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 just about 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 .
Here are some basic tips for freezing your produce now, and using it later:
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.
Give it a Quick Blanche
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. This simply means tossing the clean, cut vegetables into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes until they are al dente [cooked firm to the bite or slightly undercooked]. Then, toss them into a cold water bath immediately afterwards to maintain that texture and stop the cooking/softening 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. 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.