Freezing vegetables is a fast and easy form of preserving food, such as asparagus, broccoli, green beans, peppers, summer squash, tomatoes and berries. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP), fruits and vegetables will last in the freezer for eight to 12 months if prepared and stored properly. Vacuum-seal bags cost more than regular freezer bags, but advocates say they are worth the extra expense because they make frozen foods last even longer.
Most freezer bags are made of No. 4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene), which is not known to leach chemicals. If you’re worried about putting hot food into plastic, however, wait until the food cools before packing it into bags. Freezer bags are ideal because they can lay flat in the freezer and not take up too much room.
Only freeze fruits and vegetables that are in excellent condition and that have been thoroughly cleaned. Some vegetables you plan to freeze should be blanched for a few minutes. Blanching — the process of heating vegetables with boiling water or steam for a set amount of time, then immediately plunging them into cold or iced water — stops enzyme activity that causes vegetables to lose nutrients and change texture. The cooled vegetables can then be packed into freezer-safe storage containers. Fruits or blanched vegetables can also be patted dry with clean kitchen towels, frozen in a single layer on cookie sheets and, then, put into containers. Using cookie sheets for freezing ensures that the fruits and vegetables won’t all stick together, thus allowing you to remove a handful at a time from the container.
Get a blanching pot, which has a basket and cover, or fit a wire basket into a large pot with a lid. Boil 1 gallon of water per pound of vegetables in the pot. Lower the basket of vegetables into vigorously boiling water and cover with the lid. The water should resume boiling within 1 minute; if it doesn’t, you have too much vegetable or too little water. Start the blanching time when the water returns to a boil.
As soon as the recommended blanching time elapses, pull the vegetable basket out of the boiling water and plunge it into cold water (60°F or colder) for the same length of time as you blanched them. Drain the vegetables thoroughly after cooling—extra moisture ruins the produce in the freezer. Package in freezer containers.
|Vegetable||Quantity (yields 1 pint)||Blanching time (minutes)|
|Asparagus||1 to 1 1/2 lbs||2 (small), 3 (medium), 4 (large)|
|Beans (snap, green, wax)||3/4 to 1 lb||3|
|Beets||1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs||Until tender, then slice or dice|
|Brussels sprouts||1 lb||3 (small), 4 (medium), 5 (large)|
|Carrots||1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs||2 (sliced or diced), 5 (small whole)|
|Cauliflower||1 1/4 lbs||3|
|Corn on the cob||6 to 8 ears||7 (small), 9 (medium), 11 (large)|
|Eggplant||1 to 1 1/2 lbs||4|
|Peas (snap or snow)||2 to 2 1/2 lbs||1 1/2 (small), 2 (large)|
This is the fastest, easiest method of freezing vegetables. It was originally thought that this method was acceptable only for chopped onions, peppers, fresh herbs or vegetables that were to be stored for less than 1 month. But I have found that many unblanched, frozen vegetables can be stored for up to twice as long and still maintain good color, flavor and texture. Try this method with onions, peppers, herbs, celery, corn in husks, cabbage, sugar snap peas, summer squash, young tender broccoli and green beans. It is the preferred method to use with berries. It can also be used with high quality fruits, especially ones you plan to use semi-thawed or baked in a dessert such as a crisp or a crumble.
1. You will need a scrubbing-brush, towels, freezer bags and a labeling pen and tape.
2. Select vegetables that are slightly immature. Wash the vegetables and drain on towels.
3. Prepare the vegetables: slice, dice, chop, Julienne or leave whole. Leave berries whole; peel and slice or chop other fruit.
4. Pack in freezer bags, expelling as much air as possible. Label with the name of the fruit or vegetable and date.
5. Freeze in a single layer in the coldest part of the freezer.
6. The best methods of cooking vegetables frozen in this manner are stir-frying and steaming.
It’s pepper season, which means that you will find plenty of peppers at the market for a very reasonable price. Buy extra and freeze them for the winter months when fresh peppers are expensive – especially the red ones.
Peppers can be frozen without blanching:
All you have to do is slice the upper fourth of each pepper off, remove the peppers’ ribs and seeds, place the gutted peppers — along with their tops — inside freezer bags, then expel the air from the bags, seal tight and place them in the freezer.
Roasted Red Pepper Recipe
Wash red peppers and cut out any blemished spots.
Place whole peppers on a hot grill or under a hot broiler. Use tongs to turn peppers as needed until they’re blistered on all sides with brown and black patches.
Place the hot, roasted peppers in a large pot with a lid or enclose them in a paper bag. Allow them to cool. When the peppers are cool, use your hands and a table knife to remove loose pieces of skin. Cut peppers in half and remove cores.
Freeze the roasted peppers on cookie sheets and then pack into freezer-safe containers. Roasted peppers can be used for dozens of recipes.
Stuffed Green Bell Peppers
- 8 frozen whole green peppers
- 2/3 cup uncooked rice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
- 1 six-ounce can of tomato paste
- 3 cups of water
- Salt and pepper
Stand the frozen peppers upright in a Dutch Oven.
Next, heat the rice in the oil in a frying pan and when the rice begins to turn brown add the garlic and onion. When both are browned, add the ground beef to the pan, break the meat into small chunks and cook until brown. Stuff each peppers about half full with the rice-onion-beef mixture.
Wipe out the pan and empty the can of tomato paste into the pan. Heat the paste until visibly darkened, stirring constantly. Add three cups of water to the pan, stir to dissolve the browned paste and add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the tomato sauce into and around each of the stuffed peppers so that they are filled with and standing in liquid. Put the tops back on the peppers, cover the saucepan tightly and cook over low heat until the rice is done (30 to 45 minutes).
Experts recommend blanching sweet corn before freezing it, which locks in taste, texture and nutrition. You can freeze whole, blanched ears, if you have freezer space, or cut the kernels from blanched, cooled ears and freeze only the kernels. I save some of the cobs and simmer them in water to cover and to make corn broth. Corn broth is a great base for vegetable soups and chowders.
For corn that’s ready to heat and eat in the winter, try this easy roasting method. Cut the corn kernels off a dozen or more ears. Spread the kernels out in a big baking pan, dot with 8 oz of butter cut into small pieces and add enough milk to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until piping hot, stirring every 10 minutes. After the roasted corn cools, spoon the mixture into freezer bags.
- 4 slices bacon, diced
- 1 small leek (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cups whole milk
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into a 1/2-inch dice
- 2 cups frozen corn kernels
- Pinch ground nutmeg
In a large saucepan, over medium-low heat, fry the bacon until browned but not crisp, about 5 minutes. Spoon off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings.
Add the leek, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the milk and potatoes. Simmer gently until the potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes.
Add the corn and cook for 5 minutes. Add the nutmeg and ladle into bowls.
When it comes to tomatoes I take the easy way. I prefer to quarter and core the tomatoes and place them, uncooked, in gallon freezer bags. These tomatoes are excellent for making tomato sauce or soup. No extra work removing the skins before freezing, because after being frozen the skins slip right off after I take them out of the freezer.
Pasta Sauce from Frozen Tomatoes
- 1 gallon bag of frozen tomatoes (as described above), partially defrosted
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup minced onion
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
Remove the tomato skins.
Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until tender in a large Dutch Oven., Add tomatoes and seasonings.
Heat on medium to boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for at least 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
For a thicker consistency, remove the lid and raise the heat to medium and cook until more liquid evaporates. The longer this sauce simmers the better it is.
Despite their profusion in the garden, summer squash — including zucchini, yellow squash and patty pans — are lightweights in the flavor department. They’re also spoil rapidly. I like to hollow out zucchini squash for stuffing and steam them before freezing. They are then ready for stuffing and baking throughout the year.
The standard procedure for freezing summer squash is to blanch half-inch slices in boiling water or steam for three minutes. However, I don’t care for them prepared this way since they get mushy when cooked after being frozen.
Another method for freezing summer squash is to slice zucchini horizontally into large, flat slices before blanching. These can be grilled or used to make roll-ups. You can also freeze grated squash to add to baked goods. Zucchini bread is excellent made with frozen, shredded zucchini.
Freezer Zucchini Bread
Defrost the zucchini in the refrigerator overnight or if you forget just defrost it in the microwave. You may want to double the ingredients and make 2 loaves.
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1-1/4 cups frozen shredded zucchini, defrosted
- 1/2 cup walnuts
In a small bowl, beat the sugar, applesauce, oil, egg whites and vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and baking soda; gradually beat into the sugar mixture. Fold in zucchini and walnuts.
Transfer to an 8-inch x 4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° F for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 1 loaf (12 slices).
You can freeze most types of snap beans, including yard-long beans. The more substantial the bean, the better they are for freezing. For example, pencil-thin green beans soften too much when blanched and frozen, but bigger, firmer green beans are fine. After blanching green beans, you can put them directly into freezer containers, or pat them dry and freeze them on a cookie sheet before placing them in freezer bags.
When cooking thawed green beans, use a “dry” cooking method, such as braising them in a little butter or olive oil, instead of cooking them in boiling water.
Baked Parmesan Frozen Green Beans
- 4 cups frozen whole green beans
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and spray with olive oil cooking spray.
Place the bag of green beans in the microwave for 3-4 minutes or until just thawed (or you could leave them out at room temperature for a few hours).
Place the beans on the prepared baking pan, making sure they are evenly spread out and none are laying on top of each other.
Sprinkle seasonings and Parmesan cheese evenly over green beans.
Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.