When the weather threatens to dip below freezing, it’s time to clear out the vegetable garden. Most seasons that means I have an abundance of tomatoes, peppers, summer squash and eggplants I need to preserve.
I’ve found my fridge’s freezer offers a time-saving solution to other preserving methods, such as canning. The freezer allows for small-batch freezing, it’s easy to do and many fruits and vegetables can be preserved with just a little preparation.
Besides reducing food waste, freezing maintains the color, flavor and texture of garden-grown produce. Freezing also retains important nutrients.
However, freezing doesn’t sterilize foods, like canning does. Keep food safety at top of mind and freeze only the freshest produce using approved best practices. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is an excellent resource
Here are some creative options for freezing tomatoes, peppers. summer squash, and eggplant:
Tomatoes need to be prepared before freezing. For fresh tomatoes, wash, peel, and place whole tomatoes in bags or containers. Another option is to cook tomatoes into sauce, roast or bake them into a savory tomato-cheese quickbread for freezing. For green tomatoes, saute, stew, roast, bake or shred before freezing.
For fresh, whole peppers (like jalapenos), put them in a freezer bag. When ready to use, remove the number of peppers you want, wash, thaw slightly and chop to use. For fresh sweet peppers, wash, stem, remove seeds, slice and quick steam 1-2 minutes before freezing. Another alternative is to roast peppers on a grill or under the oven broiler until the skin blisters; cool and remove seeds and stems before placing in freezer bags or containers. CAUTION-wear gloves and protective eyewear when working with chile peppers.
Fresh squash freezing options include slicing and placing on a cookie sheet, freezing and using frozen in soups, frittatas, etc. Preserve squash by baking into quick breads and cakes; stuff squash, clean, stuff, bake, freeze.
Bake eggplant into a cake or make into batches of ratatouille and freeze for a quick meal on busy weeknights.
Please add your ideas for freezing small-batches of fresh produce from your garden.
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