September is such a bountiful time of year!
It's worth it to take the time now to preserve the fresh, local flavors from your favorite farmers to enjoy in the depths of winter.
Right now farmers have seemingly endless amounts of tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash, green beans, tomatillos, sweet and hot peppers, sweet corn, eggplant, kale, and much, much more.
With a bit of planning and not too much effort you can preserve these summer crops and store them in your freezer for winter! Here are a few that are plentiful right now that don't take too much time to process and freeze.
There are 2 methods for freezing:
Put them directly into a ziplock bag whole and just freeze them! When you are ready to use them let them thaw and then take the skins off before you cook with them.
If you want to freeze tomatoes with no skins, you'll need to blanch them first: bring a pot of water to boil, drop the tomatoes in the pot a few at a time for about a minute until the skins begin to crack. Remove from boiling water carefully and place into an ice water bath for about a minute. Pull skins off, chop the tomatoes to your desired size (or leave them whole), and put them into ziplock bags in a portion that works best for you.
Zucchini and Summer Squash:
You can either freeze squash as slices or grated:
Slices: To freeze slices of summer squash, blanch the rounds in salted boiling water for 1 minute. Place into an ice bath for 1 minute to stop the cooking process. Drain completely and flash freeze (flash freeze means to freeze small items individually on a baking sheet and bag them quickly once they're individually frozen). When frozen, pop them into a ziplock container. (Keep for up to 6 months)
Grated: Grate the squash (by hand or with a food processor attachment) and wring out as much moisture as possible. Place in a ziplock bag in the portion sizes you will want for baking or cooking. When thawed, the zucchini will be soggy and will require additional draining before using.
Cut the stems off the green beans. Blanch beans in boiling salt water for 2 minutes. Place beans
quickly into a cold ice water bath for about 2 minutes to stop the cooking. Drain and dry well, and pack into ziplock or vacuum pack bags. (Keep for up to 6 months)
Use the flash-freeze method (see above). Remove the papery husks from each tomatillo and leave whole. Arrange tomatillos on parchment paper on a baking sheet that has a rim. Put into the freezer and allow to freeze. Place them into a ziplock bag when frozen and store in freezer until ready to use.
Sweet and hot peppers:
Use the flash-freeze method. Wash and dry peppers. Flash freeze them whole or cut into bite-size pieces and place in a ziplock freezer bag or vacuum bag, removing as much air as possible. Peppers will soften when thawed, so take out only the amount you need, and use them in recipes where their crisp texture is not necessary. (Make sure you label whether the pepper is sweet or hot so you don't get surprised!)
Husk corn, trim off any bad parts, and cook cobs in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Place in ice water bath for 2 minutes to stop the cooking. Cut off the kernels using a knife, mandolin, or corn cutter tool. Pack into ziplock bags or use a vacuum sealer. Be sure to pack each bag in a portion that works best for your family.
Begin the process with washing and peeling the eggplant. Slice peeled eggplants into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Peel and slice enough eggplants for one blanching batch at a time only, because eggplant starts to turn brown if the slices are exposed to air for more than about 30 minutes! For blanching, add one-half cup of lemon juice to one gallon of water, and bring it to a boil. Blanch the eggplant slices for 4 minutes, cool, and package in freezer bags. Remove as much air as possible before sealing bags.
Remove stems from the leaves and set aside. Blanch leaves for about 2 minutes in a pot of
boiling water. Blanch stems (if you want to use them) for 3 minutes. Place leaves and stems in ice water for 2 minutes to stop the cooking process. Remove leaves from ice water and place them on a towel. Once the towel is full of leaves, roll it up and squeeze to remove excess water. Flash freeze small clumps of kale individually on a baking sheet. Once they are frozen, place clumps into freezer bags in bulk. Remove as much air as possible from bags before sealing or use a vacuum sealer.
Good luck with all your fall preserving and let me know your favorite ways to freeze/can/dry/ferment/pickle your local produce!