Friday, August 16, 2013

What to preserve right now?

This question was posed by a reader earlier this week:

... I am also wondering if you have any thoughts about what summer veggies
 I should stock in a freezer now before they become scarce? 
and how would I best preserve them? The parsley suggestion (earlier post) 
is a great one, does that work with other herbs? Like basil?

This is a great question! I thought about three criteria in shaping my answer:
  1. What really tastes wonderful now and the frozen version from the grocery store just isn't the same
  2. What is easy to prepare for freezing
  3. What do we actually use in the winter
With those things in mind, these are my top five essentials:
  1. Blueberries
  2. Basil
  3. Corn (The Husband would put this one #1)
  4. Strawberries
  5. Green Beans
How do I preserve the essentials and how do we actually use them in the winter:

The flavor of these are amazing right now. You can pick your own at places like Doe Orchards or grab some at the farmer's markets.

To preserve: Wash. Dry off somewhat. Scoop into either a ziploc freezer bag or vacuum seal bags of about two cups worth. Some instructions say not to wash them before you freeze them, because the walls of the fruit will burst more easily. I wash them beforehand, because I know that I'm not going to wash them when they come out of the freezer. 

Winter Use: Blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes and smoothies.


To preserve: See earlier post on freezing basil. It is one of my favorite foods, and to buy basil in the winter is just not worth it. 

Winter Use: Pesto chicken mozzarella sandwiches, and pesto chicken pasta.

- The flavor of summer corn should have poems written about it. Then to get a small bite of this taste in the middle of the winter, well, it will just make you happy.

To preserve: Shuck corn. Blanch for 3 minutes. Pull out of boiling water and let cool to room temperature. Use a knife to cut off the kernels. Freeze corn kernels in a vacuum sealed bag. I freeze about 2-3 cobs of corn worth per bag.

Winter Use: Corn Chowder, corn bread, or just pan fry the corn in butter until it's heated through. 

- They are currently past season, but next June definitely pick some either from the field or at farmer's markets. 

To preserve: Wash. Hull the strawberries by removing the green tops. Slice in quarters. Freeze in a ziploc bag or vacuum seal bag.

Winter Use: Smoothies

Green Beans:
I find the taste of summer fresh frozen green beans far surpasses the taste of typically frozen grocery store green beans. 

To preserve: Cut off the ends. Steam for 2 minutes. Plunge into bowl of ice cold water. Vacuum seal in a bag, in the portions the size your family will eat in one meal. 

Winter Use: Side dish of green beans. When you pull them out of the freeze, steam only long enough to heat through. Also use in Minestrone soup. 

If you have more time, here are some additional things that can be worth preserving right now:
  1. Peaches: Flavor now is fantastic, but we haven't found as many uses for these in the winter. To freeze, simply remove the skins, slice in halves, put in freezer bag or vacuum seal.
  2. Greens: swiss chard, beet greens, kale - You can find these in the grocery store in the winter. Freezing them now creates an ease of use so that they are quickly available to make Sausage Pasta Greens.
  3. Applesauce and/or Pearsauce: These are delicious but take a little more effort to turn into sauce. The Pearsauce I think it particularly worth the effort.
  4. Tomatoes: If you make tomato sauce from scratch this should move up the list to a top 5. I found that we actually don't do that all that often right now, despite our intentions. If you're really in a rush, you can core the tomatoes, put them on a baking sheet and freeze them whole. Alternatively, you can roast the tomatoes and freeze them. Or go ahead and make tomato sauce and can it.
  5. Zucchini: I like having a couple bags of this in the freezer. I use it in minestrone soup. Also, it goes into Morning Glory muffins. To freeze, slice in about 1/4 slices. Steam for 2 minutes. Put in freezer bag. Freeze.
What do others find is worth preserving right now and how do you use it in the winter?


  1. Have you tried flash freezing berries? I do this on small cookie sheets.

  2. Thanks for suggesting this! I have flash frozen raspberries, but didn't extrapolate the idea to blueberries. It makes total sense. Likely would work with peach slices too. Have you had success with other vegetables or fruits?

    1. I have done multiple fruits, but right now I am not consistent about preserving anything :) The other day I froze some strawberries that were getting too ripe and even portions of a casserole this way.