The week before we left for vacation, I found myself with much more fresh produce than we could possibly eat. Our co-op had skipped us on fruit the week before, so we had double the peaches we normally get, plus a bumper of green beans -- some from the farm and some from the store. This time of year the beans always look so beautiful that I sometimes get carried away buying them. We also had a bumper of tomatoes from our garden and some jumbo zucchini from a variety of sources.
Since I have not yet overcome my fear of canning (is there a support group for us?), I resorted to freezing. Among all the things I had to do to get ready for six of us to spend a week in a house a 12-hour car ride away, I had to do prepare and freeze all this produce -- it would have been a sin to waste. I admit, though, I also freeze produce just because I find it for a good price at the grocery store -- like when green beans go on sale. They freeze especially well. Berries, too.
Fortunately, freezing produce is not quite the process that canning is. In fact, it's really quite simple. I share here the basic steps for freezing some vegetables and some fruits. You can easily find this information at any state extension service (this one from my great state is a good one -- download the ones you need, print out, and keep with your cookbooks). Your extension service will tell you which foods need to be cooked before freezing, which need special treatment, etc.
For beans and other foods that need to be blanched before freezing:
Trim the ends of the beans and rinse in cool water. I cut mine into more bite-size pieces, but you can leave them whole, too. I also only do about a pound at a time -- it's just easier for me to handle. I did a total of 3 pounds in about 20 minutes.
Bring a pot of water to boil. When it boils, drop in cleaned beans and bring back to boil. Boil for one minute.
With a slotted spoon, remove beans from water (you'll want to continue using your hot water for more beans) and drop them in a large bowl of iced water. Let sit for about as long as they were in the hot water -- this depends on how long it took for your water to re-boil.
Drain and remove any remaining ice cubes. Dump beans onto paper towels to air dry.
Place in freezer bags (or plastic containers, but I like freezer bags because: 1) they are cheap; 2) I can remove the extra air) and remove all of the air with a straw before sealing. Label and freeze promptly.
For foods that can be frozen without cooking, like squash, onions, or peppers.
Normally when I find myself with too many zucchini, I bake. The week before vacation I just couldn't fit it in (other than some Chocolate Zucchini muffins which we took in the car). It took just a few minutes to wash, grate (in the processor on small shred), and bag up several large zucchini and yellow squash. Now I have a stash for winter baking. Use the same process as above for green beans to bag and suck out the air. Label and freeze.
~~~~~~~The peaches I froze were some of the best peaches I've ever eaten. It was almost a sin to freeze them, they were so good fresh. But other than eating 10 in one day, I had no choice. I am hoping that they will be almost as good when I thaw them. These peaches were perfectly ripe. When I cut them, the slices fell away from the pit. That's a perfectly ripe peach. I had my Peach take a picture of how they fell apart in my hand.
For fruit, those which require peeling and syrup pack:
I processed about 5 really large peaches at a time -- filling two quart-size freezer bags with each batch. I didn't get pictures of every step, but you're a smart girl and I know you can do it.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. When it boils, drop in the peaches. Boil for one minute. Remove from pot and when you can handle them (but don't let them cool), peel them. The skins should fairly easily slip off. If not, you didn't get them hot enough.
Slice peaches into a large bowl. Add the juice of half a lemon, or if you are slices more than about 5 large peaches, a whole lemon. You could also use ascorbic acid, but I prefer lemon juice. This step is only for fruits that brown -- berries, melon, grapes, cherries don't need it.
Make syrup -- I used a light syrup, about 1 cup sugar to 3 cups water (you can find the recipes for heavier syrups at the extension service website). Bring sugar and water to a boil and cook until sugar dissolves. Cool.
Place fruit slices and any juices into freezer bags. Pour in syrup until fruit is pretty well covered. Zipper the bag closed almost all the way, stick in the straw and suck out any remaining air. Zip closed completely. Label and freeze promptly.
Just as lovely as the thought that I have yummy fresh foods in my freezer, is peeking in and
seeing them. The night after I placed the peaches in, I could be seen opening the freezer door just to look at them. Silly me.