What started out as volunteering at our church’s Farmers Market, turned into a money-saving, AND taste-bud saving trick. My Mennonite family genetics kicked in to gear, and I quickly learned how preserve our fresh foods.
I know we are all looking forward to spring, and eventually summer. So I thought I would warm up our screens by discussing how I preserve all my Farmer’s Market purchases, as well as other everyday “fresh foods”.
My grandmother taught me most of what I know. She raised an army of kids, and had to make the best of what they had. And what they grew on their own, is what they ate. Have you ever had my Grandmas strawberries? Or her fresh-baked pies? Or her famous canned peaches??!! Well.. you aren’t livin’! Grandma canned most of her own items to preserve them, but I really try not to use preservatives, so the only items I have personally canned are: peaches, pears, and apple sauce.
Would you believe me if I said that I have had enough FRESH FOODS stored in our house to last ALL WINTER?! That’s right folks.. all winter! The steps I use are VERY SIMPLE! And hopefully after you read this you can do it too! I use very little, if any preservatives (canning salt) and for the most part I have it all stored in our deep freezer.
Now, I know some of you will say, “I don’t have a deep freezer!”. That doesn’t mean you can preserve your Fresh Foods, it just means that you need to learn some mad Tetris skills to fit them in your “everyday” freezer. I think I can hear that legendary Tetris theme music playing somewhere in the distance…
Here is a list of items I typically have saved for winter:
Peppers (Green, Orange, Yellow, and Red Bell Peppers. As well as, Jalapeno and Banana) I cut them into a variety of sizes, flash freeze them, and then place them in a freezer bag. They can be used for just about anything except for cold salads.
Tomatoes (Full size, and Cherry) On larger tomatoes I cut out the core, place into freezer bags and set them flat in the freezer. I usually place the cherry tomatoes in between the curves of the larger ones so that I’m getting the most for my space. Tomatoes, no matter the size, will thaw out to be more like mush. The juice is great, and the “meat” tastes yummy, but the texture is not right for cold salads, sandwiches, etc. I used these mainly for chili, stews, lasagna, sauces, etc…
Zucchini is very similar to tomatoes. When they thaw they lose all their structure. So I either cube it and flash freeze it, or I shred it and place it right in the freezer bag. I use the cubed to saute with tomatoes, or to place in soups. I use the shredded for things like zucchini bread.
Corn and Green Beans For both of these options I blanch them and freeze into separated freezer bags by serving sizes. These are great to cook for anything! Soups, sides, etc..
Potatoes (Sweet, Red, and White), Garlic, & Onions (Red and White) I keep these in my cold cellar. It’s basically just a dark cold room. I place them inside of old orange produce bags, or just simply lay them out onto a cardboard box. Every month they should be rotated around to keep them from getting molded on one side. I also keep them up off the cement floor, so they don’t collect the moisture out of the cement.
Cantaloupe and Honeydew These are both great summer fruits that I miss in the winter. So I cube them, flash freeze them, and then place them in freezer bags. These are great for teething babies. I give a cube to the little one and she gums at it until it is mushy enough to eat! YUM!
Berries (Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries) YUUUUM! I flash freeze all of these, and place in large individual freezer bags. I use these for baking, snacks, cereal, desserts, etc.. There is nothing better than fresh local grown berries in the dead of winter!
Bananas I section cut these, flash freeze, and place in freezer bags. They are great to use for deserts, smoothies, dairy-free ice cream, etc. If I see that a banana is browning before we will eat it.. in the freezer it goes!
Mango Now this is not a local fruit, but you can still purchase them from the supermarket when they are in season and on sale. I cube them, flash freeze, and place in the freezer bag.
Peaches and Pears These I can using a water bath. I’m certain there is a way to freeze these, but I choose to use my Grandma’s infamous canning recipe. Which if you’re good, I might share sometime! I enjoy the time with her, and the memory filled taste. I usually buy about 2 bushels each and it gives me (depending on size), about 25 quart mason jars each. Next year I may attempt pear-sauce instead of so much apple sauce.
Apples It is possible to keep apples in the cold cellar too over winter. As long as you continue to rotate them, they will stay for months. I however, just simply make applesauce with them. I sometimes can them, but other times I freeze it in bags, and after it is thawed I transfer to a glass jar.
Grapes We love to take frozen grapes to the park on a hot summer day! These are so refreshing! I just slice them in half, and place them in a ziplock bag! Easy!
Other Items I Freeze
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce (Which is also pretty killer)
Here is an example of how I “Flash Freeze” produce.
This past week our local supermarket had red peppers on sale for VERY CHEAP. So, of course, I bought in bulk. We are BIG stir fry eaters in this house, so these will be put to good use!
1. The first step I do is clean them. I gently wash them with cold water and a produce brush, and dry with a paper towel.
2. I slice them however I think I’ll use them. This time around I sliced them in long strips.
3. Next I lay them flat onto a baking sheet, (It doesn’t have to be a pretty one, just needs to be clean), and then I put them flat in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Flash Freezing prevents them from sticking together. That way you can just reach in the bag and grab what you need- no fuss.
4. Lastly, I place them into a freezer storage bag and put them in the freezer!
TA DA! Isn’t that so easy??!! Now you can have clean, local grown, no preservatives, fresh food ALL YEAR LONG! In the long run, buying locally at the Farmers Markets etc, can save you so much money. And if you are purchasing in bulk (to last all winter) don’t be afraid to ask for a deal! Even if you just purchase an extra box or two of beans a week, that will add up to a nice selection by the time they are no longer in season. Not to mention.. it will taste like summer all year long! Eventually I will be posting a “How-To” on blanching. It is JUST AS EASY, just keep your eye out!