Storing up veggies for the “winter”

I’ve been getting a CSA box since the spring and some weeks I can’t use up all the vegetables. This often happens because I’m going out of town for work or there is just a plethora of one thing. To deal with this I’ve been using measures that my mother and grandmother taught me growing up. When you have a garden in Maine often two many things show up at once. Plus you only get garden vegetables for 3 months. Typically there are two ways of dealing with this:

  • canning
  • freezing

Why choose one over the other? Well there are a variety of things to think about. First, some vegetables lend themselves better to canning. Tomatoes for instance come out nicer when canned. Cucumbers can be made into tasty pickles which is a type of canning. The downside of canning is you need the equipment to do it. Jars, lids, seals, maybe even a pressure cooker. In fact with the exception of tomatoes all vegetables have to be canned using a pressure cooker. Otherwise you’ll food poison yourself. The upside is that you can put things on a shelf.

For me freezing is a whole lot easier to do than canning because the equipment isn’t specialized. Pot for boiling water, slotted spoon for scooping, colander for rinsing and freezer bags for well storing. Plus, most things can be frozen fairly easily. There are a few exceptions, I really don’t like how tomatoes come out frozen. I’ll do it if I have to but if I had time and means I’d can them instead. The only thing you really need to know to freeze veggies is how to blanch. Different vegetables require different blanching times. My Better Homes and Gardens cookbook has an excellent table for the most common vegetables. The basic steps are as follows.

  1. Heat a large pan of water to boil
  2. Add the vegetables into boiling water. Don’t put too many in at one time! 1 gallon water / 1 pound veggies. I blanch in batches
  3. Cook for appropriate blanching time
  4. Remove vegetables from water and stop the cooking by either
    1. rinsing in colander with very cold water
    2. dunking in ice water bath to cool
  5. Make sure veggies dry out then parse out into freezer bags

With anything you freeze it is important that you squeeze as much of the air out of the bag as possible to prevent freezer burn. Label stuff as well so you know what’s the oldest and if you have passed your “use by” date.

For me the biggest downside of freezing is the fact that I’ve only got the freezer space that comes with my refrigerator. Ideally I’d buy a small chest freezer for this kind of stuff. Unfortunately I don’t have any place to put it in my house. No basement and the garage doesn’t have A/C which means the freezer would get stressed out there. This summer I’ve been getting lots of kale so I have needed to learn how to blanch that. I found a couple helpful posts so that I can keep up with what I’m getting. I’ve also frozen green beans, corn, and green peppers. When the season has passed for these I’ll be grateful for what I have squirreled away.

You can also freeze fruit which is something I’ve had to do with the pears from the OMG pear tree. Make sure you use some fruit fresh in the bag. Fruit can also be relatively easily canned without a pressure cooker. Why? It has to do with the acidity. Personally I find this more work and it doesn’t interest me because the fruit has to be canned with a sugar syrup. Since most of the time I’m going to use the fruit in baked goods, freezing suits my needs better. Besides the pears I froze some blueberries from our picking excursion earlier in the summer. They’ll surely make tasty muffins or pies later in the fall.

All of this is of course work but for me its worth the effort to make the most of the stuff I’m getting from the CSA share and guarantee I have stuff during the off season.

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