How to Freeze Summer's Best Produce, From Berries to Okra
Take a trip to the farmers' market and you'll likely see a bounty of colorful summer produce—from juicy berries and peaches to ripe tomatoes and fresh corn. Or perhaps all you need to do to set your sights on delicious produce is take a trip to your garden? Right now, you're savoring the best of summer's fruits and vegetables every day, but we're sure you'd like to save some for later—months later. Of course, you can pickle and preserve to your heart's content and we totally endorse that, but one of the simplest ways to preserve fresh fruit and vegetables is by freezing them. As our expert Renee Pottle, creator of SeedtoPantry and author of The Confident Canner, shares, freezing the best of summer's produce is easy.
Pottle says summer berries are one of the most popular fruits to freeze because they spoil quickly She recommends freezing raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries to preserve them and not waste a single berry. To do so, spread berries out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet—lining the sheet prevents the berries from sticking to it—and place them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the berries to a freezer bag or container and return to the freezer where you can store them for up to six months.
Alternatively, Pottle says you can make a simple sugar syrup and freeze the berries in the syrup in freeze-proof containers. "Sugar syrup is the same as the syrups used in canning and ranges from very light syrup to heavy syrup," she says. When you want to enjoy the berries, place a syrup-filled container in the refrigerator to thaw.
Peel, halve and cut peaches, plums, nectarines, or apricots into cubes. To prevent browning, Pottle says some fruit, like peaches, may benefit from soaking in a lemon juice bath for about 15 minutes or up to an hour before freezing. Once you've done this, freeze the fruit in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet then transfer to a sealable freezer bag and freeze for up to six months.
Like most vegetables, green beans need to be blanched before freezing, which Pottle says "stops the aging process" and gives the produce a fresher taste. To blanch, add the green beans to a pot of boiling water for three minutes, then drain and immediately plunge them into an ice bath (this technique is known as "shocking"). Next, arrange the green beans on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze. Add them to a sealable produce bag or container once frozen.
Corn should also be blanched before freezing. Start by cutting the kernels off the cob then add them to a pot of boiling water for five minutes of blanching. Once drained and shocked in an ice bath, arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet to freeze, then add them to freezable containers or sealable freezer bags. (Pottle says you can freeze the kernels directly in containers, but she prefers the baking sheet method because with the latter you run the risk of the kernels freezing together in a big lump.)
To freeze okra, start by de-stemming and removing the seeds. Then blanch the vegetable in a pot of boiling water for three minutes, drain and shock the okra in an ice bath. Pottle says that small pods (under 3 inches long) can be frozen whole, while larger pods should be sliced or cut into pieces. Let the okra cool after blanching, then you can freeze it on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Once frozen, add it to freezer safe containers or sealable freezer bags.
Pottle says she freezes end-of-the-season green tomatoes every year to make a green enchilada sauce. To do so, wash then slice or chop the tomatoes and spread the pieces out on a parchment-lined baking sheet to freeze. For red tomatoes, start by washing and coring them, then follow the baking sheet method. Pottle says she keeps red tomatoes whole because the skins will slide right off once the tomatoes thaw, while green tomato skins stay intact. Slicing will make the skins easier to peel off, if you choose to. Once frozen, you can move both types of tomatoes to freezer safe bags or containers.
If you're growing fresh herbs such as mint or basil in your garden this summer, you may want to freeze them. "Some people prefer to freeze fresh herbs instead of drying them to retain a fresher herb flavor," Pottle says. To do so, first wash and chop the herbs. "Then add to ice cube trays along with water and freeze." Once the cubes are frozen, you can move them to a freezer container. Thaw them in the refrigerator and drain when you're ready to use the herbs.