freezing

3 Ways to Deal with Green Tomatoes

The sorting.

The sorting.

At some point anyone who gardens where there will be frost must decide what they will do with the end of season green tomatoes.
There are basically 3 things you can choose:

1. Freeze them
You can simply slice, place on a cookie sheet and freeze. Once they are frozen, place in a container or plastic bag. By freezing them individually, they won’t all be stuck together.

This way you can thaw and have fried green tomatoes throughout the winter.

A Facebook friend of mine says you can actually prep them first, then individually freeze, making them ready to fry with no defrosting needed.

They're in there, trust me.

The wall of volunteer plants. There are many green tomatoes in there, trust me.

2. Can them.
Green tomato relish is a wonderful alternative to many other, commercially processed, condiments. You can also pickle green tomatoes, make mincemeat from them, or add to your sauerkraut.

All of these are a great way to free up a little freezer space and instead fill up the larder shelves.

Ripening on the vine.

Preparing to trim the plants before ripening fruit on the vine.

3. Let them ripen.
The most common way to ripen tomatoes indoors is to wrap them individually in newspaper or brown lunch bags, place in a dark spot, and keep an eye on them.

If you have a lot of tomatoes, this can be rather tedious. You really have to watch so that you get to them when they are ready.

A little easier is to place them loosely in an airy basket and put that in a dark spot. This makes it easier to see which ones are ready first.

We also tried George Washington Carver’s method of hanging them upside down to ripen on the vine. We learned the hard way to trim off the excess leaves first, or you will be soon sweeping them up. Again you want the tomatoes out of direct light, and preferably in a warm area.

We like this method the best. We just hung them in a spare room and ‘picked’ them as they ripened.

This year we have so many volunteer plants they set fruit late, that we will likely be doing some of each method… and counting our blessings along the way.

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Categories: freezing, How to Store, other

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15 Foods You Can Freeze Easily, Pt. 2

We were talking yesterday about produce that requires little prep before freezing. Read pt. 1 here.
One of the advantages I’ve found is that this allows you to set the pace as far as canning goes, and not be forced to be in the kitchen when you would rather be in the garden.

hot peppers

ready for the big chill

For us, freezing fruit in the summer saves time; come fall that fruit becomes jam, freeing up some freezer space.
Likewise tomatoes, onions and peppers frozen now become salsa later, when the snow is falling and the garden is in slow mode.

Freezing can also save you money, as you can buy produce that ‘must be used now’ and just freeze it to use at your convenience.

freezing veggies

buy cheap, toss into freezer

You can read the first 6 on the list here, then we can continune.

7. Onions: peel, slice or chop, and use as needed.

8. Rhubarb: chop, IQF for use in pies and jam. Mmmm- rhubarb pie…

9. Grapes: a great way to have grapes all year, just wash then IQF

10. Squash: Many people I know, including me until I found out more info, puree their squash before freezing. My fellow blogger Byddi set me straight. Freezing squash turns it into mush anyway, so just portion out what you’ll use in recipes and freeze.

freezing veggies

rhubarb, squash and lavender

11. Melons (honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon): freeze these peeled of course, in chunks or balls. Serve before they are completely thawed.

12. Currants (the fruit, not the raisin): IQF

13. Kiwi: peel, freeze. Strawberry-Kiwi Jam. Now we’re talking.

14. Figs: likewise.

And last but not least- because we ‘bundled’-

15. Most herbs and edible flowers: including chives, nasturtiums, basil, lavender, lemon grass and oregano- to name a few. For chives and lemon grass, roll them into a log, wrap in plastic and freeze. Then, just slice off what you need.
Similarly other herbs can just be frozen, then break off pieces.
Edible flowers are nice to freeze in water in ice cube trays, to use for cold drinks or punch.

Did I miss anything?

Categories: freezing, How to Store, saving money & time

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15 Foods You Can Freeze Easily, Pt. 1

Freezing fresh produce in general is not difficult- with some veggies you need to blanch  (immerse in boiling water for a short period of time) in order to stop the aging process, and also to retain color.

Likewise there are some, fruits in particular, that either need to be dipped in a food preservation substance such as sugar or dry ascorbic acid, or frozen in a syrup.

And then there are the ones that practically take care of themselves- you got to love it.

freezing tomatoes

whole or sliced

For any food you are going to freeze, be sure to wash them off first and let them dry. Remove any stems and separate out produce that is bruised or otherwise compromised.

For many we spread them out whole on a tray so they freeze individually. In the food biz this is referred to as IQF- Individually Quick Frozen, and although we don’t have a flash freezer, we still use the term. I’ve also heard it called ‘tray pack’.

After they are frozen, place in freezer jars or bags. Vacuuming sealing is wonderful.

This method makes it easy to grab just a little of what you want- say, for Blueberry Pancakes. Num.

freezing pineapple

freezing fresh pineapple and lemon zest

1. Berries: Leave whole, IQF

2. Pineapple: Peel, cut into chunks or rings, IQF

3. Coconut: Grate, freeze in specific sizes (such as 1/2 cup) for recipes.

4. Peppers: Sweet or hot, you can freeze them whole. The sweet will get sweeter, and the hot- yea, you guessed it.

5. Bananas: Over-ripe bananas are not only healthier for you, you can get them cheap at the market. Wash (wash everything), peel, and freeze to use in smoothies or for baking.

6. Tomatoes: This is probably one of my favorites because when the tomatoes are coming in at an alarming rate, is also when I have the least amount of time to can. Even better, when you freeze a whole tomato, the skins will just slide off as it thaws. Really.

freezing fresh produce

future jam

9 more in part 2 find it here.
Can you guess what they are?

Categories: freezing, harvesting, How to Store

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When Life Hands You a Lemon- be ‘Grate’ful

organic lemons

may as well get the good stuff

Buying organic is not always more expensive, if you take the time to compare prices- and use a little creativity.

fresh organic lemon zest

from lemon to freezer

There is a store about 35 miles from us that has a wonderful selection of organic produce; our local market doesn’t carry any. So when we happen to be in that area we try to stock up.
Recently they had organic lemons 2 pounds for $4.99. Nine lemons is a lot to buy all at once, but the price was about the same per pound as our local store’s non-organic.
We even looked in a Wal-mart to compare the price and their non-organic were 50 cents each, so again about the same.

lemon zest vs. pith

like the yellow, not the white

Here’s where it gets better. Dried Lemon Zest in the spice aisle was about $6 per ounce.
So here’s how you can beat that-
Grate the lemon peel being careful not to get the white pith underneath, that stuff is nasty.

organic lemon zest

simple and shelf stable

You can freeze that for recipes that call for freshly grated peel, or dry for those that have lemon zest as an ingredient- that is all it is, dried lemon peel.
Drying is easy enough, spread out on a pan and either let stand out overnight, place in an oven on lowest temperature until dry (about 15-20 minutes), or set out in the sun until dry.
You can use a microwave too, but I’ve never tried that.

fresh squeezed lemon juice

push down and twist

We weighed the end result and the organic lemon zest cost about $5 per ounce.
There is the side benefit of fresh squeezed lemon juice as well.
Each of our lemons produced about ¼ cup of juice, which we froze in ice cube trays to use as needed.

fresh squeezed lemon juice

fresh squeezed lemon juice

Organic lemon zest, freshly grated peel, and juice for less than buying them already prepared- and even less than making it with non-organic lemons.
Now we just need to pick up another bag when we are near that store next, and try our hand at candied citron.
You got to love it.

freezing lemon juice

2 tablespoon per cube

Categories: drying-roasting, freezing, organic, saving money & time

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Blanching Veggies

Over the weekend I blanched some snow-peas for freezing.
As much as Mandolin tried to keep ahead of the harvest, the peas won.

snow peas

ready for a quick dip

As usual, I looked in my Ball Canning and Preserving Book for the blanching time.
And then it hit me- I should post a list of the different veggies and how long each one needs to be blanched before freezing.
Yes! Great idea!

And it was a good idea
Last year.
In March to be specific.

So I guess I get today off-
and we can all just copy, paste and print this list and be ready for the harvest.

Here’s the blanching list.

Which is good, because I still have more peas.

snowpeas

goodness in the palm of my hand

Categories: freezing, How to Store

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Freezing the Harvest

strainer used in blanching

the strainer I use for blanching

Many vegetables can be stored frozen.

In most cases, the veggies should be blanched first- to not only clean and kill any microorganisms that might be present, but to also enhance the color naturally and stop the ripening process.
Blanching is simply dipping in boiling water for a short period of time. It is easier if you have a strainer to put the veggies in, so you don’t have to chase after them in the pot.
After blanching, let the veggies dry. I like to freeze ours on a cookie sheet first, and then seal. This way they are not all stuck together and it is easier to take out only what you need.

Below I’ve listed blanching times (relative to the size of the veggies) and other information for particular veggies, as well as some fruit and herbs.
Frozen veggies can be kept for up to one year.

Asparagus: trim, blanch 1.5 – 3 minutes
Beans, Green: blanch 3 minutes
Beans, Lima: blanch 1 – 3 minutes
Beets: Cook with root and stem intact until tender; remove root, stem and skins; freeze whole or cut.
Berries: wash, let dry, freeze
Broccoli: Soak in salt water for 30 minutes to remove any bugs, rinse and blanch 3-4 minutes
Brussel Sprouts: blanch 3 – 5 minutes
Cabbage: Cut into wedges, blanch 3 minutes; shredded blanch 1.5 minutes
Carrots: Wash and peel, blanch sliced 3 minutes
Cauliflower: Soak in salt water for 30 minutes to remove any unwanted visitors, rinse and blanch florets 3-4 minutes
Corn: Blanch whole ears 6-10 minutes, for kernels, blanch whole ears 5-6 minutes and remove fro the cob when cool
Melons: Cut into chunks and freeze, serve partially frozen
Onions: Blanch whole peeled onions 3-7 minutes. We also freeze onions chopped without blanching.
Parsnips and Turnips: Blanch slices 3 minutes
Peas, Garden: Blanch 2 minutes
Peas, Snap and Snow: Blanch 2 minutes
Peppers: Freeze Hot Peppers whole without blanching. Sweet Peppers can be frozen whole, diced or cut into strips, just remove the stems and seeds first.
Potatoes, White or Irish: Blanched peeled potatoes 3-5 minutes. Potatoes can also be frozen Baked, Stuffed or as French Fries.
Spinach and other Greens: blanch 2 minutes
Tomatoes can be frozen as Sauce or Juice. I also freeze some quartered for chili.
Squash, Winter; inc. Pumpkin- cook first, then freeze. You can puree it first, but as my FB friend Byddi suggests, it turns to mush anyway so pureeing first isn’t necessary.

Many herbs can also be frozen.:
For Chives, stack springs about 10 inches long and roll in plastic wrap to form a log. Slice off the end as needed.
We also freeze Basil leaves. Other herbs can be dried and frozen.

Byddi’s wonderful Gardening Blog
This post was inspired by a question asked by Donna- here’s her garden blog.

Most of this information is what I’ve learned from reading Ball Blue Books. They have given me permission to reprint their recipes with this reprint info:
Recipes provided by BALL BLUE BOOK(r) OF PRESERVING. Copyright (c) 2009,
Jarden Home Brands, marketer of Ball(r) and Kerr(r) fresh preserving
products.
Jarden Home Brands is a division of Jarden Corporation (NYSE: JAH).

Ball’s Food Preservation website

Categories: freezing, How to Store

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Pumpkin -It Isn’t Just for Dessert Anymore

An easy way to preserve your pumpkins is to puree the flesh and freeze it.
Remove the flesh from the peel and cut into chunks.

pumpkin chunks

chunks of golden goodness

Place in a saucepot with one cup of water, cover. Turn on med-high heat until you see steam, then turn down enough to keep the steam coming without boiling.
When the pumpkin is soft, remove from heat and let cool.
Puree in a food processor. You can freeze it in canning jars or freezer containers.

pureed pumpkin

pumpkin sauce

Because I know I will be using mine for the recipe below, I measure 1/2 cupfuls onto a plastic wrap covered cookie sheet and freeze. I place these in a freezer container and label.
That way I can just grab what I need.

pureed pumpkin

pumpkin plops

I mentioned on my other site that we used to make big batches of Pancake Dry Mix back in our restaurant days. I cut the recipe down a bit and keep some mix on hand at home now.
It’s really easy to make pancakes using your own pancake mix and they taste so much better.

Here’s how:
Pancake Dry Mix
8 cups flour
4 Tablespoons flour
5 Tablespoons baking powder
2 Tablespoons salt
Mix together and store in an airtight container.

Pumpkin Pancakes
1 cup Pancake Dry Mix
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 Tablespoons oil
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
Mix together just until moist. Cook on a hot greased skillet.

Categories: freezing, How to Store, Recipes

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Waste Not…

home canned vegetable juice

mmm... goodness

Vegetable Juice is far away my favorite juice each morning, homemade especially! Although it takes a little extra work, there is a delightful byproduct. (Just wait-you’ll see)

This is not any official recipe, just what I made with what was in the garden:
Garden Blend Vegetable Juice
15 pounds tomatoes
1 colander-full swiss chard and spinach
15 med. ribs and leaves celery
2 handfuls dried parsley
1 pound carrots
1 cup onion
1/2 cup green pepper
2 tsp. salt
1 shot lemon juice per quart jar

home canned vegetable juice

juice the juice

Wash veggies, chop into chunks. Combine all ingredients except lemon juice in a pot and simmer about 1/2 hour.
Remove from heat. Juice in a juicer or food processor. Heat back up.
Add 1 shot of lemon juice to each quart jar. Fill the jars to within 1/4 inch head space.
Process in a water bath canner about 45 minutes.

home canned vegetable juice

simmer

home canned vegetable juice

give 'em a shot

home canned health

home canned healthiness

Now here’s the good part. Take the stuff that is left in the juicer or strainer and put it into a sauce pot. Add water and simmer for a while.
Strain.
Now you have some wonderful vegetarian soup base!

strain the juice

strain the pulp for soup base

Pack into freezer jars and freeze. Use as you would any soup base.

home canning

the aftermath

Now clean up your mess!

Our Recipe Box

Categories: freezing, How to Store, Recipes, water bath/steam canning

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Separation Anxiety

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I haven’t had much success growing spinach in the past.
Not willing to accept defeat however, I decided to try planting some in the newly assembled (purchased for almost nothing) strawberry bed.
The strawberries weren’t really using it yet, and the two do well together.

Well it worked, it really worked. As much as I would like to take credit, I think the combination of the mushroom soil and beautiful weather was the real reason why the spinach thrived.

healthy spinach plants growing in a strawberry bed

spinach gone wild

I have been harvesting the lower leaves and keeping the bolting at bay, until the most recent heat wave proved too much for the tender plants.
Time to bring them all in and prep them for winter storage.

spinach ready to bolt

spinach ready to bolt

harvest your spinach before it bolts

spinach spinach everywhere

It also was time for the strawberry plants to start sending out their tendrils on which the next generation will grow-they needed the room.

strawberry plants send out runners to produce new plants

its a girl! strawberry plants sending out runners to grow new plants

Here’s how to deal with your harvest:

wash, trim, drop in boiling water for 2 minutes, drain well, cool

how much fresh spinach equals cooked

this packed large colander will = this much blanched

fresh and ready to be frozen spinach from the garden

the haul - some fresh held back for eating

freezing fresh spinach from your garden

freezer ready portions

So the strawberries are happy, the spinach is in the freezer.
So who’s got separation anxiety?

Well, that would be me.
You see, I won’t be able to plant the next crop of spinach in the same bed later this summer, and I know it isn’t going to want to be far from those strawberries.

I’m just not sure I can grow it well again, twice in a row?
-Now wait – hold the phone – another challenge?

Hmm, corn to the north, garlic to the west, tomatoes and peppers to the east-
aha! the south has it…that broccoli won’t be there much longer, and the swiss chard may prove beneficial. Whew!

Okay, okay…not to worry… the spinach and I…yeah, we’ll be just fine ;-) we’ll be just fine indeed.

Categories: freezing, gardening

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