Sun-ripened flavors are one of gardening's simple joys. Learn how to freeze fresh vegetables to enjoy the goodness all year long.
A juicy tomato, crisp broccoli, pungent peppers—can you freeze vegetables and savor the same rich taste later? Yes, you can, and the process isn't hard. Once you understand some basic terms about freezing vegetables, you'll be on your way to preserving your own homegrown harvest. Learn how to freeze vegetables and keep your family eating healthy all year long.
The secret to wonderful frozen vegetables lies in the quality of veggie you use. Freezing can't enhance a vegetable's flavor or quality, so it's vital to start with the freshest veggies you can find. If you're not growing your own, look for vegetables in season at local farmers' markets. Or purchase family favorites in bulk when they're on sale at the store.
Plan ahead so you'll be freezing vegetables within a few hours of picking or purchasing, if possible. The shorter time you store veggies before freezing, the better flavor and texture your frozen vegetables will have.
You can use several methods to go about freezing vegetables. Some, like onions and peppers, can be frozen raw with good results. The veggie consistency changes and they lose their crunchy texture, but the frozen result is tasty and versatile in cooking. For many other vegetables, it's important to blanch, or partially cook, the items prior to freezing.
Fresh Broccoli Beats Store-Bought Every Time
Want to enjoy fresh-from-the-garden broccoli all year long? It's a snap to freeze this fiber-rich veggie to use in stir fries, soup and more. Learn the process for how to freeze broccoli in this article by Julie A. Martens.
Overwhelmed with Cucumbers?
Cucumber vines can be prolific producers of the treasured summertime veggie. Don't think it's possible to freeze cucumbers? Well, the secret lies in the preparation. Learn how to freeze cucumbers for summer-fresh fare in any season.
Never Have Too Many Cherry Tomatoes
While frozen cherry tomatoes are no longer fit to be used in tossed salads, you can blend them with herbs or use in soups and stew. In this article, Julie A. Martens offers several great uses for frozen cherry tomatoes and describes the best way to preserve them.
Freeze Spinach for Soups and More
While you won't want to serve frozen spinach in fresh salads, the leaves will work nicely in soup, casseroles and stir fries. You'll just want to freeze young leaves. Avoid the older or yellowing leaves as they'll produce a nasty taste and rubbery texture. Ever tried making frozen spinach cubes? Get more tips on how to freeze spinach in this article on how to freeze spinach.
Can You Freeze Kale?
Yes, you can freeze kale. Frozen kale works well in smoothies and blends well into quiches, crock pot stews and soups. Find more uses for frozen kale and how to best preserve this nutrient-packed green.
Put Your Onions in the Deep Freeze
Too many onions to eat right away? Not a problem. They freeze easily, and can be used in a variety of ways. Learn how to prep onions for safe storage in the deep freeze, how to keep the onion odor low and when to use frozen onions in your dishes.
Freeze Asparagus for Great Flavor
While frozen asparagus spears won't be as crisp as garden-fresh stems, they can still be used in many dishes. Here are the steps to preserving this nutrient-dense vegetable and some ideas on how to use frozen asparagus to add flavor to your meals.
Can You Freeze Garlic Cloves?
You definitely can freeze garlic. In fact, you can freeze garlic in many ways. While frozen garlic lacks the crunchy texture of fresh, the flavor remains strong—and definitely won't have the chemical taste that sometimes accompanies jarred garlic. Learn several ways to freeze garlic and how to use it to add flavor to food.
How Do You Freeze Eggplant?
Eggplant doesn't keep very long, and you won't be able to can it without pulverizing it beyond recognition. So, how do you preserve your delicious eggplant? Forget your canner and learn how to freeze eggplant. Here are several freezing methods you can try.
Enjoy a Summertime Favorite All Year
Learn how to freeze corn and you'll be able to enjoy this summertime treat all year—even with your holiday turkey. Freezing corn is simple, and it's a great way to introduce kids to food preservation. Learn the steps to freezing corn in this article by Julie A. Martens.
How to Freeze Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts bring more than taste to the table. This cabbage cousin boasts vitamins and is high in protein, so you'll want to make your locally-grown Brussels sprouts last. Learn the two ways to freeze Brussels sprouts and ways to include this frozen super veggie on your table.
Steps to Freezing Cabbage
Want to enjoy the nutrition offered by cabbage all year? This unsung hero of the vegatable garden adapts well to the freezing process. Start with dense, solid heads that feel weighty for their size. Learn more about the steps to freezing cabbage in this article from Julie A. Martens.
Freeze Celery for Soups
Celery is mostly water, and the freezing process ruptures cell walls, resulting in a limp, mushy product. But frozen celery works fabulously in casseroles, sauces, stock, and other hot concoctions. You can also use it as an aromatic with soups, broths for cooking rice, or roasts, tossing after cooking. Learn the steps to freezing celery in this article.
Overstocked on Mushrooms?
Mushrooms might last about a week in the refrigerator, which might not be enough time to enjoy the bounty you may have grown or foraged. Consider freezing mushrooms. Learn which method of freezing mushrooms works best, and get some ideas for how to use them in recipes.
With blanching, you scald vegetables in boiling water or steam for a brief time. Blanching stops the enzymes that cause vegetables to decay, a process that occurs even in frozen storage. The process helps preserve vegetable color, texture, flavor, and nutrients. Under-blanching awakens decay enzymes and is actually worse than not blanching at all. Over-blanching is like overcooking and zaps flavor, color, and nutrients. Blanching times vary by vegetable. You can find them at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
To blanch in boiling water, prepare vegetables according to recipe directions and add to boiling water. Don't add too many vegetables to water at once, or you risk cooling the water. A general rule of thumb is to use one gallon of water per one pound of vegetables. After adding vegetables to boiling water, place a lid on your pot to hasten the boiling. Start timing blanching when water returns to a boil after adding veggies. If it takes longer than one minute for the water to return to boiling, you're adding too many veggies for the water volume.
Use steam blanching for broccoli, winter squash (including pumpkin), and sweet potatoes. You can also steam blanch greens like spinach or kale. With steam blanching, place a steamer basket or colander into your pot so that it suspends veggies above the boiling water. Aim to place vegetables in a single layer in the steamer basket so that all veggies receive heat evenly and quickly. As soon as you add veggies to the pot, place the lid on the pot and start timing.
An easy way to steam veggies is to use a larger pot, like a canner, that fits a colander perched on the lip of the pot. That way, you can easily remove all veggies at once when steaming is complete. If the lid won't fit with the colander in place, try using a cookie sheet to cover the pot. For either blanching method—boiling water or steaming—save the water to use for making flavorful stock or soup.
After blanching, quickly cool food to stop the cooking process by plunging hot vegetables into ice water. Be sure to have ample ice on hand for cooling, because as you add hot veggies, water will warm. Consider freezing multiple ice packs or filling milk cartons with water and freezing prior to blanching vegetables. Many cooks use two ice baths in succession, splitting the cooling time between baths. In general, plan on one pound of ice for each pound of veggie you process. Cool vegetables for the same amount of time you heated them.
Drain veggies thoroughly after cooling. Blot on towels, or use a salad spinner. It's important to remove as much water as possible to limit the amount of ice crystals forming on vegetables. Create serving-size portions, and package veggies into airtight freezer bags or containers. If using containers, leave some head space to allow room for expansion as materials freeze. A vacuum sealer creates airtight pouches. Or remove air from bags using a straw to suck it out, or submerge filled, open bags into water, keeping the bag opening above the water surface.
Work quickly to freeze foods while they're still cold from the ice water bath. Don't overload your freezer with unfrozen food. The goal is to have food frozen in 24 hours. A general rule of thumb is to add two to three pounds of unfrozen food per cubic foot. Position packages near the coldest parts of the freezer and spaced apart from one another to allow cold air to flow around them. Once they're frozen, pack them more efficiently.
Vegetables freeze faster and store longer in a deep freeze than a frost-free freezer compartment in a refrigerator. Vacuum-packed vegetables last longest in either situation. In a typical zipper freezer bag, expect a deep freeze to preserve full-flavored vegetables for up to 14 months, compared to 9 months in a refrigerator freezer compartment. You can eat frozen vegetables after those timeframes; they just won't taste as good.
- How to Freeze Corn
- Freezing Zucchini: A Great Way to Chill Out
- How to Freeze Broccoli
- How to Freeze Okra
- Can You Freeze Mushrooms?
- Freezing Eggplant
- Can You Freeze Celery?
- Freezing Onions
- Freezing Cabbage
- Can You Freeze Garlic Cloves?