If your vegetable garden is producing more than you can use in your weekly meals (lucky you!), then follow these steps to freeze and store your extra harvest to use over the next 8-12 months.
The first thing to know is almost all vegetables can be frozen to use later. As a general rule, it's best not to freeze vegetables with a high water content that are eaten fresh in salads, such as celery, cucumbers, and lettuce. The second thing to know is it doesn't take long and it's simple to do. Another great aspect about freezing vegetables is you can prepare as much or as little at a time as you'd like, depending whether you want to prepare a one-time, small batch or a year-long, family supply.
1. Harvest vegetables at their peak of ripeness and wash them well.
2. Prepare and blanch each vegetable as recommended below. Blanching is the process of heating vegetables in boiling water, then plunging them in iced water to stop cooking. The benefit of blanching is it preserves the vitamins, flavor, and color of frozen vegetables. Drain the blanched vegetables thoroughly.
3. Lay the vegetables on a cookie sheet in a single layer and slide it into the freezer for at least 6 hours. This freezes the individual pieces, which are easier to use later because they will not stick together in one large clump.
4. Put the frozen vegetables pieces in freezer-safe containers and squeeze out as much air as possible. Extra air causes some vegetables to develop unwanted flavors. Don't forget to label each container with the contents and date.
Pro-Tip: If freezing a liquid, such as tomato sauce or vegetable puree, allow some extra air in the container for expansion.
Now that you know the basic steps of freezing vegetables, consider the mix-and-match possibilities. It's not necessary to keep all the vegetables separated when freezing batches. For example, if you like peas and carrots go ahead and premix them in the freezer bag for an easy side dish in a few months' time.