Many gardeners can’t keep up with the abundant supply of vegetables that their garden produces. But it’s easy to have a stash of healthy, home – grown food in the freezer or cellar that will allow you to savor the taste of summer long after your garden has disappeared beneath three feet of snow.
There are people with less time – consuming and sweat – including ways to store food through the winter. I’ve put together a list of my favorite waste – not, want – not tricks for preserving beans, greens, herbs, onions and garlic, all without sweating over a hot stove.
Green beans, picked at the peak of perfection and frozen in bags, are delightful to have in winter. I serve them as a side dish, and sometimes, I add them to soups and stews. Be sure to harvest your beans before they get too old – even when they are picked fresh off the plant, overly mature beans are woody in texture.
To eliminate the enzymes that can alter the flavor of green beans and turn them into mush when frozen, it is necessary to blanch them first. When you blanch, you boil the beans and then plunge them into ice water.
Trimming and slicing: After rinsing the beans in cold water, trim off the ends. Then slice the beans into more less equal – seized pieces. I cut them into 1/2 inch segments. For neatness, I always slice on the bias.
Blanching: Drop the beans into a big pot of boiling water, cover and cook for for exactly three minutes. Timing begins the moment the beans hit the water. Then transfer the beans to a big bowl of ice water, and chill them for exactly three minutes. Drain it well.
Drying and flash – freezing: Lay the beans out in a single layer on a cloth – lined baking sheet. Blot tops of beans with another towel. Then set the baking sheet in your freezer for approximately an hour.
Transfer the beans to plastic freezer bags. You might limit, the amount per bag to a single serving for each family member. In any event, do not overfill bags. When the bag lies flat in the freezer, the beans should form a single layer.
Vacuum sealing: To avoid freezer burn, express all air from the bag, to create a vacuum – seal. I remove the air by partially sealing the bag, inserting a drinking straw, and sucking. True this is a primitive way to vacuum seal, but it does the job. If you have an electric vacuum – sealing gadget, use it.
Label and Date: Label and date the bag. If properly blanched, frozen and sealed, green beans will stay fresh for an entire year of good eating.
Just think of all the winter meals your summer greens will allow you to make. Any leafy green that is commonly cooked can be preserved through freezing. In addition to the leafy greens, you can freeze collard greens, spinach, dandelion and mustard greens.
For long – term storage, be sure to blanch the greens before you freeze them. The proper blanching time for all greens except collards is two and a half minutes. Collards, which are not tender, require a three – minute blanch
Preparing Summer Greens for the Freezer
Trimming, chopping and washing: Trim off the tough portion of stems. Remove the fibrous stem from kale by simply folding a leaf in half, as pictured, and cutting along the edge. Then cut or tear the leaves into big pieces, place them in a big bowl of water and swish them around to remove any dirt. Rinse thoroughly.
Blanching: Dump the leaves into a big pot of boiling water. Cover the pot, and cook for two and a half minutes (three minutes for collards). Begin timing the moment the greens hit the water. Transfer to a big bowl of ice water, and let them chill for two and a half to three minutes. Drain well.
Drying: Lay the leaves out on a baking sheet lined with either a cloth towel or several paper towels. Blot the top with more towels. The goal here is to absorb excess water – laves don’t have to be completely dry before you freeze them, but try to get them as dry as possible.
Bagging and sealing: Arrange clumps of leaves in serving seizes, then loosely pack into plastic freezer bags. As for the green beans, vacuum seal with gadget or straw. Label and date the bag. Frozen greens will keep for up to one year.