At this point in the season the farmers market tables are a riot of color, piled precariously with mountains of perfect produce – succulent heirloom tomatoes in their misfit beauty, corn fit to burst at the touch, luminous summer squash lined up in flirty nonchalance. But you know what will happen. The abundance will slowly dwindle as the apples start taking over, and all of a sudden, it’s roots and kale until spring.
With the canning revival in full swing, sterilized jars and water baths are covering the counters of many a kitchen. But if you shy away from canning or have ample freezer space to supplement the pantry, freezing produce is an excellent way to preserve the local harvest for the bleaker months. Although frozen vegetables have taken a bad rap in the past, I’d take frozen produce in a heartbeat over old produce, commercially canned products, or produce imported from afar. Nutrients aren’t lost, and if frozen properly, neither is texture nor flavor.
- Use the freshest produce you can find, and freeze it as soon as you can – the quicker the better. Make sure to avoid the 12 most toxic fruits and vegetables.
- Wash and dry everything thoroughly. Remove pits and cut into uniform sized pieces.
- Use containers, freezer bags or a vacuum seal system – and remember to leave headroom for expansion.
- If you are watching your use of plastic, the ever-popular Ball makes freezer safe glass jars—yay! Label with contents and date.
BlanchingAlthough freezing slows enzyme action, it doesn’t completely stop it – therefore, most produce requires some method of heat treatment, generally blanching, to inactivate the ripening enzymes and to preserve color, texture, and flavor. To blanch vegetables, place the washed, prepared vegetables in a pot of boiling water. Roughly use a gallon of water per pound of prepped vegetables. Boil water, and time the blanching as soon as the water returns to a boil after submerging the produce. After the recommended time has elapsed, remove the vegetables and plunge them into very cold (you can add ice) water for the same amount of time that you blanched them for.
Most frozen produce should be good stored for nine to 12 months. These are the basic methods for summer’s most popular produce.
EggplantCut into slices, sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 30 minutes. Pat dry and sauté gently in olive oil until just tender. Cool, pack, seal, and label.
Zucchini and summer squash
This updated story was originally published in 2012.