Preserving Summer's Freshest Produce

One of the best things about summer is the abundance of fresh produce. The good news is that you can continue to enjoy summer’s bounty of fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs for months to come by freezing them. A few baking sheets and plenty of resealable plastic bags specifically designed for freezing are all you’ll need. Be sure to press out any air before sealing the bags and always label and date them. Here are some handy freezing tips:

Freezing vegetables: Most summer vegetables freeze well. Cut the veggies into bite-sized pieces, blanch briefly in boiling water or steam-blanch until not quite cooked, then immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and pat dry before freezing. This method allows the vegetables to retain their flavor, texture, and color through the freezing and thawing process. You can freeze green and yellow beans, broccoli, peas, bell peppers (which you can choose to blanch briefly or not) and all kinds of summer squash. Tomatoes can be blanched for about 10 seconds, then be peeled (or not) and frozen whole; or you can make tomato sauce with them and then freeze the sauce. Frozen vegetables will keep for up to 8 months if properly stored.

Freezing fruits: The best time to freeze berries and other fruits is when they are ripe but not too soft. Freezing fruits when they are overripe can ruin their flavor and color, and unripe fruits will not ripen once frozen. First, wash and dry the fruits. Halve and pit peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, and cherries. For seedless grapes, remove them from the stems and leave whole or halve. Melons should be seeded and cubed. Place the cut fruits in single layers on baking sheets and place the sheets in the freezer until the fruit is frozen solid. Then pack the frozen fruits into resealable bags, label, and date. Frozen fruit keeps well for up to 12 months.

Freezing herbs: Freezing is the best way to preserve the delicate flavor of soft-leaved herbs such as tarragon, chives, basil, dill, and sage. Using tongs to hold a few stems at a time, dip the herbs into a pot of boiling water for a few seconds, then immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water. Dry between layers of paper towels, then place the herbs on wax or parchment paper in single layers. Roll up the paper, press down to flatten, and store in resealable plastic bags, label, and date. You do not need to undo the entire roll when you want some herbs; just take what’s needed and put the rest back in the freezer. Frozen herbs generally last up to a year.

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