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 into the fall and winter by simply 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 and label and date the bags. Here are some handy freezing tips:
Freezing vegetables: You can prepare most summer vegetables for freezing by cutting them into pieces of the desired size, briefly blanching them in boiling water or steam-blanching them (don’t cook through), then plunging them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and pat dry before freezing in resealable bags (be sure to label and date). This method helps vegetables retain their flavor, texture, and color through the freezing and thawing process. Great summer veggies to freeze include 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 sauce with them and then freeze the sauce. Frozen vegetables can last up to 8 months.
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. Pit peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, and cherries and cut them into halves; be sure to remove anything hard from the fruit before freezing it. For seedless grapes, remove the stems. Place the 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 and label and date. Melons can be seeded and cubed, and then frozen. Frozen fruit keeps well up to 12 months.
Freezing herbs: Freezing is the best way to preserve the delicate flavor of soft-leaved herbs such as tarragon, chives, 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 a labeled, dated resealable plastic bag. 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.