Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summer fun while storing food for winter

Just like in Aesop’s fable, we need to work a little like the ants, to store our produce for winter. But it doesn’t need to be all work, we still have time to play like grasshoppers. It’s pretty easy to freeze many vegetables and fruits. If you have access to fresh blueberries, you can put them in the freezer immediately after picking, without prep. I wash them and the container they came in and then place in a plastic grocery bag. You can do the same with strawberries and raspberries.

For celery and rhubarb, just wash, chop, bag them and freeze. For peppers, just cut out the seeds, wash and let dry, then freeze in bags. The quality is reduced for celery, rhubarb and peppers after freezing, but they still have that garden fresh taste when used in cooking. Most other vegetables require blanching. That is not much work either. I am always thankful in the winter to pull green beans, Swiss chard or peas fresh from my garden out of the freezer.

To blanch vegetables, you need a large saucepan or stockpot and lid with boiling water, a large bowl in the sink with ice water and a colander. Bags or plastic containers and a marker.

Wash and trim the veggies. Place in boiling water, close lid and time. Then remove from the pan and drain a bit, then place in ice water for the same amount of time. When the time is up, remove and drain well. After draining in a colander, I place clean towels on the counter and lay the veggies out for a few minutes before bagging in labeled freezer bags and placing in the freezer.

Asparagus 2 to 3 minutes
Broccoli 3 minutes
Cabbage 3 minutes (cut into wedges)
Corn on the cob 6 to 10 minutes
Green beans-3 minutes
Peas 1 to 2 minutes
Swiss chard and other greens 1-1/2 to 2 minutes (avoid matting leaves)

The Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing & Dehydration is a very good, easy-to-reference guide, and it only costs $5.99.

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