Reserve a few hours this weekend to put some food away for the winter. I promise you won’t regret it on the cold, dark evening in January when you open your freezer to find jars of pesto all lined up as little reminders of summer. If you’ve had a busy late summer and early fall and your freezer is bare, try some of these quick and easy processing ideas. You’ll have lots of food squirreled away in no time!
Quick Chopped Tomatoes
I quickly chop my tomatoes and put them in long metal pans to cook down on the stovetop. (You can use a big soup pot instead.) This cooks some of the water off allowing you to pack more tomatoes in each container. I don’t add anything to the tomatoes at this time, but you could chop up some fresh herbs from your garden. After they cool transfer them into big yogurt containers and freeze. I use the chopped tomatoes for sauce or for any recipe that calls for canned tomatoes. I haven’t bought a tomato product in years!
Last week before going out of town I didn’t have time to cook down my tomatoes. If you are short on time you can pack them whole into freezer bags and throw them in the freezer. I cook them down into sauce with onions, garlic and herbs when I am ready to use them.
Jam Jar Pesto
If you still have basil in your garden (or find some at the farmers market) pesto is one of the easiest and quickest things to freeze. I pack it into jam jars, but some folks make iced cubes or little patties. We always have a jar of pesto in our fridge for use on eggs, sandwiches, pasta and much more.
To freeze peppers all you need to do is chop them up and pack them into freezer bags, plastic containers or mason jars. You can even freeze hot peppers in a separate container. We use the peppers in rice and beans (a staple in our house) and any recipe that calls for cooked peppers. They don’t have the same consistency as fresh peppers, so I wouldn’t use them in recipes that call for peppers raw.
Broccoli + Kale
On our list this weekend is freezing broccoli and kale. Cut the broccoli into florets, steam them until they turn bright green and then dump them into a sink full of ice to stop the cooking. Spin them through the salad spinner, spread them out on a towel to dry and then transfer them into freezer bags. Be careful not to overcook – you don’t want them to turn into mush.
You can process kale the same way as broccoli after chopping it up into pieces. This year, after a tip from a workshop participant I am going to try freezing kale raw. I love to use kale in casseroles and soups throughout the winter, and as a substitute for spinach in recipes.
What else are you preserving right now for the winter?