The video above shows you how to freeze certain foods quickly or you can read the summary post below:
Every food gardener knows that at certain times, the garden explodes with produce! After putting all that time into planting and nurturing that produce, we certainly don’t want to let ANY of it go to waste. There are many ways to save that harvest. But here’s the thing…you don’t have to can it.
Freezing Vegetables and Fruit is FAST!
Freezing is easy because you don’t need any special equipment (other than a freezer, of course). Now with most vegetables, you have to take the time to blanch them first. You need to do that to kill the enzymes that make the vegetable turn soft in the freezer. You can learn all about how to do that HERE.
But this post is about a few produce items you can freeze QUICKLY (without the blanching)!
So here we go!
First up – Tomatoes! These guys are the easiest things to freeze because you don’t have to peel them or blanch them. This is because when they defrost, the skin peels right off and you use the resulting tomato in some sort of cooked recipe – so it doesn’t matter if it has softened a bit. (The defrosted tomato is very much like a stewed tomato.) You can use previously frozen tomatoes in soup, stew and soup and they still have the fresh off the vine flavors!
You can freeze tomatoes in BPA-free plastic freezer bags. (These bags can be found at most organic or health food stores or online). You simply place the tomatoes into the bag and squeeze out as much air as possible. (Air will deteriorate the flavor and texture of your tomatoes.) Seal the bag and label. Try to use up the tomatoes within 6 months. They begin to loose their flavor after that time and the texture can really go down hill after that. But there are concerns about other chemicals in plastic besides BPA, so you may want to opt for glass containers. (Here is an article on which plastics are safe to use)
Freezing does not stop the food from breaking down. It only slows the process down to a crawl. The sooner you eat the food, the better it is.
In Glass Canning Jars:
You can also use freezer containers made of glass or you can use some of the newer canning jars that are freezer safe. Do not use old or vintage canning jars in the freezer, as they will most likely break. And it is also not advised that you use old mayonnaise or spaghetti jars in the freezer. Those jars are not tempered for that purpose and can easily break.
Your best bet is to use new canning jars. They should say “freezer safe” on the box. If you don’t have the box, look for a freeze line on the jar. That line is the maxium amount of food you can put in the jar that will still allow for expansion during freezing. I also recommend that you use straight-sided jars (wide mouth) for freezing. Yes, you can use the small mouth jars, but sometimes people get more breakage over time if the food pushes on the neck of the jar. So if you have a choice, go for the wide mouth jars. If you only have small mouth jars, leave a little bit extra headspace.
Place the tomatoes whole or cut up into the jars. To eliminate air, add liquid (I prefer to use tomato juice but you can also use water). Fill the jar up to the fill line or about 1 inch from the top. (If you are using narrow or small mouth jars, leave 1.5 inches from the top.) You need this headspace because the food will expand when freezing and can push on the lid or the sides of the jar causing breakage. If you are able to really pack the tomatoes into the jar with very little air space, you can skip the liquid if you wish.
Berries are another food that can be frozen quickly. You don’t blanch berries, as that tends to break them down to mush – which is what the blanching is supposed to prevent. So instead, berries are frozen with no special prep.
However, I highly recommend that you first freeze the berries on a cookie sheet (in a single layer) and THEN place them into BPA-free freezer bags or glass containers. Why? If berries are frozen individually, they tend to stay that way in the container. This means, you can reach in a grab a handful for a smoothie or your pancakes and you do NOT have to defrost the whole bag. Nice!
Also if I use jars, I do not add liquid to the berries as I am able to pack them in pretty tightly and there is very little air space anyway.
For jam making, I like to measure out the berries I need for a recipe and freeze them in BPA bags so that later, I can defrost them and whip up a batch of jam. It doesn’t matter if they get soft because they will be cooked anyway. It can be a real time-saver if you don’t have time to make the jam during harvest.
Use all berries within 6 months for best flavor and texture.
Who hasn’t had too much zucchini in their garden? Now normally, I would recommend slicing and blanching zucchini before freezing so that it would got get soft or mushy during the freezing process. However, it just so happens that many people use zucchini shredded in cakes, breads or muffins. Shredded zucchini adds moisture and nutrition to a recipe. In THAT situation, you don’t care if it gets soft! So shredding the zucchini first is the perfect way to save it for later if you like to use it for baking.
I like to shred it and measure it into 1 cup increments. Then freeze it baggies or containers. When you are making up a batch of zucchini bread or chocolate cake, pull out a cup or two to defrost. It works like a charm!
Use all zucchini within 6 months for best flavor and texture.
For more information on other ways to preserve your harvest, check out my other posts in Canning the Harvest.