The garden is producing well and while we are eating from it at every meal, we’re still having more than enough to preserve for the winter. I employ many methods of food preservation, I probably can more than anything else but I also dehydrate, ferment, and freeze. I like canning because it’s shelf stable and unlike freezing I don’t have to worry about my food spoiling should the power go out. However, I don’t like the flavor or texture of certain things canned or dried and so those things are frozen. Things like broccoli, peas, peppers, snow peas and berries are just better frozen in my opinion. When freezing vegetables there’s an easy way to systemize the process so that it gets done quickly and correctly for the best flavor later. Streamline vegetable freezing by following this process:
1. Get Vegetables Ready
Get vegetables completely ready before beginning. Shell peas, peel broccoli, remove the strings from snow peas, etc. Keep a bucket or bowl for the compost heap close by, this helps keep the work space clean and allows for quicker prep.
2. Bring Water to Boil
I use a pot with a pasta / steamer basket component. This makes doing multiple batches easier as the water stays hot and you don’t need to dump out the water to strain the vegetables each and every time. If you don’t have that kind of pot, that’s fine, you’ll just have to dump the water through a colander to strain the vegetables in the next step.
3. Boil or Steam the Vegetables
Each vegetable has an optimum time to be blanched before being frozen. I use the table in Preserving Summer’s Bounty as it’s one of my favorite preservation resources, but similar tables can be found in many places.
4. Drain the Vegetables
When using the pasta pot, I simply lift that top section and give it a good shake, letting all the water drain from the vegetables back into the pot. Again, use a colander if you don’t have that kind of pot. What’s important is to get as much water as possible removed from the vegetables.
5. Cool the Vegetables
Spread the drained vegetables out onto a towel and allow to cool. This prevents ice crystals from forming in your frozen vegetables which can comprise flavor and texture. If you’re doing multiple batches or vegetables: let these sit and begin at the beginning, re-using and reheating the water in your pot.
Put the cooled vegetables into serving size portions in freezer bags or jars and freeze for later. As much as I don’t like plastic, this is a place where I use the plastic bags, because they can be stored flat for optimum freezer space usage.
7. Save the Cooking Water
The water is infused with plenty of flavor and nutrients. You could freeze it as a weak vegetable both if desired. I have found that the flavor is a bit too weak for my general taste, however; it makes a delightful cooking liquid for rice if you’re inclined to keep it around. I’ve also been known to pour the cooled cooking water onto plants for a little nutrient boost.
That’s it. Freezing is a great way to preserve the texture of tender vegetables – I just don’t like how broccoli and peas get in the pressure canner and it’s a quick way to move through multiple small batches of garden produce.
How to do streamline the freezing process?