week 11: filling the freezer

I admit it: I am still too scared to can things. Having glass in boiling water does not sound like a good idea for someone who, for the first time ever, just cooked pasta & rice really successfully. This week. I always over- or under-cook boiled things. Because I think boiling is weird.

But what I’ve learned is there are loads of ways to fill your freezer, to feed you through the winter. Our pantry still has random odds & ends, but I’m not worrying about restocking the shelves with cans of, well, anything.

The key to the freezer is blanching. It helps your summer produce keep its color & nutrients while also keeping it safe in the freezer. Your produce will be ready to sauté or throw into soup whenever you are. To blanch, just

  1. Clean & chop (if necessary–squash, sure; beans, no need) the vegetables.
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil. Drop in the vegetables; let them boil for 2-3 minutes (or 5-7 if it’s something sturdy, like asparagus). I do this in small batches, using the same water for a lot of veggies.
  3. Scoop out with a slotted spoon & drop into a second bowl of cold water. (I use lots of ice.) Let them sit a minute or two until cool, them put into gallon-sized bags.
  4. Fill until 3/4 full. Let rest on the counter until they’re room temperature. Seal, getting out as much air as possible, and pop them into the freezer.

I have also stocked up on loads of freezer-safe glass storage containers. There are loads of reasons I prefer glass. Glass is endlessly recyclable, while plastic degrades. It doesn’t trap smells. It doesn’t stain. It doesn’t melt or release harmful chemicals in the microwave. Plus, it just looks nice, right?

Now, don’t throw out that water! You washed the vegetables, so there’s nothing gross floating around in there. What you’ve done is start a vegetable stock. Just follow a basic vegetable stock recipe, using this water instead. There are loads of nutrients floating in there–don’t just throw it down the drain.

So, we’ve blanched a lot of beans, zucchini, summer squash. I also was way more conscious this year of buying extra fruit at the farmers’ market to freeze. I just slice it and arrange it on a cookie sheet, then let it freeze solid. Then I put it in a gallon-sized bag for storage. This keeps things from getting all stuck together. (I do the same thing with berries.)

After all of that, there was still lots of room in there. I’ve frozen the herbs we grew this summer in ice cube trays, so that they can be dropped into broths or teas for flavoring. And I’ve started taking half of the soup we make, putting it in a quart jar & adding that to the freezer. It’s great for slow nights, but it also means we’re not getting tired of a soup. We only have to eat half at a time, then if we need more we can grab any of the flavors from the freezer.

Sure, we’ve tried lots of “refrigerator freezing” or “freezer canning,” but I’m by no means an expert on this yet. I say, Google it & find whatever looks good. Every recipe I’ve tried so far has been worth the time & the adventure. Plus, no boiling required! Have fun with it–because you can pick just about anything. And if you can’t, you can probably turn it into jam.

These tactics have saved loads of food from the garbage. It’s awesome–and it means that as long as I remember in the morning, I can grab something to thaw for dinner that night. Lots of effort up front, zero when I get home from work tired & hungry.

What food preservation tips have kept you going? Any favorite recipes to share?

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About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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