There are basically two ways you can store fresh vegetables for an extended period of time: can or freeze them. You can virtually can any type of vegetable, fruit, or meat. You can freeze all meats and most fruits. When it comes to freezing vegetables, however, you’ll need to choose the best candidates. For example, potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and celery tend to turn soft and mushy when they are frozen, then thawed out. But onions, peppers, and tomatoes can be successfully frozen if you’re going to use them in a soup, stew, or casserole. Other vegetables such as green beans, lima beans, peas, corn, et cetera, tend to maintain their original shape. They can be frozen, then cooked and served, and still look and taste as fresh as they originally were.
Before you begin freezing your fresh produce, make sure you pick items that are in good condition. Avoid using bruised, soft, wormy, or overly-ripe produce. For the best flavors, choose vegetables that have just reached ripeness. This is the time when the flavor is at its peak.
Then, start the process by washing each produce item thoroughly by using clean, cool tap water. Next, you’ll need to prepare the vegetables. That means, you’ll need to remove peas from their pod, remove strings and the ends from green beans, cut the tops and bottoms off of red beets, and so on. You’ll also need to cut certain vegetables up into bite-sized pieces.
The next step is called “blanching”. Blanching helps to keep the natural flavor intact while the item is in a frozen state. There are two ways to blanch vegetables. You can use the first method which is called, “The Boiling Water Method.” To do this, you’ll need to boil a large pot of water on your stove top. Then pour washed, prepared vegetables into the boiling water. When the water begins to boil again, you’ll start timing.
The second method of blanching vegetables is called, “The Steam Method.” This procedure uses a steamer that conveniently fits onto the top of a pot. The vegetables you want to blanch are then placed inside the steamer as soon as the water in the pot begins to boil. The steamer is then covered with its lid, and the timing is started.
The amount of time that vegetables are blanched vary. That is, different vegetables require different amounts of time. Check the Internet or with your local county extension office to find out the exact times.
Once the fresh vegetables have been boiled or steamed, you’ll need to chill them at once in order to halt the cooking process. The most effective way to do this is to carefully place the hot vegetables into a kettle full of cold tap water. Allow the produce to cool down until they are completely cool inside and out. You can easily check the inside temperature of a piece by gently biting into it. Be careful not to burn your tongue or mouth! The item could still be hot on the inside!
After the vegetables are completely cooled, take them out of the cold water and place them in a colander to drain.
The final step in this process is to place the prepared produce into freezer bags or into plastic freezer containers. Pack the produce into each bag or container firmly, and fill each one up. If you’re using freezer bags, you’ll need to carefully squeeze the air out before you seal them shut. Secure the bags and place lids on the containers. Finally, mark each container by listing its contents and the date it was frozen. Then, place your vegetables in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.
I have used this method for freezing fresh vegetables from my garden, produce that was bought from a roadside stand, and items that were given to me, for several years now without fail. Every vegetable I have frozen has come out of the freezer tasting just like it was freshly picked!