference.

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