How to Easily Preserve Your Favorite Vegetables
If you have a garden, you may find yourself in the rather awesome position of having more produce than you can use right away. Been there, my friend—and while it may seem overwhelming, trust me when I say that it’s a good problem to have.
There are a ton of methods of available for preserving vegetables. They’re great for times when your garden isn’t as prolific (or isn’t producing at all). Canning and jarring come to mind, but many people are intimidated by canning. If that’s you, or if you just don’t feel like going through the canning process, then freezing may be a great option. Let me tell you, it’s been a lifesaver for me!
Since I’m not sure what sort of things you’re growing in your garden, I want to go over some common produce and how to preserve it through freezing. Plus, if there’s anything you should know about using it after it’s been frozen, I’ll include it so you won’t have any surprises. Produce is arranged in alphabetical order to make it easy for you to find what you’re looking for. Also, just a quick note: I find freezer bags the most convenient for storing my frozen veggies (my containers are usually getting used holding tomato sauces, leftovers, homemade salsas, and more). However, you can definitely use freezer-safe containers. Just make sure to leave some room in the containers to allow for expansion.
Guide to Preserving Vegetables by Freezing
BELL PEPPERS: You can freeze these delicious beauties for up to 6 months. The easiest way to do it is to wash them, dry them, then remove the core, seeds, and pith. (I usually save the seeds to replant later, but you don’t have to.) Then, cut them into slices. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet that you’ve covered with parchment paper. Flash-freeze them by putting the baking sheet into the freezer, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes. Flash-freezing keeps them from sticking together in a big clump. Once they’ve got that initial freeze, put them into a freezer-safe Ziploc bag (make sure to push the air out before sealing it). Label it with the date so you know when to use it by. When you have a recipe that calls for bell peppers, just take out and thaw however many you need, then cook as normal.
BROCCOLI: When you’re getting ready to freeze broccoli, it’s best to pick stalks that aren’t yellowing and are still tight (haven’t opened yet). Wash them, dry them by patting with a paper towel, then cut them lengthwise so the pieces are fairly uniform. Your florets should be about 1.5 thick.
Once you’ve prepared your broccoli, blanch it by putting them into rapidly boiling water for 3 minutes, or steaming it (in a steamer basket over boiling water) for 5 minutes. Then, plunge it into ice-cold water to stop it cooking. Let it sit in the ice bath for about 3 minutes, then drain it using a colander. After it’s drained, simply put it into freezer-safe Ziploc bags (push the air out) and freeze it up for up to 10 months. To use frozen broccoli in stir fries or soup, you don’t need to thaw first. But, if you want to thaw it, you can do that pretty easily by tossing it into boiling water for 60 seconds or so, then cooking it.
CARROTS: To freeze carrots, first chop off the top and bottom from them, then wash and dry them thoroughly. You don’t need to peel them. Then, chop the carrots using a food processor (you can also grate them, if you prefer). Put the chopped or grated carrots into a freezer-safe Ziploc bag with the air pushed out, then freeze them for up to 3 months.
CAULIFLOWER: Like broccoli, to freeze cauliflower, first prep it by washing it and then cutting off the florets. Try to get your florets a uniform size (around 1.5 inches thick). Then, blanch the cauliflower by putting it directly into rapidly boiling water for 5 minutes or steaming it for 5 minutes. Once done, transfer it into a bowl of ice water for 3 minutes, then drain it using a colander. To stop it from clumping together, you can then flash freeze it by arranging the florets in a single layer on a baking sheet (with parchment paper). Freeze it for 1-2 hours. Then, put it into freezer-safe Ziploc bags (push the air out before sealing) and label with the date. You can freeze cauliflower for up to 1 year. You can cook it directly from frozen without thawing.
CORN: There are a few ways to freeze corn. No matter which method you choose, though, you’ll need to shuck the corn and remove the corn silk. If you want to freeze corn on the cob, you just have to pop them into freezer bags and push the air out. If you want to freeze the kernels but don’t feel like blanching the corn, that works too. Follow the same steps as above, but cut the kernels off the corn after you’ve shucked it and removed the silk. Then just put the kernels in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag, push the air out, and seal it. Corn will keep in the freezer using either of these methods for up to 6 months.
If you want to freeze corn kernels but keep them bright and yellow, you might want to blanch them first. To blanch corn before freezing it, put the corn cobs into boiling water (remember, they should be shucked and the corn silk should be removed). Small cobs should be boiled for about 7 minutes, medium cobs for about 9 minutes, and large cobs for about 11 minutes. Once the time is up, put the corn cobs into ice water for the same length of time that you boiled them. Then, remove them from the water and pat them dry with paper towels. You can then cut the kernels off of them and put the kernels into freezer-safe Ziploc bags. Push the air out of them, pop them in the freezer, and voila! It’ll last you for about 3 months.
GREEN BEANS: To freeze green beans, first wash them, then cut off the stems and the tapered tail ends. You should also remove any stringy fibers that run the length of the bean pod. Then, you’ll blanch the green beans to help preserve their color and flavor. To blanch them, add them to rapidly boiling water. Small beans should be boiled for 2 minutes, medium for 3, and large for 4. Then, put the beans into ice-cold water and let them sit in it for the same length of time that you cooked them. Once they’re cool, pat them dry with a paper towel, then put them into freezer-safe Ziploc bags, push the air out, and seal them. They’ll last in the freezer for up to 8 months.
GREEN ONIONS: To freeze green onions, wash them and pat dry with a paper towel. Then, cut off the roots and remove stringy bits that don’t look right. Chop the onions, put them onto a baking sheet with parchment paper, and flash-freeze them for about 45 minutes. Then, add them to a freezer-safe Ziploc bag, push the air out, and seal. While frozen green onions won’t work very well as a fresh garnish, they do great in recipes that call for cooking them. I love using them in quiches, breakfast omelets, and chili. You can freeze them for up to 6 months.
JALAPENOS: These bad boys are super easy to freeze. Some people cut and flash-freeze them. However, I just wash them, dry them, and put them, whole, into a freezer-safe Ziploc bag. If you go this route, push the air out as much as possible before sealing. If you don’t cut into them, they won’t stick together, so it’s easy to take out however many you need, thaw them out, and cook with them. They do best in recipes that require cooked jalapenos, though, because once you freeze them, they won’t have the same texture as a fresh jalapeno. They can be frozen for up to 6 months.
PEAS: To freeze peas, first shell them. Then, wash them. To do this easily, just add them to a big pot of water, swish them around, then drain with a colander. Then, boil them for 1.5 minutes to blanch them. Then, using a slotted spoon and working as quickly as possible, get your cooked peas into an ice-water bath.
Let them sit for about 2 minutes. Then, drain them again with a colander. Put the peas into a freezer-safe Ziploc bag, push all the air out, and seal it. They’ll last up to 6 months frozen. To cook them from frozen, add the frozen peas to boiling water. Boil for about 3-4 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon. Add butter and enjoy!
SQUASH: Follow our tips for freezing zucchini (below) if you’re wondering how to freeze extra summer squash you have on hand!
TOMATOES: Since tomatoes are so prolific, chances are you’ll have quite a few extra on hand if you grow them. Freezing them is a great way to make sure you have home-grown tomatoes for making sauces and more once your plants aren’t producing anymore. To freeze your tomatoes, wash them and then pat dry with a paper towel. If your tomatoes have stems, remove the stem as well. Then, just put the tomatoes (skin and all) into freezer-safe Ziploc bags. Squeeze out the air, and seal the bags. To thaw them out, run them under warm water for about 60 seconds. This will also help their skins to loosen so you can easily remove the peels. Use your frozen tomatoes within 6 months for best results.
ZUCCHINI: Freezing zucchini is pretty simple, but there are a few steps involved. It’s worth it, though, especially since this you can do so much with this prolific vegetable. First, wash the zucchini and trim off both ends (you don’t need to peel it, though). Then, slice it, grate it, or cube it (or do a variety of all three). Next, you’ll blanch it by putting it into rapidly boiling water. Go 2 minutes for grated, 3 minutes for cubed or thinly sliced pieces, or 6 minutes for thick slices. Put it into ice water as soon as it’s done blanching. Leave it there for the same amount of time that you boiled it.
Then, use a colander to drain it out of the ice water. Arrange your zucchini in a single layer on a baking sheet covered by parchment paper to flash-freeze it. Let it freeze for about an hour, then put it into a freezer-safe Ziploc bag. Squeeze all the air out of it and seal it. Your frozen zucchini will keep for up to 3 months. Cook it by boiling it until it’s just tender (cover the pot you cook it in). If you’re using frozen grated zucchini, defrost it and pat it dry with paper towels before using it in a baking recipe.
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