Save Now and Enjoy Later: Freezing Summer Produce

If you find yourself sitting at the kitchen table grinning at the cornucopia of summer bounty that is filling your fruit bowl, you’re probably not alone as it’s hard not to appreciate this gift of summer goodness. You more that likely are trying to decide, do I eat fresh the cantaloupe or the watermelon for breakfast today? Or should I make another amazing tomato sandwich for lunch? You know the ones -where tomato is the featured flavor cut into a ½ inch slice on your favorite bread with just a spread of mayo.

Well, before you start enjoying today’s abundance you may want to start thinking about winter. What? Winter? Why? Sorry for throwing a wrench into your late summer daydream but consider this: There is nothing like that summer tomato, peach, melon, or green bean taste to cure the wintertime blues. And with the abundance come the best prices of the summer, so doing some work now could bring very pleasant results in December.

No, you don’t have to take a canning or pickling class you can use your freezer to save some summer and its not as hard as you think. Why not freeze some tomatoes for sauce? Try this technique, it’s easy and yields great results.

Freezing Tomatoes
Tomatoes may be frozen whole, sliced, chopped, or puréed. Additionally, you can freeze them raw or cooked, as juice or sauce, or prepared in the recipe of your choice. Thawed raw tomatoes may be used in any cooked-tomato recipe. Do not try to substitute them for fresh tomatoes, however, since freezing causes their texture to become mushy. Tomatoes should be seasoned just before serving rather than before freezing; freezing may either strengthen or weaken seasonings such as garlic, onion, and herbs.

Preparation: Select firm, ripe tomatoes for freezing. Sort the tomatoes, discarding any that are spoiled. Wash them in clean water as recommended above. Dry them by blotting with a clean cloth or paper towels.

Prepare tomatoes as described above. Cut away the stem scar. Place the tomatoes on cookie sheets and freeze. Tomatoes do not need to be blanched before freezing. Once frozen, transfer the tomatoes from the cookie sheets into freezer bags or other containers. Seal tightly. To use the frozen tomatoes, remove them from the freezer a few at a time or all at once. To peel, just run a frozen tomato under warm water in the kitchen sink. Its skin will slip off easily.

Freezing Melons
Now that we have our sauce covered how about some melons? Choose a favorite like Cantaloupe, Crenshaw, Honeydew, or Watermelon.

Preparation: Select firm-fleshed, well-colored, ripe melons. Cut in half and remove seeds and rind. Cut melons into slices, cubes or balls. Pack into freezer stable containers, leaving headspace. Seal and freeze.

Freezing Green Beans
And of course you’ll want some green beans this winter! To freeze green beans, steam for 2-3 minutes, remove from heat and let them cool thoroughly before placing them in freezer bags and storing them in your freezer.

Freezing Blueberries
And blue berries for pancakes are a must!

  • To freeze blueberries, place fresh berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze them right from the container—be sure to not wash before freezing
  • If you find it hard to not wash your berries before you freeze then try this easy washing tip. Place in a colander and submerge two or three times in a sink full of cold water. Drain well and place them on an absorbent terry cloth towel and pat dry (very gently) before freezing
  • Once frozen, transfer to a re-sealable plastic bag and store

While not a summer staple bananas will often turn quickly in the summer heat. Don’t fret they can be frozen for later use as well. Just pop them in the freezer, peel and all; or peel them, and then freeze them. Either way will work. If you decide to freeze your bananas in their peel, the peel will turn black; but it won’t affect the bananas in the least.

With all this food saved wintertime is looking pretty good.

-For the Love of Produce, Mark Mulcahy

 

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