Preserving Garden Vegetables
My husband and I are avid gardeners. Part of the gardening process for us is freezing and canning the things we grow all summer long. It is such a great feeling to begin the winter knowing we have cupboards full of canned goods and a freezer full of frozen veggies. I often buy the things we can’t grow as well, like berries, and put them up in addition to our home grown veggies.
To freeze strawberries I simply take the tops off and then stick them in either freezer bags or plastic freezer containers. Some may choose to freeze them individually on cookie trays first to avoid them sticking together, but I never do.
Frozen strawberries will be mushy upon thawing, and are best used in smoothies and pies; don’t expect them to be plump and firm like they are when they are first picked.
Other berries, like blueberries and raspberries just need to be placed in bags of freezer containers. Frozen berries like this make great pie all winter long.
Corn is a pretty messy process, but if you love corn like we do, it’s a process worth doing:
Husk the corn. Get off as much silk as possible.
Put your ears in the boiling water for 3-5 minutes. I usually only do three because I like sweet corn, and if I don’t blanch it long, the sugar doesn’t completely break down in the corn. This makes it crisper when I serve it in the winter.
Remove your ears from the boiling water and put immediately into ice water. This stops the cooking process.
Slice off kernels with a knife. An electric knife is a worthwhile investment for this process.
Fill quart-sized freezer bags with as much corn as your family will eat in one meal.
Squeeze all the air out and freeze.
Onions take some work, but because they don’t need to be blanched, they’re still fairly easy to freeze.
We have found that soaking them in water helps lift off the outer layers of loose peels and softens up the under layers for easier peeling. We peel them all outside, dumping the peel in our garden afterward. Then we take them inside, cut off the tops and bottoms (to get the green or the roots that may be left), throw them in the food processor, dice them up, and stick them in quart-sized freezer bags.
Usually 25 bags will carry us through a winter of soups, meatloafs, and other casseroles that call for onions. I’ll use my frozen onions for these types of things and use my fresh onions for omolettes, salads, and tacos.
I think these are some of the easiest veggies to put up:
Cut in half.
De-seed by pulling off the top and then tapping the pepper on the counter (don’t worry if all the seeds don’t come out)
Slice, then dice.
Pack in quart-sized freezer bags and freeze.
Green peppers are very mushy after being frozen and only work for dishes that don’t need crisp peppers. They do not work well for stir fries or salads, but they are great for casseroles.
Banana Peppers and Jalepenos
Use caution when working with these! Don’t rub your eyes until your hands have been washed thoroughly! The oils will remain on your hands unless you scrub them and will burn your eyes if you touch them while it’s still on them.
I can these:
Sterilize your canning jars by running them through your dishwasher or boiling them in hot water.
Get your brine going on the stove: Boil 1 quart of water, 1 pint of white vinegar, and 1/4 – 1/2 cup of salt.
Simply slice off the tops of your peppers, then slice the peppers in 1/4″ slices.
Pack your jars with the pepper slices.
Fill the jars (leave 1/2 inch of space for pints, 1 inch of space for quarts).
Take a knife and go all around the inside edges of your packed jars to release air bubbles.
Place your tops on the jars.
Hot water bathe your jars for 10 minutes.
You can leave the peppers whole and can them in the same brine mixture. You can also experiment with adding heads of fresh dill and cloves of garlic to your jars.
Our favorite canned vegetable is pickled beans!
Prepare for the canning process by sterelizing the jars.
Begin your brine mixture. I have two recipes I like (yields 4 pints, double for 4 quarts):
2 1/2 cups of vinegar
2 1/2 cups of water
1/2 cup of salt
Pack your jars with whole beans, with the tops snapped off.
Add to each jar 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper (or you can add a whole cayenne pepper instead)
1 clove of garlic
1 head of dill
Seal the tops and boil in your water bath for 10 minutes.
Another recipe I like, that has a sweeter taste to it is: (yields 3 pints, double for 3 quarts)
1 3/4 cup of vinegar
1 1/2 cup of water
4 tsp of salt
1/2 cup of sugar
Pack your jars as usual, adding a head of dill, a cayenne pepper, and a clove of garlic.
Usually, after we do these up, we can’t wait until winter and open a jar the same day it’s been processed (after it has cooled however)!
I freeze tomatoes. These are another easy vegetable to do up:
Simply toss them into the food processor and dice. Put into freezer containers. Voila! You have tomatoes for casseroles and soups all winter long.
There are so many variations of how to can and freeze garden vegetables. It does take quite a bit of work, but it is work that causes you to sleep sweetly at night. Garden season is a short but busy time that can continue all year long when you learn how to can and freeze!